Scrapping Toronto Fashion Week is 'shocking and disappointing' but chance for new approach

It was announced Thursday that Toronto Fashion Week — the showcase of the best of designer talent in Canada — is no more. And a ripple of implications is being felt across the country.

'Time for a major rethink,' says editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada

The biannual Toronto Fashion Week was wiped from the calendar Thursday due to a lack of financial support. Here, models walk the runway for the Joe Fresh collection. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Twice a year, giant white tents in Toronto's David Pecaut Square signal another season of showcasing the best of designer talent in Canadian fashion.

Toronto Fashion Week has been strutting along for 13 years. But on Thursday, it was announced that the biannual event is no more, sending out a ripple of implications likely to be felt throughout the country.

Susan Langdon is the executive director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator, an organization that works with young designers to develop their brands. It has held fashion shows at the glitzy event every year for the past five years.

"It's definitely shocking and disappointing news," she told CBC News. "It will mean more financial burden for designers since they will have to each produce their own fashion show."

That dismay was echoed in the tweets from Canada's fashion insiders, including models, fashion editors and bloggers.

Time for a 'major rethink'

Noreen Flanagan, editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada, feels that TFW's cancellation could allow for a positive change in the industry, tweeting that it's "time for a major rethink."

The new mantra is: see it, shop it, buy it!- Noreen Flanagan , Editor-in-chief, Elle  Canada magazine

When asked for further comment, Flanagan said she feels "the idea of seasonal fashion events is an outdated model."

"The internet and social media have created an appetite where as soon as consumers see something they like, they want to be able to buy it. They don't want to wait six months," she said.

"The new mantra is: see it, shop it, buy it!"
Flanagan pointed to the fact that fashion houses like Burberry and Moschino have taken the lead in exploring a direct-to-consumer model. She acknowledges that "it's easier for companies who are worth multiple billions to do this" noting that the challenge for smaller designers will be to figure out "how to shorten the lag time between runway and retail."

She suggests they will need to "completely reimagine and refinance" the design process, the supply chain and the distribution, noting that in Canada, Pink Tartan has been the first to experiment a "shop-the-show" model.

With her fall/winter 2016 collection, which debuted this past March, Pink Tartan designer Kim Newport-Mimram joined the see-now, buy-now movement currently disrupting the global fashion industry. (CBC)

Indeed, the Canadian label opted out of the IMG-sponsored Toronto Fashion Week this past March. Instead, Pink Tartan mounted an independent catwalk-in-the-round concept a few days after the event.
Ultimately, Flanagan believes that the news of Toronto Fashion Week closing down is "unsettling." But, she said, "it's also an exciting and transformative time to reinvent how we create, how we sell and how we experience fashion."

Designer Hayley Elsaesser, who helms her own Canadian-based contemporary fashion label, agrees that the shuttering of Toronto Fashion Week was just a matter of time and could be just the spark that the industry needs to take it to the next level.

"Maybe this is going to be a really good thing for Canadian fashion because they'll have to get out of their comfort zone and try something new," Elsaesser said.

A model walks the runway in the Rudsak show at Toronto Fashion Week in October 2014. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Future is not all rosy

However, renowned Canadian designer David Dixon raises several sobering thoughts — the first being that it could be increasingly difficult for young designers to become established.

He also points to the wider economic consequences for industries such as tourism that benefited from these hallmark events.

And, after 20 years in the fashion industry and as a runway presenter since the beginning of TFW, Dixon also feels "saddened" by the loss of what he calls "an extended family."

"Biannually, you would see the hair and makeup teams, the models, the guests, the organizers and the fellow designers all under one venue," Dixon said.

Models walk the runway during the Narces show at Toronto Fashion Week in March 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

"It was a celebration — even though we may be competitors fighting for the same rack space in department stores. But there really was a camaraderie and respect for each other and what's sad about it is that we won't be to celebrate all the different levels of talent that we have within the community."

Dixon also suggests the demise of TFW represents a missed opportunity precisely at this time in Canadian culture.

"I find it unfortunate, at this time, that the world is watching Canada, not only for its human rights record but also for its political leadership and its presence on the world stage. [And] we're not fully taking part and exploiting that and showing what Canada has to offer."

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau wore a dress by Toronto-based Lucian Matis during an official state visit to Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2016. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

He says that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has become "a face for Canadian fashion, like no other first lady in our country has ever done and it's a shame that we can't build on that excitement."

Hopefully for the Canadian industry, the next steps won't arrive fashionably late. 

About the Author

Jelena Adzic


Jelena Adzic is a reporter, writer and radio columnist with the CBC Arts Unit. Her eyes light up at the mention of design, visual art and architecture.


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