Anyone daring enough to attend all eight runway shows and viewings at Toronto Fashion Week on Thursday would have walked away feeling emotionally exhausted.
The theme of the day was drama: with theatrical clothing ranging from spiked leather collars, to dresses made of trash (really), to modern masterpieces void of all humanity.
It was one of those rollercoaster evenings that one arrives home from not knowing whether to laugh or cry, but feeling quite certain they need a good night’s sleep to recover.
The day started off with a viewing of Sarah Stevenson’s luxurious, handcrafted line, which was French in aesthetic (Edith Piaf songs played throughout) and captured a wry primness, with loosely fitting silk shirt dresses that boasted a hint of sexiness in a floral lace print.
The designer hoped to take onlookers to a tea party (some models even held tea cups), and the clothes would have certainly fit in at a cosmopolitan café. They were so delicately made, though, that they would likely work best on the body of a laissez-faire socialite – who prefers to be admired by gentleman callers, rather than venturing out into the uncouth world.
After the pinnacle of exquisite femininity came a “Scavenger”-themed, and at times crude, runway show by Brazilian-born Toronto-based designer Baby Steinberg, who took the trashy chic trend to a whole new level: by literally making clothes out of trash.
We’re not talking about a cotton sheath dress with the odd wine cork glued to a shoulder – Steinberg actually made the bulk of every piece out of reclaimed materials like garbage bags, found keys, VHS film, used coffee filters, bread tags and bubble gum.
I loved the eco-friendly idea, but from a wholly un-green standpoint; the designer’s innovation was spent on textiles and not so much on the architecture of the clothes. Who would wear these? Rihanna and Lady Gaga come to mind, but even they seem to back off when brassy meets cheap.
After the main trough of the day came a well-made barrage of rugged menswear from Klaxon Howl designer Matt Robinson, who was inspired by frontiersmen, explorers and soldiers but delivered a show that was bland at times and redundant by the end.
With loads of khakis, oversize pockets and denim (very ’90s interpretation of the ’50s), it left one wishing for a little more punch in the wearable workwear basics, which will probably never find their way into the wardrobe of the Canadian-Tire-shopping, “Hockey-Night-in-Canada”-watching everyman for whom they looked most suited.
Next Drew and Michael Thomas stepped up to the plate with the most intense presentation thus far, with awe-inspiring clothing that was not only androgynous, but was so void of warmth they seemed almost inhuman. The THOMAS show served as an asexual succubus for those in attendance – upon leaving I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Where’s my soul?” to a colleague – before realizing the show was the reason I felt hollow.
Beyond the soundtrack of eerie whistling wind (which rose to a screech at times), models intensified the strange atmosphere by wearing blank faces with angry undertones – as though they were staring out into the void of space, rather than a wall of dozens of photographers.
Thing is, the raw priest-like tunics (with cropped fronts and tails that have been all over the place this week), leggings slashed at the knee, and deftly cut jackets were all so well-thought-out that one was forced to admire the aberrant show – rather than write it off as a gimmick.
Evan Biddell, who had a show last week, put on a viewing that was largely made up of purposefully draped black jersey dresses (with deep-V and circular necks), accented with armoury in the form of shiny melted plastic breastplates and spiked leather collars and shoulder plates. Like everything he does, Biddell seemed to pluck ideas out of a fertile imagination rather than looking to trends for inspiration.
Moving from the bizarre high of the THOMAS show and Biddell viewing (and a fanciful Français show from Basch by Brandon Dwyer) to the melodramatic Toronto debut of Lauren Bagliore’s collection was like tipping over the apex of a ride at Canada’s Wonderland.
Bagliore had expressed that the personal tragedy she had endured over the past year influenced her largely monochromatic show, but on the whole the collection gave the feeling it was taking itself a little too seriously.
There was certainly some doom and gloom by way of colour scheme, hoods and high-necked Victorian jackets, but much of the line (which was chock full of dresses with hanging tops over second-skin mini skirts), would look more fitting at a nightclub than a funeral.
The ride finished with one last climax from Ramona Keveza, a New York-based evening and bridal wear designer who began the show with a clip of the trailer for 1961′s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (automatic points) and followed through with flirty cocktail dresses and gowns in black, ivory, dusty pink and a diluted Tiffany’s blue.
A major part of her bridal collection was rooted in the three dimensional element of laser cut silk chiffon petals and flaps that made nearly every skirt and train look as though it were begging to be grazed with admiring fingers.
Though some gowns were a little outlandish, it was clear Keveza knows how to make a stunning dress.