Highlights From 2012 FAT Fashion & Arts Week Toronto

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FAT is a different beast than its cousin Toronto Fashion Week. Contained in one of the large warehouses-turned-studios near Lansdowne and Bloor, the show has a veneer of authenticity sometimes missing from the tents in David Pecaut Square. With avant garde art installations next to an open runway, and a desire to champion up-and-coming designers and filmmakers, FAT sneakily gets away with sticking its feet in both the counter culture and in haute couture. The clothes are more alternative, the people cooler, the building more open and inviting. BALLnROLL got a chance to check it out.

The pieces were generally brilliant, and we saw a whole lot of black and white fabric.

LITTLE BLACK DRESSES

Jessica Harper once sang about how much she’d like to slip into a little black dress, and that song should have been the theme for this year’s FAT: you’ve never seen so much black fabric in your life. I don’t know why we spent so much time talking about the colour trend when so many of the alt designers today are reaching for the india ink.

There were a few brilliant exceptions, of course—which we’ll talk about—but much of the collections focused on black, loose, high-waisted gowns with open backs. Some of these, like B.E Shield’s low-shouldered loose tops with pleated gowns, were breathtakingly lovely.

Esther Perbandt’s FOCUS GERMANY collection also gets a free pass, because her particular fixation on black-and-white was so snazzy. She did Ezra Constantine one better, mixing the black and white tunic with glam and tartan kilts, more schoolgirl-punk-by-way-of-high-fashion than Ezra Constantine’s schoolboy bondage slaves. Monochromatic, sure, but elegant and sleek.

Body Part Clothing Company’s box-like tank tops seemed to make a statement about how the fashion industry designs for men as opposed to women: how else to explain the procession of exaggerated low-necklines and waist-obscuring barrel cuts on the men’s tops and the form-fitting, high-necked women’s wear?

By the end of it, we just wanted to see some colour.

MOVING AWAY FROM BLACK DRESSES

Not every model trotting the boards wore black. Dilly Daisy’s pleasingly retro minis looked like living catalogs of our dreams of the early 60s, bright and colourful. Ditto Phoenix Vintage’s Carousel collection.

For menswear, though, you can’t beat Zent, whose collection focused on vibrant, gaudy pieces like blue fishnet shirts, blue wristbands, plastic crackpipes and shiny polyester shorts. The collection went out of its way to be garish, in the best possibly way.

Think bright scarlet dots on mesh tanks, cut-off jean short shorts, and glass tube necklaces. Admirably loud and excitingly ugly, almost a deconstruction of bad fashion.

How else to explain a baby blue tank with a frilly wool patch on the front? These were horrendous looks designed by someone who really knows what they’re doing. Just exhilarating.

Ditto Pedram Karimi, whose neo-peasant tunics were pleasingly bonkers. Models paraded the runway in black and white serf gear and harlequin pants, envisioning a futurescape by way of the dark ages.

Dark ages elements also leaked into David Wigley’s excellent Worth collection. Worth came out swinging, incorporating neo-Scottish elements and combining capes, tartan, and black belts.

With wool sweaters and neck pieces by Dylan Uscher, the Worth collection was masculine, stylish and a little avant garde. Another highlight here was a deconstructed tux, including bright, colourful patterned leggings and gold jackets. A bold, fearless collection.

But the biggest standout, in terms of menswear, had to be Raji Aujla’s extraordinary collection, which transformed the models into walking Prince Charmings. Intended to be a narrative of the clash between British imperialism and Indian nationals, Aujla walked off with the show.

Completely out of place anywhere but on a runway, the high collars and impeccable lines of the three-piece designs were meant to reflect British bourgeois sensibility but instead seemed too heightened, too fairy tale.

It was a show that shouldn’t have worked, but did. With any other collection, blasting out Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli’s “Time To Say Goodman” would have been too much, would have drowned out the clothing, and given the collection false notes. But what can I say? The pieces held their own on the stage. Expect this collection’s elements of lined lapels and scarves to make its way into the fashion culture soon.

Better still was the final model, who grabbed a mic and exploded into impromptu rap. Now that is how you inject a runway with a little spontaneity. It was another part of a show that should have seemed like too much, should have seemed too constructed, too rehearsed. But instead, it worked. It shattered the fairy tale aesthetic and brought the collection instantly back to its political roots.

The audience exploded with applause, and Raji Aujla walked out to a standing ovation. FAT never quite hit that kind of high again.

Brilliant, beautiful, and sometimes touching, the purpose of FAT is to showcase the up-and-comers and the designs that stand ready to influence the industry of tomorrow. In this, it succeeded, spectacularly.

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