An unusual post for me, I am more of an archivist than a news broadcaster, however, before I can finish even entering the story of CANADIAN FASHION ORGANISATIONS and CANADIAN FASHION SHOWS that I have mentioned in previous posts, and that are being listed in the sidebar as fast as I can do it, there is another chapter closing.
Toronto Fashion Week is no more.
Organizers announced Thursday that they’re pulling the plug on the semi-annual event, citing a lack of local support.
IMG Canada had operated Toronto Fashion Week in collaboration with IMG Fashion since 2012, after taking over from the Fashion Design Council of Canada, a non-profit organization that had owned and produced the event for 13 years.
“We really felt that our Canadian fashion footprint was not generating the local commercial funding that we really required in order for us to continue producing the event to the highest standard that, really, the industry deserves and the designers in Toronto deserve,” said Catherine Bennett, senior vice-president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“We’re sad to be moving on, but think it’s the right decision and the right time to make it.”
Bennett said IMG will no longer be involved with the Mercedes-Benz Start Up program for emerging designers, which had a grand-prize package that included a $30,000 bursary and a fully produced runway show in Toronto.
Losing Toronto Fashion Week will impact up-and-coming and newly established designers still trying to carve out their brands, said Susan Langdon, executive of the Toronto Fashion Incubator.
“Showing at Toronto Fashion Week gave them a stamp of credibility and it thrusted them into the media spotlight,” said Langdon, whose non-profit business centre has fostered numerous designers and style entrepreneurs.
“You have …. media from across the country and internationally attend this world-class event, and you have major retail buyers attend.
“If you’re just starting out, would you get that same kind of calibre of audience coming out to your show? Probably not. But because they’re there watching shows back-to-back will they put a little time aside to catch your show? Chances would have been pretty good.”
Toronto Fashion Week was part of a sizable roster of international fashion weeks owned or commercially represented by IMG, including those staged in New York, London, Berlin, Sydney and Tokyo.
Fashion week events are also held in Vancouver, Edmonton and Halifax. But the absence of Canada’s biggest style showcase in Toronto leaves a sizable void on the style calendar, when some of the leading emerging and established labels would unveil collections to buyers, media and consumers.
The end of Toronto’s marquee showcase comes three years after Montreal had its semi-annual event retooled. In 2013, organizers announced plans to merge the winter edition of Montreal Fashion Week with the city’s summer Fashion and Design Festival.
The Toronto event had undergone a mini-makeover earlier this year following the end of a six-season deal with World MasterCard as the title sponsor. It was rebranded with a new website and social media handles prior to the unveiling of fall-winter collections in March.
At the time, organizers said that while they hoped to find additional sponsor support, they didn’t foresee any impact on staging the Toronto event.
Ultimately, the shortfall proved too much to overcome.
“I think in the market in Toronto we just weren’t seeing the local support for the industry that we do see in some other markets,” said Bennett.
She hopes local designers will look to participate in other IMG programs such as DHL Exported. It offers fully produced runway shows for two consecutive seasons, as well as covering the logistics costs of producing the collection and shipping the finished garments to the runway.
Bennett also expressed hope that another group will stage a fashion showcase in Toronto — a sentiment echoed by Canadian fashion editors.
Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief of Fashion Magazine, said there have already been several incarnations of fashion events in Toronto, including the Festival of Canadian Fashion, and showcases of ready-to-wear collections in hotel ballrooms.
“The fact that IMG — this multinational which was putting a lot of muscle into this — wound up in this situation I think it’s too bad, but I don’t think it means we can’t have a fashion week. We just can’t have a fashion week that IMG envisioned. There’s definitely an appetite from consumers and the industry to have some kind of event.”
Noreen Flanagan, editor-in-chief of Elle Canada, said she’s surprised by the end of Toronto Fashion Week, but added the move isn’t entirely unexpected given the changes being seen in how fashion is promoted and sold.
“Certainly, the Internet and social media have completely disrupted how we approach the business of fashion,” she said.
“Women and men still love fashion and they want to support designers…. But the thing is now they see the clothes and they want to buy it now. So I think the challenge will be — especially for smaller designers — to be able to produce that instant gratification that I think consumers are looking for.”
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