Barbie in David Dixon.
Denis Gagnon is wearing sunglasses, indoors, and it’s not even night. Although, the trays of emptied wine glasses could fool those uninitiated in this fashion-media rite of passage: the Holt Renfrew cocktail party. This year, to launch the newly named LG Fashion Week, we’re self-congratulating in the recently reno’d contemporary design area. It’s a clever change in location: “They used to have it in accessories, but who’s going to pick up a $1,600 bag?” posits one smart editor. “Here I actually want to shop!” It’s also very shiny and very bright—just not quite bright enough for shades.
They don’t look like shades, though, these outsized, black-lacquered Lanvin frames. We suggest this with a crinkle of the brow. Gagnon, Montreal’s risen star of avant-garde womenswear, has an eager smile. “They change!” The lenses? “Yes. When you go outside, they change to dark.”
Ah. But how sunny is it out there, really?
David Dixon Fall/Winter 2009.
Just kidding. We’ll spare you the clumsy potential transition into economic doomsaying, and move to Toronto Fashion Week’s next favourite topic: Robin Kay.
“If she doesn’t do something drunk and embarrassing,” says a young, languid Flare staffer, “it’s like, why did we even come?”
But Kay’s lines are brief and unslurred. We hold our breath for the real thing: her opening speech before the first big runway show. (Forgot last year’s? How could you? YouTube ASAP.)
Last year, the FDCC painted our top designers as a Group of Seven: Arthur Mendonca, David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, and four more. (Fashion people can do math.) Now, Holts V(I)P Barbara Atkins introduces Canada’s “Fab Five”: Greta Constantine (designer duo Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong), Philip Sparks, Mikhael Kale, Denis Gagnon, and Jeremy Laing.
Even without a picture, you can see what’s wrong here. These are six stylish, visionary, extraordinarily talented, and hearteningly young men. But men. Where are our fashion-designing women? If the only female representation we see today is Barbie, we can’t help thinking, we’re going to drown ourselves in pink drinks.
At David Dixon, everyone loves the birthday girl. Toronto blogger Sarah B. Hood has brought a half-century-old Barbie, which Marlene Shiff suggests she fashion into a necklace. Nathalie Atkinson (she of the Post) is wearing a doll’s headpiece, made of feathers, netting, and Barbie dismemberments by ChapeauCoeur. And everywhere we look, our eye spies something ridiculously pink. If we weren’t sitting next to Eye Weekly—or rather, its lovely and entirely un-Barbified representation, Rea McNamara—we’d feel totally cast out.
At last, Robin Kay takes the spotlight. A legginged scenester in blackest shades, one lens punched out (“I’m Rihanna!” we’d heard him say earlier; too soon, dear boy) turns to stage-whisper at his friends, “Here we go.” When she begins her remarkably unslurred speech with the announcement that she’s “sticking to the speech this season,” the friend almost yells, “Thank gawd.”
So, the Kay speech is a non-event. We can’t help feeling let down, and then rather sorry for a woman who, while at the top, can’t win. If she messes up, she’s eviscerated; if she doesn’t, she disappoints.
David Dixon proper is tweedy, monochromatic (the dominant hue is a muted merlot), and elegant. Hems dip just below the knee, gloves over the elbow. Embellishment shines, but rarely. These are clothes for conservative investors. If you’re still shopping at The Bay, you’ll love it.
At intermission, tightly tee’d Ken dolls march out with trays of—OMG, is that a many-candled cake? As if Barbie eats cake! But wait. Nope. They’re pink energy drinks with straws. Sighs of relief are palpable.
Barbie by David Dixon.
And then, it’s Barbie. The intro video is a bad trip in a dream convertible, but the soundtrack is amazing, kickstarting with Annie’s “Heartbeat.” (Quoi, no Aqua?) Clothes are black, white, and hot pink all over. Best: a series of “bias ribbon” dresses that look swishy and shingled, a geometric take on fringing. Worst: how many houndstooth car coats do we need? Who still drives in Toronto?
When it’s over, we skip cocktails and head straight for the candy bar en route to catch up on #lgfw in the media lounge, where no one talks. Everyone Twitters. Before the show, we’d noticed a girl tweeting @SomeoneStandingRightBehindHer—a moment so delightfully absurd, it could be the lead anecdote in Toronto Life‘s inevitable cover story: “Twitter City.”
Tweet of the day? Congrats to Gail McInnes, who “sat behind Howie Mandel at David Dixon, wanted to shake his hand, but don’t think he woulda liked that.”
Heading to leave, we spot adorable photography couple Chris Altorf and Jessie Hayes—a.k.a. Istoica—setting up to shoot a blogTO video interview with Ms. Kay. We wish luck, sarcastically.
“It’ll be fine,” says a tall brunette to our left, voice chipper and sharp.
“Oh god. You’re not her PR, are you?”
Well, that’s our cue.
All photos by Pete Lytwyniuk / Studiolit.