Fashion? No… but yes.

In keeping with its moniker, most would consider the pieces selected for “Fashion No-no” anything but wearable. (Much to the dismay of the preteen girls who strayed from their class trip to see fashion!)
Instead of couture, we’re offered six reactions to environment, form, and how it all relates to the female body. Curator Paola Poletto, a new media and design professional, reigned in such amorphous ideas by choosing pieces that expressed the most varied points of view. In Traveler’s Tale, Sarah Dorkenwald and Ruth Spitzer printed images from domestic life (coffee percolator, a chair) alongside fuzzy, dream-like ones (a sinking ship?) onto large pieces of fabric meant to “affix to the body,” thereby invoking the notion of carrying – and of being – all the stuff of our life.
The Girl in the Wood Frock, Andrea Ling’s adaptation of a fairy tale (A girl escapes her father/husband by floating away in a river wearing a wood frock. She is saved by a prince, but must remain in the dress.) defies the implicit constrictions of a wooden dress by turning the tale on its head. In the accompanying photographs, the dress is presented in motion; the “girl” jumps and dances while wearing the object of her imprisonment. The dress is beautiful – three nest-like forms made from strips of black cherry veneer attach to a mini-dress made of pressed wool felt. It’s more like a cocoon than a cage.
Joanna Berzowka’s Skorpions are white “dresses” that use a shape-memory alloy called Nitinol to organically move and change on the body. Berzowka emphasizes the parasitic nature of Skorpions, though thematically, they resonate more when considered for their protective and chameleon-like qualities.
One misstep in “Fashion No-no” was the inclusion of Linda Imai’s Purses. Imai used unconventional materials – dog hair, aluminium pop tabs, and recycled plastic – to assemble eight bags. The idea of separating the object from its traditional use is an interesting one; however, Hilly Yeung’s shoes in Objects to Die For nailed this idea by removing designer shoes from their pedestals and presenting them simply and accessibly in crisp white paper.
That said, “Fashion No-no” presents a diverse discussion on form, often concluding with the artist reappropriating and subverting traditional feminine ideals from around the world (see Annie Thompson’s Les Madamoiselles). Since there are so few fashion exhibitions in Toronto, Fashion No-no” is well worth it for anyone itching for a little social commentary with their design.

Fashion No-no
January 24 – March 8
York Quay Centre, Visual Arts Exhibitions
235 Queens Quay West, Toronto

-Sara Forsyth