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Runway showdown for young designers

- April 18th, 2011

Competition hit the catwalk Thursday night at the Design Exchange when three young Canadians displayed their fall winter collections to a full house at Toronto Fashion Incubator‘s New Labels 2011 Fashion Show.

After five months of intense sessions with a panel of judges from both the media and fashion industry – including acclaimed designer David Dixon – the event came down to 12 items that models revealed in three successive shows.

Up for grabs was a feature in FLARE magazine, the chance to design an outfit for Sears, and a $10,000 cash prize from TFI, a non-profit organization dedication to supporting designers and fostering Canadian fashion.

Ashtiani designer Golnaz Ashtiani poses with models in her other-worldy creations (Photo by George Pimentel)

Designer Golnaz Ashtiani poses with models in her other-worldy creations (Photo by George Pimentel)

The winning collection, by Toronto-based designer Golnaz Ashtiani, consisted largely of fitted and structured dresses with innovative folds and draping that gave the looks an almost other-worldly aura.

Let’s put it this way: if Captain Kirk dated a beautiful foreign diplomat, she’d be swathed in Ashtiani.

Ruffles, panels and leather detailing – trends that surfaced during Toronto Fashion Week – were also present, but in an uncommonly blanched colour scheme for fall – dresses, skirts and blouses were in pale camel, sienna, rose, ivory and barely-there nudes, with a few dark brown pieces dotted about the line.

Ashtiani knew such distinctive hues were a risk. “It’s so different,” she said, backstage after her win. “I didn’t know how people were going to react.”

So strong was the competition that Ashtiani hadn’t thought about what she like to design for Sears, though the $10,000 will go to funding her spring summer 2010 collection. The designer, who studied at the London College of Fashion, says garnering exposure through the event is also valuable.

“I really wanted to start up my own business and this is a huge opportunity,” said Ashtiani backstage after her win. “I love the challenge itself – it’s how I wanted to introduce myself to the Canadian fashion industry.”

Yummy velvet pants by Caitlin Power. (Photo by George Pimentel)

Yummy velvet pants by Caitlin Power. (Photo by George Pimentel)

Calgary-based designer Caitlin Power began the night with a wearable mix of feminine items like silk cotton blouses off-set by several streamlined and sexy leather pieces, like a skirt, bustier, cape and dress. Beautifully cut coats with leather detailing stood out as pieces that would elevate any woman’s wardrobe in the fall, while others – like a black jumpsuit and velvet dress – were on trend for next season.

“My inspiration was rock Victorian,” said Power after the show, who wanted to juxtapose hard and soft textiles and silhouettes. Much of the line consisted of olive and black leather, though there were a few pieces in cream and a floral print broke up the somber palette.

The final showing was of Toronto designer Nikki Wirthensohn’s NARCES collection, chock full of luxe cocktail dresses and coats in sumptuous fabrics, like wool/cashmere blends, and silk in the form of satin, velvet and sequin. The high-hemline, evening wear items were largely in black – with the exception of one glittering gold mini dress – though the use of textiles like patent guipure lace and lambskin leather kept the textures interesting.

Patent guipure lace added detail and texture to NARCES pieces by Nikki Wirthensohn. (Photo by George Pimentel)

Patent guipure lace added detail and texture to NARCES pieces by Nikki Wirthensohn. (Photo by George Pimentel)

“The inspiration was originally ‘Moscow nights,’” said Wirthensohn, who focused on luxurious textiles with modern detailing.

Though aesthetic styles differed, all three designers said that getting feedback from judges – on everything from styling to price points – was a big part of what they take away from the experience, and will keep in mind moving forward in their careers.

Follow me on Twitter: @LifewiseKate

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