TORONTO’S FAVOURITE FASHION OUTLAW IS BACK IN TOWN

Fashion

Evan Biddell, as outspoken as ever, returns from NYC to light up the FAT Arts & Fashion Week runway

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He’s back. Again. Evan Biddell has been called a rebel, the bad boy of Canadian fashion, an oddball and a drama king. The last time I saw him, he was urinating off a dock into Lake Ontario after one of the Power Plant’s infamous Power Ball galas. The act was perhaps an apt metaphor for the state of his rocky love-hate relationship with our city and its fashion scene.

I spoke with the Project Runway Canada winner on the phone last February after his recent move to New York City: “I did the whole ‘I believe’ thing in Toronto for a long time. I tried to push new ideas, but it was never met with any sort of ‘Can I buy that from you?’ So I had to leave.”

WAKE UP, CANADA – AND TAKE A LESSON FROM HONG KONG

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This country’s consistent refusal to give financial support to designers is making us a laughing stock on the international fashion scene

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HONG KONG – In little old Toronto it’s difficult to truly grasp how the world’s 1 per cent live. Fly 12 hours forward to Hong Kong and it’s impossible to ignore. Highly concentrated wealth engulfs you like the dense fog that obscures the city’s towering skyline, leaving you awestruck and dazed in an urban maze of upscale boutiques that occupy the square footage of modest mansions. Our trendy Yorkville strip looks like Schitt’s Creek by comparison.

Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Hermès – they’re all here in triplicates, quadruplicates and then some. It’s easier to find a $10,000 handbag than a Starbucks. Tourists from mainland China fill the malls on weekends, armed with rolling luggage that enters the city empty and leaves packed with high-end spoils. 

NEWLY ANNOUNCED JOE FRESH CENTRE RAISES EYEBROWS WITHIN TORONTO’S FASHION COMMUNITY

Fashion

What about the Toronto Fashion Incubator?

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Just in time for Toronto Fashion Week, Joe Fresh and Ryerson University announced the creation of The Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation, which includes a $1 million investment from the clothing brand. The centre aims to support and grow emerging fashion-related businesses through Ryerson’s Fashion Zone.

Of course, any initiative that gives desperately needed funds and mentorship to Canada’s fledging fashion community should be applauded (is this possibly the initiative that was teased, then mysteriously never announced last fashion week?). But, in the company’s habitual quest to shine a spotlight on themselves, they made a big faux pas when they referred to the project as “Canada’s first fashion innovation centre.”

They’re a few words in a press release, but words matter and these ones show a surprising disregard for one of Canada’s oldest and most effective fashion institutions: the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI).

It’s all meme to me: What’s behind our rush to adopt the latest subcultures

Culture, Fashion

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Surrounded by idiots? Get in line. Is negativity your specialty? Heard it before. Just so damn grumpy? Well, who isn’t?

Grumpcore, or whatever you want to call the slightly evolved second coming of “I’m with Stupid” tees, barely hit shelves before anything subversive about the movement was tempered by its own sudden trendiness. You can’t self-identify as a grump of epic proportions when everyone else thinks everything is awful, too.

This isn’t the first subculture to find itself on the wrong side of trendy. As much as fashion is about conformity, it’s also a tool for dissent. Fashion’s subcultures have become the defining visuals of many a decade.

Long before Mary-Kate Olsen brought “homeless chic” to the masses, for instance, oversized clothing belonged to the 18th-century Bohemians as they rejected the bourgeoisie’s cold rules. Those impoverished creatives wore what they could salvage, often second-hand garments that didn’t fit or match. Bohemian style soon became a statement, one that rejected materialism, embraced communal living and empowered the individual.

IN 2015, RESOLVE TO LOVE YOUR BODY

Beauty, Culture, Fashion

Thirteen brave Torontonians strip down and tell all about their journeys toward self-love. Find inspiration in their images and stories to jettison society’s toxic values and embrace the beautiful you.

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If you listen to most mainstream media, the new year is all about finding the new you. But what’s wrong with the old you?

We want to break away from the soul-crushing onslaught of negative New Year’s resolutions – eat less, lose weight, spend every waking moment at the gym – and promote feeling good about the skin you’re in.

While weight loss and fitness conglomerates would have you believe “healthy” looks like a size 6 or bulging biceps, good health doesn’t discriminate based on size or body shape. Wellness is about respecting and caring for the body you’re born with, not forcing it into an unrealistic cookie-cutter mould.

On many fronts, 2014 was a great year for the body-positive movement and diversity in general.

The rise of androgynous and genderless fashion represents society’s increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, as well as body types that don’t read as traditionally “masculine” or “feminine.”

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The viral #FreeTheNipple campaign, backed by celebrities like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Chelsea Handler, challenges gender-biased policies and sexist societal taboos both online and off.

American Vogue boasted a record number of black stars on its covers, and while magazines still have a long way to go, there have never been more discussions about the need for increased racial diversity in media, entertainment and ad campaigns.

Then there were those who appeared to jump aboard the body-positive bandwagon only to appropriate the movement’s language to sell us the same old crap. 

Here’s to the ladies who lunch: socialites are saving Canada’s fashion industry, one soirée at a time

Culture, Fashion, Politics

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Socialites, fashionistas, ladies who lunch — whatever you want to call them, wealthy women who take an interest in fashion and style are easy targets for snarky takedowns.

Their lavish outfits make them hard to miss on any city’s social circuit, and all too easy to dismiss as little more than one-percenters with an expensive hobby. (Just think of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics to “The Ladies Who Lunch” from the musical Company: “Off to the gym, then to a fitting / Claiming they’re fat and looking grim / Cause they’ve been sitting choosing a hat / Does anyone still wear a hat? / I’ll drink to that.”)

