toronto fashion week

What might replace Toronto Fashion Week?

With no warning, the American company IMG axed Toronto Fashion Week last week. Naturally, many were shocked and questioned how the city would deal this now gaping hole in Toronto's sartorial scene.

But not everything thinks it's such as bad thing. While Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser is sad to see it go, she wasn't too surprised.

Even though she's shown four times at the biannual event, she's witnessed many signs of change, especially after massive brands such as Pink Tartan and Joe Fresh stopped participating and when World Mastercard dropped out as Fashion Week's title sponsor.

"I kind of saw it happening and I was making steps to do my own thing any way," says Elsaesser. She wants to showcase her brand outside of the constraints of a runway show - a model that can be quite restrictive unless you have a massive budget.

In cities such as New York, and even Sydney, Australia (where Elsaesser made her debut), upstart designers often do special presentations that run at the time as official Fashion Week shows. Elsaesser says that by being creative and unconventional - and talented, of course- these brands are able to draw attention (and press).

Henry Navarro, an assistant professor at Ryerson University's School of Fashion, notes that these types of special presentations started becoming especially popular in 2009. Unlike runway shows, which often include a slew of spectators - such as celebrities and bloggers - presentations are often more intimate and interactive because designers can control who's in the room.

"The thing is that right now for some people, and I'm included in that group of people, the fashion show is kind of like a tired model for the presentation of fashion," says Navarro, who teaches Ryerson's fashion promotion course to third year fashion communications students - it's the course responsible for the annual Mass Exodus show and exhibition.

"Most fashion shows are pretty generic and the experience of it is not that great. The photos are fantastic on the other hand," Navarro continues.

While many Ryerson students volunteer and take on internships during Fashion Week, they're also engaged in other fashion-related events in the city and in Navarro's class, they discuss alternatives to runway shows. Along with presentations, Navarro says some of these options include online presentations and showrooms.

And as Odessa Paloma Parker writes in the Globe and Mail, IMG's departure could finally bring the currently disparate Toronto fashion industry together.

Ultimately, without Toronto Fashion Week, Canadian brands might have to break the status quo instead of relying on a tried-and-true formula. "Possibly this will open people's eyes that we have to do something different," says Elsaesser, "And we have to support new talent and just try something new."

Photo by Mauricio Calero

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