Alternative Fashion Week: Day 1
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Alternative Fashion Week: Day 1

Martin Lim’s collection opens FAT with subtle refinement.

Normally when attending Toronto’s Alternative Fashion Week (a.k.a. FAT) you have to be prepared for a multifarious range of wide-mouthed astonishment. Sometimes it’s the eight-foot-tall (with heels) dominatrix you followed in, and others the two-minute-long film about a shacked-up lady duo in a Spanish villa. (Yes, naked, and yes, together-together.)
Most FAT guests are already prepared for this, having a few PVC notches on their alternative fashion week belts, but this year it was something different that caused the widely parted black-lined lips—and that was how much the spirit of FAT had changed. Previously we’d be prepared for fashions so alternative you could only imagine a den mother’s approval. Yet, on the first day of the 2011 installment, the shock value was in a shift to designers we could see showing pre-LG fashion week or as part of the Fashion Collective’s roster of new designers. That is, houses still too young to play in our proverbial (and relative) big leagues, but with an incredibly strong trend foresight, complete with skillful construction and tailoring—all things normally missing at FAT.

Montreal’s Martin Lim, who opened the first day, was only the beginning of this new parable. With pieces like a floor-length dress in dusty eggplant silk, cut close at the waist and then let loose near the hem and in the relaxed shoulders, along with versions of a burnt tangerine sleeveless dress with longer airy panels drifting behind the models, we dare (and are surprised) to say that it wasn’t only tasteful and incredibly well tailored by FAT standards, but could also impress even the most recognizable of Toronto’s precarious fashion elite. (None of whom were anywhere to be seen, incidentally.)

Demoyo found saving grace in beautiful head pieces.

The vulnerable subtlety of Martin Lim’s cuts were made rigid with a slew of now-dated and peaked shoulders at Demoyo’s presentation. The discordance between severe shapes and soft romantic velvets and wool made this collection jarringly inconsistent. A crushed burgundy velvet mini with the most angular of shoulders was untidy while a grey version in sweatshirt material made more sense but didn’t offer a fresh perspective. It’s clear that Demoyo’s designer, Paidemoyo Chideya has the technical skills to use these angular shoulder accouterments but needs to find her signature; a sense of sureness was absent from her collection.
After the slew of empty seats we found at the first set of runway shows, we didn’t think we’d come back from our too-quick dinner to find 99 Sudbury (this year’s FAT headquarters) standing room only. Perhaps we should have assumed as much after NOW named designer Jessica Clayton the one not to miss on FAT’s first day. But before we get to Jessica Clayton there was Emily Woudenberg, whose aesthetic similarity made it hard—at first—to decipher one Urban Outfitter-like designer from the next. Except that as it turned out, Woudenberg was more impressive than Clayton.

“The” dress by first day fave Emily Woudenberg.

Woudenberg’s presentation began with the best high-waisted cigarette pants in a blood orange hue, patterns of wee white flowers everywhere, and perfectly paired with a transparent cropped shirt in the same jumpy colour. Our almost uncontrollable hankering continued when we saw a coral velvet gown with one shoulder strap hugging around an open back and a sexed-up slit, just too-high enough to want to pull off. Another floor grazing navy and white striped dress, with a panel of electric blue attached at the chest and then again further down the dress in a perfected drop, led to covetous whispering with our neighbours.
As for Clayton, she presented a series of geometric and indecipherable ink-in-water-looking prints cut into airy cropped tanks and fluttery dresses of varying styles. The longer transparent versions were more impressive and completely on trend (and by trend we mean blogs, not runway). The pattern stayed on the tops of dresses while the bottoms were floor-length transparent black, a layer of patterned fabric cleverly continued just to the tops of thighs, making them less risky to pull off.
This seems to be the year for impressive breakout designers showcased in what we’ve been waiting years to see from FAT: support of new ready-to-wear designers in an alternative fashion week we’ve always imagined, giving designers the platform necessary to move on from FAT and on from here.
Photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.