While we praise moneyed men who drop fortunes on artwork as esteemed “patrons of the arts” and “cultured” members of society — David Mirvish, for instance, who has invested untold millions on hundreds of paintings — women who support the fashion world are cast as vain, self-important and spoiled. With galas now in high gear leading up to the holidays, they’re also squarely in the spotlight. Last month, Toronto Life alleged that Suzanne Rogers, wife of Rogers scion Edward, has a million-dollar-a-year clothing budget; naturally, the magazine’s online comment section was riddled with posts declaring Rogers had “too much money, too few brains and way too many silly dresses.” This sort of dated thinking categorizes women as stylish or brainy — never both. It infantilizes women and seeks to strip fashion, a historic tool for female self-expression, of its power. We might as well put on our stodgy aprons and get back in the kitchen.

Don’t be evil: Hiring RuPaul was just one of MAC’s bold, progressive moves — now, Frank Toskan finally gets his dues

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The beauty industry has a bad rap for being, well, a little bit evil. Women are rightfully wary of unrealistic standards of thinness, youth and whiteness along with “must-have” products that feel more like burdens than tools for expression and empowerment. Not to mention animal testing, chemical-laced creams and $500 pseudo-scientific concoctions which never live up to any of their promises.

But where there’s bad, there’s also good. Frank Toskan, co-founder of MAC Cosmetics, is a rebel with a cause (many causes, actually) who used the beauty behemoth’s power to effect social and political change. He founded the brand 30 years ago in Toronto, mixing colours over his kitchen sink with business and life partner Frank Angelo. MAC is now one of the world’s leading cosmetics companies.

On Nov. 7, Toskan will finally be honoured for his work as an activist and champion of positive protest culture at the Design Exchange’s DXI: Rise Up gala.

From the start of his career, Toskan rejected values and sales tactics employed by other beauty brands. “The industry is guilty of making women feel unworthy if they don’t buy certain products. That’s how they generate sales,” he says. “We never sold our product like that.”

Joe Fresh says it’s going to support Canadian designers… instead throws a party all about Joe Fresh

Fashion

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Joe Fresh was reportedly making this season all about the little guys. The brand forwent the typical “all about Joe” circus-cum-fashion-show in favour of throwing a party in support of Canadian designers and a new fund the Big Orange is backing for them.

I have to say “reportedly,” because NOW Magazine wasn’t invited.

We didn’t really expect an invite- I’ve presumably, and ironically, been blacklisted for quite some time on account of challenging the brand to up its support of Canadian talent and harshly critiquing its actions before and after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh.

But, back to the party.

“Joe Fresh is turning the spotlight on the industry as a whole, and the many contributors who make this such a dynamic industry,” a Joe Fresh spokesperson told Toronto Star.

For a celebration of Canadian fashion, there didn’t seem to be much to do with Canadian fashion.

Haute Topic: Does Shepard Fairey’s Obey clothing line make him a sellout?

Culture, Fashion

We ask the street artist, in town to promote a collaboration with Hennessy, about his complicated relationship with fashion. Here’s what he had to say.

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On whether he’s sold out: When people are, like, “Yo, Shepard Fairey got big as a street artist, then cashed in and got a clothing line,” they have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.

I come from the cultures of skateboarding and punk rock, where T-shirts are the visible currency rather than the album cover itself or the skateboard itself. For me, it was never a question of  “Is fashion a bad move?”

Everything in skateboarding and early punk rock and hip-hop was about tribalism – secret handshakes and things that would let people know you were on the inside. It was like, “Oh, I can see you have all these scuffs on your shoes…. Respect.”

I made T-shirts from the beginning, but stores said they’d never heard of my brand, so why would they carry it?

With the street art, I could just put it out there without permission. So my profile rose as a street artist much more quickly than it did as a purveyor of streetwear, but they’ve always been working simultaneously.

Fashion bad boy gets a dressing down

Fashion

Toronto Men’s Fashion Week’s Jeff Rustia battles allegations of mishandling funds after volunteer board members resign

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Jeff Rustia is a Toronto scenester known in the fashion biz for his charm and flashy blazers. His long list of credits, itemized in numerous enthusiastic online bios, includes hosting Club Fashion, “a weekly national show of fashion, style icons, nightlife and club culture.”

But he’s best known as executive director of Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*), which wrapped up at the Fairmont Royal York on August 14. This year’s showcase of “established and pioneering Canadian menswear designers” was a headline-grabbing event, but for the wrong reasons.

Read the full story in NOW Magazine.

Fashion bizarre: Toronto fashion is anything but average

Fashion

While cheap supermarket brands and trendy parkas get most of the attention, Toronto’s real fashion gems are indie designers who think way, way outside the box. Their creations aren’t for the average shopper, but that’s not the point.

From non-traditional textiles like latex and elytra (beetle wings) to dramatic capes and wearable robotics, every piece you see in this editorial spread is by a local designer. Ranging from wonderfully weird to just plain awesome as fuck, this isn’t just fashion – it’s art

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Weird beauty

Beauty, Culture

From urine therapy and sensory deprivation to the much-feared Vampire Facelift, I subject myself to some of T.O.’s odder beauty and wellness treatments

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The treatment: 60 minutes in a sensory deprivation float tank

at H20 Float Spa ($59, 138 Danforth, 647-349-0426, h2ofloatspa.com).

The promise: Reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen immune system, calm and hydrate skin and hair, increase energy level, flush toxins.

The lowdown: When a spa makes me sign away financial responsibility for the cleanup of any fecal matter I might let slip in their facilities, I get a little uneasy. I was already worried about my overstimulated brain’s ability to handle an hour in a sensory deprivation tank, but when I joked about “losing my shit,” never did it occur to me that I might literally park my breakfast in the little white pod.