Fashion Week Fall 2008: Day One
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Fashion Week Fall 2008: Day One

Joe Mimran and Coco Rocha. Photo by Darryl Natale.
Have you spotted Coco yet?
If we had a dollar for every time we heard (or, okay, asked) that question yesterday, we could have paid for our media pass a dozen times over. Forget the Misshapes and MTV faces—the only VIP anyone wanted to see on the first day of L’Oreal Fashion Week was 19-year-old model and Meisel muse Coco Rocha. Has there ever been this much love for, say, an actual designer in Toronto? Ha. Not until that designer goes to New York.

At Evan Biddell. Photos by Henry Roxas.
The invite for Evan Biddell, first to show in this four-day fashion week, read “Sustainably Sexy Global Warriors, inspired by anime.” Recalling with a shudder the sartorially challenged members of the Anime Club at our hometown high school, we imagined a line of neon-wigged schoolgirls and street fighters in origami armour.
It was a relief, then, when the first model stepped out in a structured, sophisticated little black dress (back in a big way for fall, although really, was it ever gone?). But as the line progressed from cocktail or happy hour attire to eveningwear, relief turned to boredom. Instead of cartoon colours, the organic cotton and bamboo separates came in black, ivory, navy, magenta, and—of course—lots of mossy green. (When will designers learn that clothes can be “green” without actually being green?) And no origami intricacies, just obi belts tying together a series of high-waisted skirts and cowl-backed dresses, their hems asymmetrical or trumpet-flared. Nice, but nothing new. There were few ideas in the collection that haven’t been realized already, and more effectively, by Lanvin, Leger or Laing. The 23-year-old prairie boy has talent and potential; it’s just too bad his Fashion Week debut wasn’t half as bold as the middle finger salute he flashed his standing-room-only audience.
Mayor David Miller and FDCC President Robin Kay welcome guests to Fashion Week. Photo by Darryl Natale.
“3:30? Seriously? It’s going to be a long day,” moaned a platform-stiletto’d platinum blonde, squeezing through a crush of photographers after Biddell’s show.
“I know, right?” said her leopard-skinned friend. “Like, is there a couch I can steal? Just wake me up when Coco comes!”
Given the Monday mood, the RockStar energy drinks in the gift bags at Mellinda-Mae Harlingten were much appreciated—especially since her black-white-and-red-all-over collection was overlong and yawn-inducing (how many sixties-swing car coats does a girl need?). The Vancouver designer’s Toronto debut should do well with Yorkville yupsters, but all those “classics with a twist” (fashion’s faintest praise) failed to satisfy the cravings of coolhunters in attendance. Watching Fashion Television’s interview with Harlingten, a 27-year-old blonde who looks like Sienna Miller Lite, a snappy observer summed it up best: “Her clothes aren’t as pretty as she is.”
The real rock star of the day was Montreal’s Denis Gagnon, who sent out his smoke-eyed girls to the welcome sounds of David Bowie and Joy Division. But his collection, all dark and stormy with flashes of glam, was anything but a throwback; we won’t be surprised if it’s the most forward stuff presented all week. Knitwear took on new dimensions in dramatically textured dresses; chiffon mixed on-trend transparency with inventive draping; buttery leather was whipped into artfully slouchy, Margiela-shouldered jackets that could have held their own in a Rick Owens show. Along with fellow Montrealer Nadya Toto, Gagnon is giving us serious Quebecois jalousie.
Mid-applause, we noticed that Lisa Tant and Ceri Marsh, respective editors of Flare and Fashion, were seated directly across from each other. Strategic positioning, we thought, designed to facilitate narrow-eyed staredowns between shows. Alas, no such luck. Post-Gagnon, Ms. Tant—wearing Prada heels but looking decidedly un-Devilish—greeted her should-be frenemy with genuine hugs and gush. Ah, you know you’re in Toronto when…
Left: off-duty, a model shows off her own style; right: Joe Fresh stylemongers hang out after the show. Both photos by Darryl Natale.
…when the biggest buzz of the day is about a fast-fashion line sold at a grocery superstore. Joe Fresh Style (Joe as in Mimran, the Club Monaco founder and current FDCC chair) took capacity to the max and turned up the volume accordingly, blasting Dragonette as everyone who’s anyone scrambled for seats.
And who gets all the boys? Mademoiselle Coco, of course. Leading Joe’s super-slim pack of Ali McGraw lookalikes in knee socks and seventies-ish knits, Miss Rocha sauntered onto the runway with all the hair-flipping insouciance of the head cheerleader—you’d love to hate for her perfection, but can’t help loving, period, ’cause she’s just so cute. We suddenly remembered why it’s called a catwalk: from her inimitable, feline slink to the laughing, lilting slant of her eyes to her impossibly pert nose, Coco evokes nothing more than the prettiest kitten in the litter. If only we could keep her.