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Written by Astrid Superstar

This June marks the 3rd anniversary of Black Designers of Canada, the first interactive index of Black Canadian fashion designers and brands. Spearheaded by design powerhouse and creative force George Sully, the massively successful project unites and highlights these brands, with a focus to “give a voice to black designers in the community and eliminate the excuse of exclusion,” according to the organization’s initial press release.

We’ve opened the eyes of an industry that for the most part contributed to the marginalization of BIPOC talent in all forms,” Sully remarked in a previous FAT interview from 2021. “By demonstrating our numbers in the form of an index we removed the plausible deniability often used by the fashion industry that black designers are too few in numbers, un-polished, not high-end, the list goes on.

At the time of that last interview, though the BDC was still in its infancy, they had logged over 200 designers - an increase of 70 since their launch. Their featured categories now include everything from fashion to industrial, interior and graphic design, with hundreds of names listed.

Along with a healthy roster, the BDC also initiated the “BDC Award of Excellence”, where select recipients were delivered a beautiful hand-crafted glass trophy emblazoned with the BDC logo and engraved with their label’s name. As of now, there have been nearly 150 recipients, including many Fashion Art Toronto alumni such as Amplify Collective, L’Uomo Strano, Meesh, Qweenfecy Clothing and Zoba Martin.

For this season of Fashion Art Toronto, running April 27-30th at the Black Creek Assembly (and for which tickets are now available) we will be presenting a special showcase with some standout BDC inductees. The presentation will close opening night, starting at 9 pm, and will feature ANNAFORA, Ellis ESQ and Kyle Gervacy (the latter two being BDC Award of Excellence recipients themselves).

The lineup will kick off with a musical performance by the effervescent Grenadian born Roney X, who seamlessly blends “rap with an island flare” and states on his website that he is influenced by “dancehall, reggaetón and afrobeats”. This will be Roney X’s sophomore showcase with Fashion Art Toronto, as he performed his undeniably danceable tracks “Round X Round” and “Bring the Heat” for the event’s 2021 Virtual Fashion Week series (you can groove along to the expertly choreographed production on Fashion Art Toronto’s Youtube channel).

The first designer to be showing is Ellis ESQ, marking his first runway with Fashion Art Toronto. Having previously shown at the first incarnation of Stallion, a Toronto based men’s clothing show held at OBJX studio and produced by the creative collective Content Day, the bespoke atelier has mastered the craft of tailored suits for every special occasion - and for every gender.

Currently offering appointment-based custom clothing, designer and creative director Dean Ellis infuses whimsy and luxury into the label, offering a refreshing twist on the world of traditional menswear. You’ll see his bold takes on the classic tailored suit jacket silhouette with delightful colours and fabrics - a metallic gold overlay in a damask patterned textile; a pop of vibrant velvet on a jacket’s lapel. In true post-gender style of the times, Ellis’ creations flip the conservative status quo of menswear on its head, incorporating rhinestone appliqués and satin finishes. It’s easy to tell from looking at his creations that Ellis is not only truly gifted, but has a blast creating clothing, inspiring a sense of genuine delight in the viewer. One can only imagine the feelings of confidence and pride that they stir in the wearer.

Next will be ANNAFORA, an inventive luxury label utilizing textiles of natural fibers, by designer Maida Ghide. A new addition to the Fashion Art Toronto roster, the avant-garde Ethiopian-sourced brand has never been one to shy away from the dramatic. Imaginative garment construction conjures a post-apocalyptic aura, with fanciful draping and daring silhouettes. “Each piece made is an embodiment of African craftsmanship and carries strong historical and ethical ties,” Guide explains, adding that “storytelling (is) a signature” to her creative process.

Heavily inspired by her heritage’s history, ANNAFORA’s upcoming collection “AHADU” is “a celebration of the rich history and culture shared between Eritrea and Ethiopia.” The two African nations have a storied history, with an armed conflict lasting for 30 years between 1961 and 1991. Her collection will “capture over 3,000 years of history by characterizing some of the most prominent figures from both nations,” bringing the audience through a narrative of the nations’ checkered past with visual storytelling techniques. “With detailed design, the collection pays tribute to the vast multiculturalism of the region, while also highlighting the significance of the monarchy, church, and revolutionaries,” she elaborates, noting that she will accomplish this by combining “traditional embroidering techniques, weaving and symbolism with modern techniques and designs.

After viewing the collection, Guide wants the audience to walk away with a deeper perspective of African diversity, as their stories are mostly untold. “The goal is to showcase the beauty and resilience of the Habesha community during a time of conflict and uncertainty,” Guide continues. “The ultimate objective is to replace conflict with progress and envision a future where different cultures can connect and thrive as equally important parts of a greater whole.”

Rounding out the BDC showcase is St. Lucian designer and notable FAT alum Kyle Gervacy, who’s poetic soul and unbridled creativity combine brilliantly in his work. All of his previous collections have a much deeper meaning, as Gervacy fully immerses himself in his design process.

His intuitive ability to tap into his inner vulnerability and translate it into an Afro-centric visual medium via clothing is unmatched, as we have seen in previous interviews regarding former collections “Lleven”, a collection that was created to honour his past, and “Kadeau”, recollecting his journey to self love and acceptance throughout his life experiences. The designer will delve deep into a curated environment for each collection’s construction, even assigning each one a different scent and collection of sounds from carefully constructed playlists.Gervacy’s upcoming collection “TYLEE” carries us through to a hopeful stage of the Kyle Gervacy journey to that of “endless possibility”.

With such incredible designers booked for the segment, the partnership between Fashion Art Toronto and Black Designers of Canada is sure to dazzle audiences and spectators. We are proud to be joining forces with George Sully’s impactful organization and hope that this leads to many more collaborations in the future.

The FAT x BDC fashion showcase will be on Thursday, April 27th at 9 pm. Tickets are available on our website.


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