(Left to right) Trendsetters: Designs from Jessica Clayton, Jool, The Make Den, CMichelon, and Epoque by Thea Barber. Illustration by Chloe Cushman/Torontoist.
The last seam has been stitched and the last heel has stomped, and even though some models are surely still trying to power-sand off layers of lipstick and eye shimmer, and dissolve the last bit of hairspray from their locked-in locks, Toronto’s 2011 Alternative Fashion Week is officially over.
[FAT] had plenty of other off-runway offerings that fulfilled the “A” part of their other official name: “Fashion. Art. Toronto.” Photo slideshows, performance art, video, and sculpture rounded out Alternative Fashion Week, some of them permanent fixtures throughout the event and some expanding on the specific theme of each night. Our favourites tended to be the revolving photo slideshows on TV screens, lining the path from the showroom to the lobby. Funny, provocative, and beautiful, they often provided a clearer demonstration of a point of view or message than the clothing. Some of the more long-term art installations were truer to the alternative attitude than others (like Johannes Zits who, for four straight nights, very slowly and very thoroughly cocooned himself in pre-worn garments), but all were instrumental in creating a more well-rounded festival experience. Only in its second year at [FAT], the installation series The Dressing Room Project will be essential in the years to come in keeping the conversation going when the lights on the catwalk go down. Along with bands like TuZO, Eight Bit Tiger, and Girl, the art was a much-needed time filler for the many time delays and technical upsets that often made the evening much later than expected.
Meanwhile, when the catwalk was quiet, the atmosphere at 99 Sudbury Street kept humming through the alternative attendees. Red lips smacked, chattered, and whispered nonstop as Toronto’s tight-knit team of trendspotters gushed with their fellow fashionistas, some posing for the camera in front of a photo installation, some invisibly tethered to the bar, most grabbing a moment for a cig and some un-fresh air outside on the patio. Considering this was an alternative fashion event embracing styles without a place among the LG big sister, from the crowd we saw how an all-black outfit can range from starkly simple to resplendently rebellious. This wasn’t too surprising⎯we knew to expect the unexpected⎯but like some unofficial tournament to win Most Out-There, outfits and makeup only seemed to get more lavish as the festival continued. The audience, in a way, created a competing off-runway spectacle based on attitude and enhanced by design, instead of the other way around. And everyone also seemed to have shaved off half their head. Just sayin’.
Then there was the clothing. Known mostly for its drama and dissent, [FAT] came out this year with talent that was on-trend and gave a glimpse at LG features of the future. While the unusual was still the norm, we noticed a few trends that connected the variety of radical designers, influences, styles, and perspectives that actually mirror the mainstream. We saw cropped tanks, fringe on everything from denim to leather, Gaga-worthy exaggerated shoulders, pants that were slouchy yet sophisticated, and headdresses and facial accessories that were often the crowning jewel of an outfit.
Toronto’s 2011 Alternative Fashion Week, much like a few of the patchwork satchels that graced the catwalk, was a mixed bag this year. Its attitudes sometimes fearlessly broke boundaries, and sometimes stayed curiously encapsulated by them. The fashion was always the focus, but this year [FAT] straddled a more encompassing schedule involving more varied visual artistic influences of film and sculpture, as well as the drama of live dance and music. It could be argued that fashion is the most universal art form of all, because consciously or unconsciously, every single one of us expresses ourselves through what we put on our bodies. It’s only natural for fashion’s attitudes and perspectives to bleed into other art forms, and looking towards the [FAT]s of the future⎯that’s where it will really become a real full-figured festival.