Returning for a tenth year, the bad girl of Canadian fashion festivals proves that "Made in Canada" is a point of pride.
Vanja Vasic was just another Ryerson fashion student when she started the Fashion Art Toronto festival 10 years ago. The event was little more than a club put together by friends, featuring a few collections and lasting just a couple of days.
“It was very naive,” Vasic breathlessly recalls on the eve of the now-weeklong festival, which begins tonight at the Daniels Spectrum auditorium. Despite her limited experience organizing events, Vasic’s brainchild has grown into a thriving community with an influential following, and a distinct voice in the Canadian fashion landscape.
What most sets FAT apart from other fashion showcases is the attention it gives to designers who have yet to become household names. “We really want to give voice to up-and-coming, emerging design,” Vasic says.
Vasic also emphasizes FAT’s mandate of diversity. “It goes from ready-to-wear to super avant garde, performance-based, street style, wearable tech, and more.” A variety of design media, and the bodies through which they’re presented, serve to combat the impression that the world of fashion is a closed network. Vasic explains that fashion is as much about ideas as wearability.
For the festival’s 10th anniversary iteration, pride in Canadian design will be the driving ethos of those ideas. “The theme is ‘Made in Canada,’ and the goal is to promote that label as a point of pride,” says Vasic, adding that while Canadians are notoriously sheepish about being pigeonholed as Canadian, they shouldn’t be. “The idea is to give [artists] confidence to keep creating and keep innovating. Fashion is about innovation; that’s where ideas are made and born.”
The theme is broken down into curated nights that examine how a given Canadian trope, stereotype, or natural phenomenon could shape a uniquely Canadian aesthetic. From the sparseness of the cold north to the melodrama of northern lights, familiar images are used as launching points.
Vasic in particular is looking forward to the “crazy futuristic cyborg collection” by designer Evan Bidell, couture gowns by Gavarcia, and minimalist collections of Elisa C-Rossow. She’s also excited about the performances, photography, and films that the festival will include.
“That first night, when it opens, and you see all this amazing talent and work, you kind of go, ‘It’s incredible,’” says Vasic. “It’s incredible how much talent there is here.”
FAT runs from April 21 to April 25 at Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East) from 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Day tickets are $45 ($30 for students); week passes are $95–$120. Tickets can be purchased here.