Fashioning the Final Frontier

Is fashion plotting a new course and boldly going where no man has gone before?

Final frontier

On April 10, 2013 the ROM hosted a panel discussion featuring designer Jeremy Laing, Ryerson University School of Fashion chair Robert Ott, branding and fashion lawyer Ashlee Froese and Nicholas Mellamphy, Vice President and Buying Direction of HBC’s The Room. They gave their two cents when the marvelous Jeanne Beker asked the hard-hitting questions: How does one deal with the fashion industry pressures? What does it mean to be Canadian in the industry? Is Victoria Beckham really a fashion designer? It was an eventful hour and a half.

Here’s how Star Trek factors in: Remember that episode when the Enterprise runs into the space probe Nomad, whose mission is to “find and sterilize imperfection?” No? Okay. Basically the episode delves into the man versus machine mythos that also underlined this panel discussion. Whilst no Borg were present, Mellamphy made the interesting conclusion that the industry can now be summarized as: online shopping vs. retailers and bloggers vs. journalists. These are two huge topics, and seeing as resistance is futile, let’s just get right to it.

Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer shopping in-store. Granted, we all have those days when we just don’t want to wear real pants, but this virtual world lacks helpful salespeople and the thrill of the hunt. We lose, to borrow a line from Confessions of a Shopaholic’s Becky Bloomwood, the excitement of grasping the handles of a bag knowing that the goodies inside are yours. Like me, the panelists had their reservations. Although Mellamphy acknowledged that online retailing provides a solid platform for emerging designers, making their products accessible to all, he made the point that retailers now have to come up with innovative ways to attract customers to their shops. Ott was concerned with how this sudden surge of online shopping had dramatically affected retail stores, such as The Bay. The virtual world is convenient, and though it’s not entirely bad, it has lowered sales and could put many out of work. We want what we want and we want it now. The Internet can give us this. Real stores take more effort. And with that, Scotty, beam us to our next issue.

Fashion bloggers have shaped this new generation of “Internet dressers,” as Laing likes to call them. They have become the new fashion authority. But is it really authority when practically every under-30 has a different opinion? Do we even care about fashion authority in this day and age? The Jeanne Bekers and Suzy Menkes‘ of this generation are the thousands who have access to Tumblr and Instagram. And this seemed okay with the panel, because it meant fashion had become democratized, everyone can wear fast fashions and everyone can express their opinions on it. Even fashion shows have become affected by this radical change. Long gone are the days of the whimsical McQueen or Galliano show, as Beker reminisced. Now, Laing pointed out, shows are created for Instagram. Designers are responding to the iPhone generation, opting for low-key, minimalist approaches that would surely impress the always logical Mr. Spock.

The panelists gave me a lot to think about, even as I frantically tried to copy down everything being said while maintaining my cool—alas, it was my first time at one of these events, and a girl’s gotta start somewhere. I did get my (beloved) photo with Jeanne Beker and left thinking that despite the constant and radical changes that face it, the fashion industry can handle what is to come and live long and prosper.

Beginner’s Luck

Listed as #1 on my life list of “most beloved pursuits,” fashion also ranks pretty high on my list of things that scare the crap out of me. I’m not talking about Lady Gaga’s outlandish outfits or the nightmare-inducing makeup Alexander McQueen used in his Fall/Winter 2009 collection, “Horn of Plenty.” It’s more about the nearly impermeable exclusivity of the fashion world. Before Toronto Fashion Week actually started, I was afraid I would be shipwrecked in a sea of judging eyes. Instead, I realized that I was more or less surrounded by a bunch of people who enjoy wearing sequins just as much as I do. Now that was a revelation.

Day 1: Monday, October 17th, 2011
The opening night of fashion week was huge affair and the crowd was filled with the beautiful, the heavily made-up, and celebrities like Jeanne Beker and Stacey McKenzie. Let me just say that people who suffer from claustrophobia should stay as far away from fashion week as possible, because people like to push, shove and get all up in your personal space while waiting in line to get into the show. Patience is a virtue, people.

Holt Renfrew was the first runway show of the night, celebrating the Canadian designers they sell on the rack. I loved the cool minimalism of Jeremy Laing and the head-to-toe florals of Denis Gagnon. Next up was the Arthur Mendonca show, where everyone’s favourite androgyne Andrej Pejic modeled a metallic gold trouser suit. Of course, I was none the wiser until my favourite fashion writer Sarah Nicole Prickett pointed it out on Twitter the next day. Last up was Lala Berlin, who had some majorly pretty clothing. I liked the washed out tie-dye prints, especially when they were on blazers and the knit sweaters covered by a layer of clear PVC. Party on, Wayne!


Day 2: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
The theme of Day 2 of LGFW was definitely bums. First in the sexy sportswear at MICHI, and next at the Tosca Delfino swimwear show rife with revealing string bikinis. At MICHI I got my first front row seat and consequently was able to snap this super duper picture of model bums in yoga wear. I think we could all use a little sex appeal when it comes to doing sweaty exercise and MICHI delivered the goods. Laura Siegel is an eco-friendly designer who used tie-dye print in her collection. Those two facts alone are enough to get into my good books. The last show of the day for me was Chloe Comme Parris, which featured exactly the kind of well-tailored, fancy looking clothing that I’ve been striving for in my personal wardrobe. It wasn’t visionary, but it was utterly wearable and I wholly appreciated that aspect. After the shows were over, I didn’t head to a fancy after-party but instead went to hear my classical guitarist friend play an informal concert at the University of Toronto.

I could get used to this fashion thing.

text and event photography by Isabel Slone
outfit photography by Jessica Da Silva