Barbie looks on the runway 0
Unless you’re involved in the fashion industry, you may not have heard of the Toronto Fashion Incubator, but the enterprising non-profit organization — which has been copied by dozens of cities worldwide — plays a crucial role in nurturing Canada’s design talent.
For up-and-coming designers looking to get ahead, talent doesn't automatically equal success, they must also learn the business of fashion.
For 25 years, TFI has essentially been helping members get from A to B by helping them hone skills in marketing, sales, business planning and exporting as well as setting them up with mentorship programs and shared workspaces.
TFI’s alumni list includes well-known labels like Smythe, Arthur Mendonca, Joeffer Caoc, Jamil & Alia Juma (of JUMA) and Canada’s design prince David Dixon. On an economic level, the organization is nothing to sniff at, either, having helped create 15,000 jobs for the city.
Earlier this month, TFI celebrated its quarter-century birthday by throwing a glitzy gala fundraiser at the Royal Ontario Museum (think dinosaurs glowing under pink lights) with well-heeled guests such as Suzanne Rogers (who served as honorary gala event chair), Sylvia Mantella and Jully Black as master of ceremonies, who garnered an abundance of laughs with her off-the-cuff wisecracks. VIP guests, who paid $525 per ticket, dined on gourmet meal set beside vases overflowing with pink roses as they watched two fashion shows that served as contests for designers.
As part of TFI’s national design contest, four Canadian design labels competed for the grand prize — The Suzanne Rogers Award for Most Promising New Label — which is valued at $60,000 and includes a feature in FLARE magazine, a design studio at TFI and $25,000.
Onlookers watched back-to-back collections on the runway, which included equestrian chic coats by Jameson Kane, modern and risqué separates by blak i, sublime outwear by Montreal-based designer Partick Larivée, and a dark, consumer-friendly collection by Sid Neigum, who was presented the award at the end of the show by its namesake, Rogers, (who contributed $25,000).
Guests also enjoyed an exuberant display of 25 Barbie-inspired looks, which were everything from sultry to spacey, by designers looking to snag a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by TFI and Mattel.
The dresses, modelled by Canadian celebrities and media personalities, were also crafted in miniature form for Barbie dolls on display in the ROM's Crystal.
Designer Sarah Nicol of Sar Couture won the cash prize with a raw silk and sequin striped gown with a hooped skirt that was modelled by actress Meghan Heffern. The gala raised more than $100,000 in net proceeds for TFI.