The Future of Toronto Fashion: Eric Tong
Left, Eric Tong’s “Words” dress on the Ryerson runway; right, his sketch for the design.
Welcome back to the future…of fashion. It’s our current series on style in our city, in which we corner up-and-comers in the clotheshorse race to talk about our fashion-capital dreams—near, far, or never happening?
Last week, Faren Tami put out hope that Toronto will be the “new New York,” but not so smoggy. Today, we talk local starchitecture and London envy with Eric Tong, a Ryerson fashion student whose work is already on the zipper edge of cool-kid style. We fell in lust with his asymmetrically draped, zippered “Words” dress (pictured) at the School of Fashion’s Second and Third Year showcase. Is Tong too hot for Toronto, or will he stick around his Dundas West scene? Conjecture with us, after the jump.
Eric’s inspiration board for the “Words” dress.
Torontoist: What are you wearing right now?
Eric Tong: Shawl-collar long-sleeve tee (H&M) with ‘hoodie skeleton’ (Krane), leather bomber (vintage), and skinny jeans (True Religion) tucked into lace-up ankle boots (vintage). All black.
What’s the most stylish street in Toronto?
Probably Dundas, west of University. All the good people leaving Queen know to go up to Dundas instead of down to King.
How long have you lived here?
Since I was nine. That was my first birthday in Canada. It was a preemptive move on my parents’ part to avoid the Hong Kong handover [the transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the People’s Republic of China].
How long have you known you wanted to design clothes?
Since my epiphany in my second year of architecture school. Unfortunately, I didn’t trust my intuition, and stayed to finish the program.
Tell us about Toronto in 2020. What will people be wearing? How will the city look?
Hopefully there will be more people riding bikes with bike lanes on every street in the downtown core, and new streetcars. Of course we will have more green roofs, trees, and street furniture. Clothing will be made with technologically advanced fabrics and worn to screen out unwanted stimuli, like heat and cold or noise. Aesthetically it will be very space-age, with bodies encapsulated like a second skin.
Also, I was thinking the other day that what people will be wearing in 2020 will also be much more androgynous. Before securing an internship this summer, I will focus on making “Gender Transgression” pieces, the first of which will be a men’s one-piece.
Do you think that, in order to make it internationally, fashion designers have to leave Toronto for New York or London?
Yes, because Toronto is quite conservative in fashion terms.
So will you leave?
To go where, and why?
I am of two ways: if I want to master my tailoring skills I would go to London’s Savile Row. If I want to break away from the tailored body, I would travel to Tokyo to learn from the new generation of masters, like Junya Watanabe, Dai Fujiwara, etcetera.
What kind of girl do you see wearing a piece like the black zipper dress (pictured)?
A party girl of course! But also someone who appreciates good style and design beyond trends, maybe a designer herself. It’s definitely a very small niche market.
Do you see this kind of girl in Toronto?
Yes, because I try to be an optimist. And I know at least one person who can totally pull it off.
OK, so you know someone who can rock the dress, but that kind of girl afford to buy it?
That’s a loaded question. We are so used to seeing barely-there models walking exorbitantly expensive pieces down the runway that it’s distorted young designers’ perceptions as to who is the actual target market. I’m still going to say yes, because I’m willing to make concessions to get her in that dress. I obviously need to be a better business person.
So, you think Toronto is a conservative city. Will that ever change?
To know it’s conservative, you only have to look at the buildings that are being built here. Everywhere is a pseudo-modernist facade of spandrel glass! Outside of this, we can expect only more subversive moments of delight, like Gehry’s spiral stair at the AGO. A simple way of effecting change is to get people to stop buying into (and buying) crap, in both fashion and architecture. Of course, this is easier said than done.