The FAT Toronto festival, held on April 22-26, showcased a growing number of pioneering artists and unconventional clothing brands that explore the limits of expression through fashion wear.
This year’s theme InFashion/UnFashion echoes contrasting aesthetics and values in fashion and art with ongoing “battles” between earth and industry, minimal and extreme, grit and glamour, cult and culture and amid masculine/feminine/androgyny.
With palpable gothic and punk influences, surreal digital imagery, austere, futuristic uniforms, occult symbols and high-order references the FAT runway shows shared their unsettling dark vision, only disrupted by the ethereal elegance at Simone’s Rose and Porte, and by the Zen minimalism at Melow (translated in kimono-style fine knitwear). Flamboyant costumes and experimental gimmicks (such as glowing in the dark clothing at Sera Ghadaki, Poplyn and Baby Steinberg) enhanced the puzzling nature of this year’s FAT runway shows giving an accurate artistic description of our contemporary society.
Ode to Fetish
Along with alternative clothing brands specializing in latex couture, here mentioning Toronto-based House of Etiquette, Starkers Corsetry and Artifice Clothing or the silicone sculpting Candydrip from Brooklyn, many other fashion designers added fetish costume details in their collections. Zippers were applied in bondage style on tops, long tunics and skirts at Poplyn, leather harnesses were worn as accessories over menswear shirts at Worth by David C. Whigley while Benji WZW used thin leather belts as fastening system on men’s jackets and coats. Lazar Couture displayed body hugging jet-black leather dresses and leggings while at Sainte Genovefa and SS&Co, a knitwear designer & artist collaboration, the models looked like Druid fairies with stitched/fringed leather and chain bustiers paired with knitted mini skirts. With Love Lingerie they added thin golden chains and leather strap details on delicate tulle, lace and silk designs and Asylum Culture collection of Amaryn Grace included some very intriguing cut-out shirts. Plastic chokers and cuffs and PVC tight tops at YDNA were from the same “fashion erotica” picture.
Digital graphics with tarot symbolism on casual designs at Atelier Wonder, a pastel-toned marble print on a fluid jumpsuit at Simone’s Rose, a surrealist female portrait on a t-shirt dress at DoreenTo, deconstructed collages on menswear at Benji WZW showcase the aid of technology in boosting artistic creativity and bringing new extents to fashion expression. Alongside computer generated imagery, Montreal based designer Niapsou beautified modern street wear with prints inspired by the works of late graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat juxtaposed to richly patterned African fabrics while at Hasti, the Toronto based Iranian born designer Hasti Homayoun combined industrial and traditional with exquisite hand painted Persian motifs on muslin and nylon spring coats.
Quite a few designers presenting at Arts & Fashion Week 2014 included leather in their collections; be it natural or synthetic, leather is an established fashion material that conveys a strong, contemporary look. Lazar Couture added a glam-rock twist to elegant designs with ingenious leather and metallic stud appliqué while at Poplyn, smartly placed cut-out details converted a leather pencil skirt to an instant street-chic must-have item. Atelier Wonder used tarot symbols printed on a worn-in biker jacket and on a red PU “cheongsam” to create statement clothing. Toronto-based menswear designer Benji WZW made history with his highly structured leather coats fastened with rigid belts that had a futuristic, forceful look while Mr. Nguyen, designer of Montreal label YDNA, send down the runway cutting-edge leather ensembles with an athletic spin.
Speaking of athletes, reworked urban sportswear is one of the top trends spotted at FAT festival; with leather details, monochromatic palette and unisex designs such as a tunic-length hoodie worn by a male model at Doreen To, or logo printed loose t-shirts and baggy shorts worn by girls and boys alike at Yen Geo, it turns out to be the new metropolitan uniform. Luxury details like crystal appliqué on a sweatshirt (Worth by David C. Wigley) or a cap hat, and reptile print on a racer top (Serino) add to its street wear appeal.
For menswear the runway collections included leather sleeved sweatshirts at Diodati, cycling and motor biking inspired trousers at Serino, some groovy looking sun runner caps and cropped sweatshirts at YDNA and a cowl-neck hoodie at Sera Ghadaki. Tough looking footwear such as combat boots or high-top sneakers completes this new sportswear style.
As for women’s wear, ‘90s grunge fashion puts a mark on classic sports staples: t-shirt dresses with mesh details (Diodati), oversized sweatshirts and patched bomber jackets (Atelier Wonder, YDNA) worn with Doc Martens compete with goth-infused jerseys at Copious for the most stylish reenactment of a rebellious, comfortable style. More so, feminine designs in metallic fabrics are dressed down with beanies, long-sleeved thermal or combat boots at Doreen To and Worth by David C. Wigley. Elsewhere, the soft, colorful knitwear at Melow looked like the perfect clothes for an elegant, modern dancer.
Inspired by the mysterious world of secret societies and occult religions, a surprising trend revealed at Arts & Fashion Week was the androgynous ascetic look, consisting of unadorned dramatic silhouettes in dark tones and shimmering fabrics. At Eolith, a draped woven jacket layered over wide-leg trousers resembled the attire of a temple priest, Brit Wacher designed a number of monastic-like dresses while the dystopian ritual capes at L’uomo Strano, or the futuristic robe at Diodati looked less comforter, more inquisitor. Jumpsuits with draped hoods at House of Shields and Eolith had a subtle mythological appeal while the “high priestess” mantles at Adam X Atelier and Masha created an otherworldly powerful appearance; a less wearable more conceptual fashion trend, culminating with the surreal sorcerer that appeared in Uta Bekaia’s fashion performance, called “Duality”.
But not everything looked serious at FAT festival Toronto, as a number of designers choose to deliver their social commentary through humour-infused collections. Persian-born artist Mitra Ghavamian spoke about the multi-tasking obsessed contemporary culture with theatrical wearable installations, Toronto-based label Vandal presented bizarre and colourful outerwear inspired by Salvador Dali and the eccentric parade should also include Nasbash-designed whimsical collection of musical instruments morphed into clothes or the reworked recycled jackets with trompe l’oeil military decorations of Jepri Studio.