Vanja Vasic is the founder and Executive Director of Toronto Alternative Fashion Week (also know as Fashion. Art. Toronto. or F.A.T.) The annual four-day, multi-arts event promotes emerging designers while bringing together national and international visual artists, musicians, and performers. Here, we chat with Vanja about personal style, the importance of alternative fashion, and F.A.T.’s success.
What was your personal style in high school?
I had really short hair and pins and Nirvana shirts and things like that. In high school I was very grunge.
Is alternative fashion commercially viable?
We’re trying to get fashion recognized as more of an art form and not just a commercial entity. We get funding from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council for the art portion of the festival: the music and the photography and video and performance, but fashion is not really funded.
How is F.A.T. different from Toronto’s LG Fashion Week?
F.A.T. is a completely different story. The idea is to make fashion more inclusive, more engaging, more fun, about ideas, and about different concepts to bring in the conceptual side of fashion what fashion will mean in relationship to culture and to the environment. F.A.T. is very one of a kind. When we started five years ago we were pretty much the only festival in the world that had this concept. Now, I’ve started seeing a trend around the world where people are creating multimedia festivals that incorporate fashion. With F.A.T. it’s more of an experience.
Why do we need an alternative fashion week?
This is a place where people are free to explore and express their ideas and be innovative and that is what pushes the industry forward. If you’re just imitating the world and trying to be sellable all the time I don’t think you’re pushing the boundaries. We want to put Canada on the map. I don’t want our designers leaving to find opportunities in more creative cities like London or New York, I want people to stay here and build an industry here and make it really exciting and interesting.
From year one to now, what has changed?
The production value and quality of work has increased. We have a much larger international presence at the festival – designers coming from the UK, The Netherlands, Mexico, Jamaica and artists from the States and also national artists and designers from Vancouver and Ottawa and Montreal.
Has there been a standout F.A.T. success story?
Heidi Ackerman has been a big success story. She came to F.A.T. her first time when she was completing her fifth year at Ryerson. That first year she ended up winning the Beefeater Independent Spirit Award. Since then, she’s been in magazines across Canada and we sponsored her to go to Latvia for a fashion show. She’s somebody people have started looking out for in the fashion scene. Another success story is Jasper Garvida. He showed at F.A.T. in 2006 and since then he has won Project Catwalk and had his clothes on Elizabeth Hurley and all kinds of actors.
You attended Ryerson University for fashion design, but its become your mission to promote emerging artists. Would you consider designing again?
It’s always sort of in the back of my mind. I have been influenced by the designers I’ve worked with at F.A.T. and other Canadian designers. I think I would like to design, again, for sure. And, I would definitely show at F.A.T.
Top ten Toronto Alternative Fashion Week spectacles (in no particular order).
Jasper Garvida‘s Peru inspired line, 2006
babu et moi performance/collection that broke into a dance party on the runway, 2008
Heidi Ackerman wins innovative spirit award in 2008
Karey Shinn‘s Too Hot Too Wet Too Dangerous collection with Hip Hop polar bears
Romandin‘s magnetic pull, 2009
Elizaveta Yankelovich and her topless ballerinas, 2009
Christabel Couture and his bizarre androgynous characters, 2009
Jessica Biffi‘s over the top nature inspired costumes, 2006
Deadly Nightshades edgy and environmental streetwear, 2009
Magpie and their cabaret style runway show, 2009
- Interview by Corrine Aberdeen