Does Toronto Fashion Week Care About Its Models?


With all their long-legged wonder and thin-as-pins glory, it’s easy to forget that models are people too. For one thing, when they don’t eat enough, they die. Sometimes they’re teens who make bad choices and girls who deal with sexual harassment. They also like things like water and getting paid for their work. It’s a lack of basic workers’, and sometimes human rights that has spurred fashion councils around the world to act in defense of models.

In 2007, Montreal Fashion Week banned underweight models and those under the age of 16 from walking the runway. That same year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released guidelines for models at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) that encouraged age minimums and healthy bodies. Since then, the CFDA has also received pledges from top modeling agencies – including DNA, Elite, Ford IMG, and Next – not to send any models younger than 16 to shows.

In March, Israel passed a law that prohibits fashion designers and media from using models that fall below the World Health Organization’s standard for malnutrition. London Fashion Week (LFW) designers sign a contract with the British Fashion Council (BFC) to use models who are at least 16, and the major fashion organizations in Spain and Italy also ban models who fall below a certain Body Mass Index level.

In Toronto? Crickets.

The FDCC’s website conspicuously lacks any mention of models, let alone guidelines that mention age, weight, or any other initiative to protect models. While media in other countries are quick to raise concerns over models’ rights, our media is remarkably silent. Is it simply because there isn’t a problem here? Or are we overlooking the issue thanks to good ol’ Canadian “that doesn’t happen here” naïveté?

“In the past, change rooms were very exposed. So anybody could walk through and watch 15 or 16-year-old models ripping their shirts off between sets,” says Dan Grant, publisher of and an agent for Next Models. “There were people who were contracted to do maintenance stuff, but they were always walking through the change area between shows and often had their cell phones out. I’m positive that they were taking photos.”

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

Adrian Wu wide

Review: In Defense of Smart Fashion and Adrian Wu S/S 2012


Last Friday 21-year-old designer Adrian Wu showed his first collection at LG Fashion Week. It was ingenious and I gave him a standing ovation (very unlike me). Was the collection perfect? No. But it was a damn fantastic example of what we’re missing in Canadian fashion.

Unfortunately there’s a large contingent of fashion ‘media’ (by trade or hobby) in this city who don’t like to think. That’s why press releases are regurgitated so carelessly and rave reviews are printed when the Mimran Collective whispers sweet orange nothings with their sponsorship dollars. So understandably, a collection based on physics might’ve been a bit too aspirational for some people’s liking. And Adrian suffered for it.

First came the Commes Des Garçons copycat accusations. Let’s remember Adrian wasn’t even a decade old when ‘lumps and bumps’ came down the runway. Just because he’s an aspiring designer doesn’t mean he’s got the last quarter-century of fashion memorized. Remember when Brandon R. Dwyer didn’t know who YSL was on Project Runway?  If you look back at Adrian’s previous collections, you’d see 3D fashion has always been his M.O.

Are we so used to Canadian designers stocking their grocery/department stores with major label look-a-likes, that we can’t fathom the notion of something original showing at LGFW? The comparison between CDG and Adrian is a stretch, anyways. CDG’s lumps were deformations of the physique and barely noticeable when put side-by-side with Adrian’s. This was a show of monster photon-protrusions. Please tell me we’re more sophisticated than “all bumps look alike.” Plus, Adrian’s dresses had ruffled waves a lot of reviewers forgot about… probably because “phallic” is a lot more fun to write than “wave.”

Next critique: “But I couldn’t see the dresses clearly!” Um, that was probably the point. In the double slit experiment (that Adrian’s show was inspired by), mere observation can affect the outcome of macroscopic events. This means particles somehow ‘know’ they’re being watched and misbehave and do unpredictable things. It’s wacky, yes. But it sparked some pretty interesting scientific theories and Adrian’s dresses took on the same unpredictable waves and bumps when we watched them. Want to see RTW? Go to the showroom. Runway is about inspiration.

Then there were the half-zipped zippers and unfinished hems. The major conclusion of the double slit experiment was, despite all our advanced science, we don’t know very much about this universe. Our understanding is unfinished, and likely always will be. Adrian is much too meticulous to forget to zip-up a model or sew a hem. This guy taught himself quantum physics—he’s not about to miss a few stitches. These ‘unfinished’ touches were symbolic. This should’ve been obvious in combination with the paint splatters and imperfect material choices.

The sexuality of Adrian’s collection, overt and unabashed with dresses named “The First Period” and “Blue Balls,” is likely a continuation of his interest in Freud’s theories on human sexuality (the inspiration behind his F/W 2011). Again, there’s a tie-in here. The double slit theory is a perversion of science; it’s something unpredictable and contrary to logic. Freud is also all about perversion. And Adrian showed a collection of perverted dresses—two of them on men. His dresses were named after progressive stages of sexuality and all the confusion and chaos that comes with them. This exploration was supposed to be meaningful, not criticized with the maturity of a 12-year-old learning about menstruation for the first time.

The bottom line of Adrian’s collection—scientific, sexual, or otherwise—was chaos. It was gutsy, original, and beautiful. Please keep it up, Adrian. Canadian fashion needs you to spark our imagination and fuel our desire to be more than just ‘wearable.’ Plus, next season you’ll be a sophomore, and we only make the rookies explain themselves here.

Photos courtesy of the FDCC