Fashion Art Toronto received an architectural face lift this year, abandoning 2013’s gritty rave warehouse on Sterling Road for a more refined locale at Daniels Spectrum on Dundas East. Clean tiles, white walls and suitable lavatories framed the quintessential exhibits of photography, craft and installation artworks that pre-empted a separate runway room, one that was diligently filled and evacuated upon the hour. This gave FAT 2014 a more exclusive and anticipatory vibe, reminiscent of its prettier, skinnier sister, Toronto Fashion Week. The only calamity was the layout of the lean, L-shaped lobby. Throngs of fashion freaks clustered the double doors to the catwalk, bottle necking and spilling like lost marbles among the rows of chairs. Such brief strokes of bedlam left many patrons pining for the days of yore when one could move about the runway and reception hall more freely, but such is the nature of FAT, blooming like an annual but ever-evolving (and experimenting) with the change of the times.
Director Vanja Vasic and her massive crew, including the eclectic team of models whose feet must still be blistering, rarely disappoint with the implementation of tireless work, passion and motherly support for their artists. These people know how to create a show and as a result, FAT is nary an event to be missed. For five days, designers from Toronto, Montreal, New York and beyond strut their stuff in all things avant garde, often punctuated with short fashion films such as the wondrous Mine by Tell No One, or the mesmerizing improvisational contortions of modern dancer Jasmine Melrose. Moments like these remind everyone of the significance of Fashion Art Toronto – how communal, unhinged and visionary it all is – a makeshift celebration of counter-commercialism at its liveliest.
The designs themselves are not just garments, but conceptions – wearable art displaying some pieces suitable for ready-to-wear while others force us to ditch our Project Runway triteness at the claustrophobic door. This can be both a triumph and a pitfall. The gall of gimmick can either step things up or lose complete steam. Seemingly endless headdresses, face-coverings and black leather pants may soon lead viewers to a yawn, while too little, a basic sheath dress devoid of the weirdness expected of FAT, could do worse.
The key is in the consistency, delivering a vision that leads the senses further into a concrete message. Finding that balance is integral. The sensuous latex corsetry of Artifice Clothing morphed models for mating season and kept everything uniform along the way. The understated dark minimalism of Brit Wacher was chic, sci-fi and sincere. Mitra Ghavamian, whose opera-accompanied presentation of multi-limbed “straightjackets” was a series so humorously imaginative it resolved why FAT exists in the first place. And the empowered “F-you” attitude of Benji Wzw’s textured and tailored menswear collection, by far one of the strongest shows of the week, was a moment when FAT truly hit its stride. Unorthodoxy is at its finest when the execution is flawless. Such talent is the bread and butter for this wonderland tea party, solidifying the impact of FAT as a powerful local treasure.