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.

Show us the money!

Fashion, Politics

The Ontario government’s refusal to allow fashion designers to apply for arts and culture grants is stifling the local industry

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Toronto is full of immensely creative designers whose inventions go far beyond the fast fashion wear-and-toss items found at big-box stores. It’s a shame so few of them can stay in business.

They face a unique challenge when it comes to securing funding, in that there is practically none available. There’s no umbrella organization similar to the CFDA in the U.S. for Canadian designers to turn to. (The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund offers one award of $300,000 and two of $100,000 each year, in addition to the CFDA scholarship program and the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, which provides grants to facilities that manufacture garments locally.) The few fashion competitions that take place here offer laughably small cash prizes or none at all.

Most surprising is that fashion designers don’t qualify for any grant money from the Ontario Arts Council. Unlike interactive digital media, recorded music, book and magazine publishing, film, television, visual art and theatre, fashion is inexplicably not considered a cultural industry by either the federal or provincial government.

The skinny on bad taste

Fashion

The Bay pulls provocative tees, proving Canada isn’t ready for fashion-forward thinking

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I was thrilled when I heard Hudson’s Bay would stock Canadian-born, New York-based designer Christopher Lee Sauvé’s satirical T-shirts that poke and prod the fashion industry in all the right places. No target is too big for him to skewer with his signature pop art portrayals: American Apparel; Anna Wintour; Terry Richardson; waifish model Kate Moss’s infamous “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” remark quoted in a 2009 Women’s Wear Daily interview and since adopted by the thinspiration community.

It’s that last one that got Sauvé in trouble.

The dark side of fitspo

Beauty, Culture, Fashion

Why the fitspiration trend is much more dangerous than thinspiration ever was

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Fit is the new skinny. At least that’s what hordes of trendy fitspiration posts on Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram would have you believe.

Fitspiration (fitspo) bills itself as a support movement focused on health and, as the name would suggest, fitness. Typical fitspo content consists of images and slogans supposedly meant to inspire women to live more active, stronger lives. A noble idea, to be sure, but most fitspo is just old-school thinspo disguised with little more than a neon sports bra and a perky can-do attitude.

Mélissa Nepton plays with texture; Joe Fresh raids Build-A-Bear

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Sabrina Maddeaux reports on days two and three of Toronto Fashion Week

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Every time Fashion Week comes around, people ask me whose collections I most look forward to seeing. For me, it’s never the powerhouse designers that have been around for years, it’s the newbies.

Rookie designers are still experimenting and haven’t yet hit the point in their careers where the constant struggle to drum up retail support has dulled their creative senses.