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The Art of Fashion and Design Meet at the Distillery District

Nuit Blanche-ers trooped into the Distillery District's Fermenting Cellar on Saturday night to get a glimpse into the world of Canadian fashion via the Art of Fashion design competition.

Designers were called on by the non-profit Art of Fashion foundation to interpret the theme of "iconic power," and design a capsule collection as well as a backdrop on which to display their collections. Judges choosing the best designer included Project Runway Canada mentor Brian Bailey, Bustle's Shawn Hewson, and designer David Dixon.

the art of fashion Kelly Henderson

Some designers went the extra mile to design environments for their clothing that were innovative and interesting in their own right, as befitting the Nuit Blanche angle. My favourite backdrop was the sassily posed mannequins from Kelly Henderson, who clad them in rainbow-coloured skin-tight get-ups that went nicely with their matching accessories like a green gun and canary-yellow nunchucks and their marauding among the miniature city.

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While there were some fun backdrops (Mikhail Moudrakovski's woodland theme, complete with mountain-filled video projection and faux rocks strewn about), the quality of collections was remarkably low--there was a lot of awkward construction (lumpy seams, sloppy sewing), juvenile, uncreative designs and, worst of all, tons of cheap, garish fabrics, from loud Chinoiserie and white PVC to black lace and pink stretch cotton. Shudder.

But there were two design talents that I was delighted to find--Heidi Ackerman, and Ana Niculae of the handbag line Imperfect Indulgence.

The art of fashion distillery district toronto

Heidi's display was the cleanest and most elegant of the lot, her stark designs carefully positioned among a scattering of faceted light-shapes. "I was really interested in creating a space for the garments. A lot of this collection was inspired by architecture, and clothes on the body and outside the body," Ackerman said. "And if people can come to see it (during Nuit Blanche), that's good for Toronto to see what's happening (in fashion) in the city."

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And what style! Not only were hers the best in show, but they could easily compete on the runways of the upcoming LG Fashion Week.

I was dying to try on the grey-and-black wool romper with roomy dolman sleeves, or the slim grey knit dress with the giant double-bubble sleeves. And then I promptly lost my shit over the grey-and-black striped jumpsuit with frilled sides and accessorized with the most lovely, matte black leather hood. Yes, dear reader, I lost my shit.

The other great find was Ana Niculae, who, amazingly, isn't even a clothing designer, but is a pursemaker. To get into the clothing mode, she gave each of the garments a character, including the provider, the warrior, the introvert, the romantic, and the protector. Her clothes had a richness to them that made sense, given her leather-working background.

There was the camel-coloured aviator-inspired coat with the butterfly-like wings covered in grommets, or the sliced-up navy felt coat that pulled together with a luscious-looking leather belt, along with the couture-looking long sienna peplum jacket that double-belted under the breastbone.

When it comes to the Art of Fashion, Heidi and Ana definitely have my vote.

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Photography by Jason Raposo.


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