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In Pictures: Ten unexpected moments from Toronto Fashion Week

For more than a fortnight recently, style watchers at events surrounding Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week criss-crossed the city to survey the spring collections of Canadian designers – and got more than they bargained for. Andrew Sardone recaps what kept the crowds buzzing.

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The First Look: The runway action kicked off with a presentation by Bellavance designers Nolan Bellavance and Ava Hama. The New York-based Parsons grads opened their show with what appeared to be a simple black shift. From behind, however, it revealed layers of detail – wide white bands that created an X from shoulder to hip over a grey, racer-back underdress – that set the scene for a season focused on unexpected twists.

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The Big Debut: Advance whispers about who will be walking in Toronto’s shows usually focus on the well-known models being flown in by retail giants such as Target and Joe Fresh. This season, however, that buzz was all about the 16-year-old daughter of Rogers Communications deputy chairman Edward Rogers and his philanthropist wife, Suzanne. Tapped by designer David Dixon, Chloe R – the name the fledgling model discreetly goes by at her agency, Elite – confidently made her show debut in a strapless gown of laser-cut taffeta and beaded tulle.

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The Tech Wizard: Forget standard front-row queries of the “Is that dress silk or cotton?” variety. At the Steven Tai show, the brainteaser that audience members were pressed to ponder went something more like, “Is that a synthetic crepe ball skirt that’s been laser cut and silkscreened with a pixilated and collaged image of The Eden Project, a bio-domed eco-tourist attraction in Cornwall, England?” With each passing season, Tai approaches his mismatched influences and technical materials with a lighter touch, making them appear increasingly smart.

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The Pickup: When Alexandra Weston, Holt Renfrew’s director of brand strategy, makes an appearance at a midafternoon show in the smaller Studio runway room, you know something is up. Weston took a front-row seat to support designer Laura Siegel, whose collection, produced by artisans in Asia and Latin America, was picked up for the store’s H Project concept shops in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

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The Twin Win: Unable to whittle down the eight finalists for the Mercedes-Benz Start Up emerging-designer award to a single winner, judges including Fashion magazine editor-in-chief Bernadette Morra and fashion-week founder Robin Kay split the prize between Edmonton’s Malorie Urbanovitch, right, and Montreal’s Matière Noire designer Cécile Raizonville.

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The Best in Bling: Clothing adorned with jewels and sequins can have serious impact on the runway, but such embellishments are often too hefty for spring apparel. Matthew Gallagher found a solution in bauble-printed silk sparingly stitched with a few Swarovski crystals that blinged without adding weight.

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The Double Take: Jeremy Laing’s spring lineup included many standout elements, including sculptural carved wooden heels created with Los Angeles footwear label LD Tuttle and a textile collaboration with artist Julia Dault. Most notably, however, he snuck in a handful of looks for men including a short suit in a cotton fabric named Tiger Tail Swirl, after the orangeand– black-licorice ice cream.

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The Silent Treatment: It used to be that, when things went well, the end of a Toronto runway show would be scored by the roar of applause. Catwalk finales have become increasingly silent over the past few seasons, however, as the hands in the crowd are busy raising tablets and smartphones to shoot and post the scene. Pity the designer who has to bow to a muted room and wait by his Instagram account for kudos.

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The Snow Job: Never mind that the shows were spring-focused – Target’s presentation, headlined by American model Erin Wasson and the brand’s canine mascot, Bullseye, unveiled the retailer’s Christmas collection, following the trend toward a topsy-turvy sense of seasonality in the industry. It also featured a few other elements not seen on most runways, namely a plus-sized woman and a cast of models who danced, high-fived and, most shockingly, smiled their way down the snowy catwalk.

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The Big Reveal: Using transparent layers and cutouts to reveal select parts of the body is the season’s trickiest trend to pull off, but Sid Neigum exploited the technique deftly: His laser-cut dresses bared models’ legs, stomachs and clavicles but kept enough of the body covered to render the pieces entirely wearable.

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