After Many, Many Makeovers, What Is Toronto Fashion Week, Anyway?

Plus, a primer on TFW's biggest shows and hottest events.

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This week Canada’s fashion elite will converge onto the streets of Yorkville, and other posh hot spots, for Toronto Fashion Week, the largest fashion week in the country and second in North America to New York. TFW ’19 will showcase the best and brightest Canadian collections while providing a stylish backdrop for museum-hopping and parties in parking lots. Well, that’s the pitch anyway.
In the past couple of years, there has been some confusion surrounding TFW. It’s gone through a few iterations: L’Oréal Fashion Week, LG Fashion Week, and World MasterCard Fashion week depending on — you guessed it — who was sponsoring the production each year. IMG bought it in 2012, then shut it down in 2016 due to lack of funding. That same year, it was bought by its current ownership, rebranded, and scaled down from a seven-day extravaganza to a three-day blitz of glamour, runways, and street style. Then, TFW teamed up with RESET, a usual competitor and collective for indie labels, to deliver a tech-focused, younger, hipper, and “see now, buy now” approach to the event.
Still unclear on what exactly Toronto Fashion Week is now? Don’t worry, so was I. If you’re on the outside looking in at the Canadian fashion industry, the question has become: is TFW still relevant? And why should the rest of Canada care? Most importantly, what events can the public go to and which collections are the must-see shows of the season? With the help of TFW ’19 president Carolyn Quinn, here's a rundown of week’s biggest highlights.
Considering all of the various incarnations this week has gone through over the years, let’s get the obvious out of the way: what is Toronto Fashion Week?
Think of the big fashion weeks in Paris, New York, and London, but smaller. Its goal is to give designers a platform to show their fall/winter 2019 collections to buyers, media, and consumers. Quinn wants everyone to remember that this bi-annual event is the only of its size and scale in the country: “We are THE Toronto Fashion Week. It’s really just a reiteration of the former Toronto Fashion Week under different owners.”
Where are the shows happening and when?
The “Fashion Environment,” as it's being called, is the week's main hub and located in Yorkville Village Laneway at 136 Yorkville Avenue. There are also shows at the Royal Ontario Museum, Gardiner Museum, and one special one in a parking garage. Shows and events start February 5 and run until February 7. You can find a full schedule here.
How do they decide which designers will be paired with each venue?
Quinn says it’s a collaboration between the designers and the event organizers. They work together to match the designer’s aesthetic to the space. “Mikhael Kale will be doing the show in the parking garage on opening night, and he's ecstatic about being in that space because it really fits for him,” she says. “NARCES is showing at the Royal Ontario Museum, because it really fits the upcoming collection and beautiful evening wear. And then Lesley Hampton and Zoran Dobric, who are new[er] to the Toronto Fashion Week schedule, are showing at the Gardiner.”
Which events can the public go to and which one are invite-only?
On opening day, there’s a WUXLY (vegan winter jackets) show at 6 p.m. that’s open to the public. TFW’s Fashion Talks series is back, hosted by Donna Bishop, and the conversation with David Dixon in the Fashion Environment on Wednesday at 5 p.m. is also open. Thomas Balint and WRKDEPT also have open shows. Tickets to other select shows and events can be purchased here (most are sold out but tickets to Christopher Bates are still available). The rest are invite-only.
What are the must-see shows this season?
If there’s one name you need to know going into Toronto Fashion Week, it’s Lesley Hampton. She's a rising star at Toronto Fashion Week but you'd think she was a veteran by how much buzz is surrounding her Wednesday show. She’s First Nations and all the models in her show will be Indigenous. Hampton's fall/winter 2018 collection was dedicated to advocating for mental health awareness, and, as she proved then, she’s dedicated to bringing much-needed diverse representation to TFW.
Other shows Quinn says to look for: Rock ‘N Karma and Bübl x David Dixon. He’s partnering with Osteoporosis Canada to create a collection out of bubble wrap. “Bubble wrap is a universal symbol for protection,” Quinn says. “So, he's making the pieces inspired by the 2-million people affected by osteoporosis in Canada.”
Enough about fashion, will there be food?
Yes! Style Plate launched last season and it’s happening again this year at the Hazelton Hotel at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. It’s all about the “intersection of food and fashion,” says Quinn so they’ve teamed with acclaimed Chef Mark McEwan for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Toronto Life’s Ken Hunt will host a talk with industry experts about style and cuisine.
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