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Small-scale events pop up in wake of cancelled Toronto Fashion Week

When Toronto Fashion Week was abruptly cancelled in July, many designers were thrown into a tizzy.

Fashion brands depended on the twice yearly event — North America’s second largest — to strut their stuff and sell their products for the upcoming seasons.

“It was disappointing just for the fact that we are a major city and all the other major cities around the world have a fashion week,” said Kirk Pickersgill, a designer for the Greta Constantine label.

So what’s a fashionista to do?

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Customers browse a fashion pop-up store at the FashionCAN event. (CBC)

Canadian fashion journalist Jeanne Beker wonders whether a traditional fashion week is out of step with the times.

“I think we are going to be seeing a lot more platforms for fashion cropping up all over the place,” she told CBC News.

“I don’t think we should be reliant on that old-fashioned fashion week. That notion is a little passé to me.”

Beker spoke to CBC News while attending the first-ever FashionCAN event this past Sunday and Monday at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Yorkdale staged the event to give buyers and media a chance to see designers’ upcoming product lines in lieu of Toronto Fashion Week.

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Fashion journalist Jeanne Beker says newer styles of fashion shows, lik FashionCAN, will likely grow out of the vacuum left by Toronto Fashion Week. (CBC)

While attendees needed an invitation to get inside, the runway shows — featuring many of Canada’s best-known designers — were live streamed online.

Guests could also visit a pop-up store that sold garments by the brands in attendance. A representative from the event said the shop sold $25,000 in merchandise on the first two days. It’s now open to the public and will be regularly refreshed until the end of December.

“The energy that’s in here with people … seeing things on the runway and then being able to come in here and purchase them has been absolutely amazing,” said Claire Santamaria, Yorkdale’s general manager.

“We even have designers who are taking pre-orders for their spring and summer collection which, again, is unprecedented and really just an amazing opportunity for all of us.”

See-now, buy-now fashion shows

Kim Newport-Mimran, the designer behind Pink Tartan, was thrilled about the opportunity for shoppers to see now, buy now.

“I think this is why a ‘consumer-facing’ show is so exciting because whatever we show on the runway tonight is available in our pop-up,” she said.

Pickersgill, who along with Stephen Wong designs the Greta Constantine line of ready-to-wear women’s wear, shared the enthusiasm.

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Greta Constantine designers Kirk Pickersgill, left, and Stephen Wong lament the loss of Toronto Fashion Week, but are excited by new consumer-first events like FashionCAN. (CBC)

“We love to get to know our clientele,” Pickersgill said. “You get to know them, to learn more about them, and they get to learn more about us.” 

While fashion weeks in Toronto and Montreal no longer exist, there are still fashion weeks in Vancouver, Edmonton and Halifax.

Fashion weeks fizzle out?

On Tuesday, the Toronto Fashion Incubator, a not-for-profit that promotes emerging fashion labels and designers, held a boutique-sized trade show.

Featured designers included Garima Tewari, whose luxury Garéma handbags have been used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

The Toronto Fashion Incubator had previously held its event at Toronto Fashion Week, so this year it took place in a downtown hotel.

But for those who miss a fashion week, there is hope on the horizon.

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Models walk the runway at the Greta Constantine showcase during FashionCAN. (CBC)

Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (also known as TOM*) which launched in August 2014, recently announced plans to show women’s wear alongside its twice yearly men’s events, starting in March.

While the newly christened Toronto Women’s Fashion Week won’t last a whole week, it will help fill the vacuum.

“Gone are the days of seven-day fashion weeks,” said Jeff Rustia, executive director and founder of TOM*. “We live in a world of two to three days of runway presentations, filled with impactful panel discussions, showrooms and pop-up shops. I think that’s what needs to happen and that is what we are going to be presenting next season.”