It was in August, when fashion news typically slows to a trickle, that New York-based IMG World's purchase of Toronto Fashion Week was announced, prompting a collective "Whoa" among those who cover, attend and stage the shows at Canada's biggest style extravaganza.
The handover from the Fashion Design Council of Canada to IMG Fashion, a division of the mammoth entertainment-management company, represents a significant moment for Toronto's fashion industry – whether or not the ramifications are immediate. IMG Fashion had already been working with the FDCC in a consulting capacity for several seasons. But now, as Peter Levy, the company's senior vice-president and managing director puts it, "we're actually owning it and taking on the risk of producing it independently every season."
And there is definitely some risk involved, even if IMG Fashion has flexed its managing muscles in New York, Berlin, Tokyo, Mumbai and Moscow. In Toronto, long-standing issues go well beyond seating arrangements (expect chairs instead of risers this week) and tent capacity: They include late positioning on the fashion calendar, scant international media coverage, a schedule programmed with too many tangential events and, more recently, various rogue shows.
In a phone interview, Levy acknowledges that some of these challenges will require time: "We're a little cautious in general; we want to see what's wrong before we're sure it's wrong." One smart move: hiring Carolyn Quinn, the FDCC's sharp associate producer, to be the de facto general manager; her expertise will provide a necessary bridge for future restructuring. (Robin Kay, the flamboyant showwoman who launched Fashion Week in Toronto 23 years ago, will maintain a symbolic grande-dame role.)
Among designers, fewer logistical hiccups and better global positioning, both possible under IMG Fashion's leadership, would be well-received. Arthur Mendonça, who is celebrating his 10th year as a designer this season, started to notice improvements in the lead-up to his show in Toronto last March, when IMG's influence was felt.
"Backstage, there was great flow and the whole set up was well organized," he says. "It's still a small fashion week, but it's definitely growing."
The goal, says Levy, is to focus on the talent. And expectations, at least for now, are measured. "The point is not to put Paris out of business," he explains. "It's to create a relevant marketplace with its own point of view and personality and connect that all the way through."
Where to see and be seen at Toronto Fashion Week
After years of site changes, World MasterCard Fashion Week has made Toronto's David Pecaut Square its (hopefully) permanent abode. Smack in the middle of the city's Entertainment District, the locale works in terms of both glam factor and crowd control.
It will also be either home to or not far from the after-parties that designers, editors and models head to post-shows to blow off some steam. Most are invite-only, but a number may be worth crashing. They include Pink Tartan's shindig at the Shangri-La (188 University Ave.) at 9 p.m. on Oct. 22, Pavoni's blowout at the Thompson (550 Wellington St. W.) on Oct. 22 at 10 p.m., the Mackage bash at the Spoke Club (600 King St. West) at 8 p.m. on Oct. 24 and the Express fete (featuring Dragonette) in DP Square at 9 p.m. on Oct. 26.
– Tiyana Grulovic