Insert [FAT] Joke Here
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Insert [FAT] Joke Here

Too Hot Too Wet Too Dangerous… Too Furry?

Remember that time when you went to Toronto’s Alternative Arts & Fashion Week [FAT], got distracted by shiny things on the Fermenting Cellar’s floor, cupped a clammy hand over your mouth when a bare-breasted model flapped her way along the catwalk, cracked too many [FAT] jokes to too many people you didn’t know, and ultimately gave up all hope of ever becoming a fashion industry insider? No? Well, there’s no time like the present time for a vicarious trip down memory lane.

Last-minute touch-ups.

We arrived at the show unfashionably early (we were on time), but to our great relief, we realized no one cared. We also realized that those polka-dot rainboots we begrudgingly left at home (the very ones we eschewed for foot-cramping heels) would’ve fit right in. And why? All together now: because no one cared. That’s right: as we bumbled our way through [FAT]’s Earth Day–themed shows, we slowly came to the realization that (almost) everyone seemed more interested in what was slinking down the runway than what was taking place (and taking up space) along the periphery.

The Deadly Nightshades’ version of bicycle chic.

But that didn’t stop us from spotting—and later cornering—a friendly face in the crowd. That’s right, sitting front-and-centre, we saw Project Runway Canada finalist Jessica Biffi. (And, sadly, what we lack in fashion week know-how, we make up for in reality television wherewithal).
“I actually showed a collection at the very first [FAT] in 2006,” said Biffi, who admitted that her front-row seat was “pretty sweet.” “At that time, my collection was pretty costume-y and definitely not something that could be shown at LG Fashion Week or anything. But that’s one of the great things about [FAT]—you get exposure, you get media attention, even if your collection is unconventional. And even if you’re just starting out.” One of Biffi’s favourite collections of the evening was Romandin, the brainchild of third-year Ryerson student Cristina Sabaiduc. “Yeah, some of her pieces were great,” said Biffi. “She used some interesting materials in her collection—magnets, lead. All sorts of textures.”

Cristina Sabaiduc of Romandin.

“I’m a perfectionist,” admitted Sabaiduc, just minutes after her models had walked, paused, and exited the runway. “Hence the materials—like the sailing rope [which she had fashioned into a dress]. But everything is still tailored. Even though we’re pushing the boundaries of alternative fashion, everything is still wearable.”
This “still wearable” theme seemed to permeate all of the evening’s collections; from Cherry Blossom’s sometimes strapless, often billowy dresses (paired with soft knits—wait, are knits ever not soft?) to the Deadly Nightshades’ edgy, street-y bicycle chic garms—there were more “wearable” items on the catwalk than not.

Karey Shinn’s version of Too Wet.

… Until, of course, the neon-pink haz-mat suit made an appearance. Along with the Gore-Tex jumpsuit-wearing, pop-locking survivalists. And the dancing polar bears. (Well, to be honest we secretly kind of dug the dancing polar bears. They were pretty cute.) We would like our Earth Day themes with a pinch less literalism, if you please.
As the evening wore on the lines between fashion show and performance art blurred until eventually everybody threw up their hands and decided to do away with the pretense (and Pretense) altogether. Who needs to preserve such distinctions when you’re defiantly, proudly Alternative?
When we compared notes at the end of the night, dodging Bond-style babes in hoodied life-jackets and gaggles of air-kissing fashionistas who no doubt understood the shows far better than we did, we were left pondering how much wearability or fashion show conventions should matter. We’d have liked to see more genuinely covet-worthy pieces (even avant-garde, aspirational ones) and some cleaner execution, but there was also much for fashion outsiders to love. (Models with hips! And (s)ass! Walking with very unfashionable grins on their faces!) Even if lacking the finesse of its grown-up counterpart, [FAT] may well make up for it on spirit points.
All photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist