Written by Astrid Superstar
In many previous seasons, Fashion Art Toronto has collaborated with local fashion schools, offering students the coveted opportunity to showcase their designs on the national stage. This season, the organization is partnering with Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), namely their School of Fashion, to highlight student talent and to usher in the next wave of industry tastemakers.
The Student Learning Center on the TMU campus, downtown Toronto.
Image sourced from the TMU website.
The show will comprise collections from 13 Bachelor of Design (BDes) undergraduate students, 3 Master of Arts (MA) Fashion candidates (who have completed the university’s undergraduate program), and 2 alumni. (Those who wish to view the full lineup can click here.) We reached out to Communication and Reception Coordinator Brittany Paty to connect us with the students, hoping to gain insight into their stories and creative processes.
“Our alumni and MA students are showcasing the work they produced for their final year thesis collections in undergrad, and the rest of the students are showing work from a variety of courses – including a first year fashion design course, and an upper year advanced fashion design course,” Paty proudly explains. “Some of them even created this work on their own time, inspired by their passion for apparel construction and fashion design, and equipped with the skills they learned in class.”
The collections presented will be a blend of full-length, having been created over the span of a full scholarly year (8 months), while other projects, Paty explains, were contained to one semester (4 months). “Since the full collections were produced in the 2022/2023 academic year, these students have had the time to revisit their work outside the stressful academic timeline, and make any changes that they might have thought of once the collection was complete” adding that the carefully-constructed collections have been “a long time coming”.
As to why the partnership is beneficial to these student designers, Paty states that “the reach that FAT has in the community, and the connection with the Toronto fashion industry is very valuable to access for a young creative starting their career. It's important to have these opportunities to platform, and celebrate, emerging talent. FAT has been doing that already, so it's so great to get to be a part of it!"
Left: Brittany Paty, Communication and Reception Coordinator at TMU.
Right: Mic Carter, School of Fashion instructor and creator of L'uomo Strano.
She credits TMU Professor Mic Carter, who’s label L’uomo Strano recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary showing at FAT, for making this all possible by donating a sizable grant to The Creative School. “Mic is, of course, a long time collaborator of Fashion Art Toronto, and has also spent the last few years teaching at TMU and inspiring future creatives. It's fantastic to have Mic at the creative helm of this project to really guide the designers through – what is for some of them – their first fashion show.”
She also credits the production of their stellar mixed media video to recent grad Nathan Lau, which demonstrates that TMU School of Fashion students are equipped with the knowledge of creative outputs that run the gamut beyond apparel design and construction.
“It's a wonderful opportunity for us as a school,” she continues, "to reach budding creatives who may be interested in the program itself. “I hope that aspiring designers can connect with what they see on the runway, and pursue a career that they're passionate for.”
Below are a selection of 6 designers who will be participating in FAT’s Fashion Week this season - Audrey Chen, Cali Greenidge, Cami Leonelli Calzado, Joyin Rey, Portia Alight and Shan Alii.
Audrey Chen is in her final year of studies for a B.Des in fashion design at TMU. Her work under aud c: (audsmiley) explores merging interactivity, functionality, and play to communicate concepts through the user’s interactions with the garments. Her work surrounds themes of adaptability and fluidity to enable wearers to embrace change.
Images provided by designer.
One of Audrey’s garments featured in the TMU show is a modular coat that can be fully transformed into a bag. The construction details invite wearers to play and style the coat in various ways, forming a new, personal relationship with the garment throughout each use. Another one of her looks features intricate panels that change upon the wearer’s interaction, inviting further slow observation.
Cali Greenidge is a fashion design student at TMU. She welcomes opportunities that inspire her to further explore her own identity as a Black woman with Ghanaian-Trinidadian roots. Through the aesthetic of Afrofuturism she creates pieces that reflect a positive and bright future for all Black people.
Models wear original Cali Greenidge designs. Images provided by designer.
Afrofuturism, to her, is one way to connect the past to the future. The featured outfit is inspired by West African scarification practices. The intricate lines are meant to symbolize different tribal standings and are reflected in the pleating of the pants. Her goal and intent is for her work to elevate Black women, boost their confidence and enhance their sense of pride.
CAMI LEONELLI CALZADO
Camilla Leonelli Calzado is narrative based textile designer and Fashion Masters Candidate. Throughout her academic journey at TMU, she immersed herself in the study of textiles, decolonization, sustainability, and material culture, aiming to unravel the intricate connections between fashion, social narratives, and identity. “Carnaval” is an ethnographic mini-collection based on the historical and contemporary celebration of the Cuban Carnival. The 5 looks that makeup this collection represent various symbols and archetypes relative to Cuban culture, colonialism and Carnival as a whole. This collection also interacts with the concept of produced identity and performed identity.
Images provided by designer.
Her research has centered around her heritage, particularly exploring the historical dress practices of colonial Cuba and their profound impact on cultural narratives. As a recent graduate of the undergraduate fashion design program, she channeled her creativity and academic curiosity into thought-provoking designs that challenge stereotypes and celebrate diversity. Embracing her Black identity, Camilla seeks to make a difference by utilizing fashion as a powerful medium for social change. With a steadfast commitment to pushing boundaries and advocating for inclusivity, she is dedicated to leaving a lasting impact in the fashion industry through her unique perspectives and innovative creations.
You can find Cami on Instagram.
Joyin Rey is a never ending journey of exploration: questioning, challenging, and breaking down the limitations of ‘masculine’ standards. The brand captures the essence of femininity and poesy in its creations. Designs are deeply rooted from each story and its house code. Sending a compelling narrative for the audience to ponder and thus the collections are an extension of the story that is woven together.
Model wears original Joyin Rey designs. Images provided by designer.
To be young seems easy; and to be an adult seems manageable. But things become complicated in the liminality of young adulthood. Suddenly, we feel the pressure of real life weighing down on us, while at the same time feel the urge of adventure pulling us the other way. In young adulthood, we feel torn. In their very definitions, therein lies a strong dichotomy between being young and being an adult. Yet, for some reason, the two words find harmony in a single idea that is the “young adult”.
In this collection, Joyin Rey explores youth as it coexists with adulthood; as they dance together, back and forth, between the very line that separates them; and as they tango to the music of quarter life crisis under a harsh spotlight. Here, Joyinrey’s signature details meticulously choreograph the fabrication, colour palette, and design details as they all work together in exploring the dichotomy that is the young adult.
PORTIA J. ALIGHT
Portia Alight is an ex-ballerina who decided to turn her creativity and passion towards fashion. Her company is a woman-owned, BIPOC fashion startup with the mission of helping people celebrate their unique personalities and feel confident in their bodies while taking pride and care in the fashion they dress themselves in. She believes that there is so much play in how we can dress, and this playfulness shows up in her illustrations and brand decisions.
Models wear oversized scarves from Portia’s debut collection “Sweet and Daring”, with hand-painted illustrations. Photos provided by designer.
Portia is in her second year at TMU and launched the brand in her first. She wants to be part of the solution towards slow fashion by producing quality pieces that will last for generations. As a designer, she also wants to promote sustainable fashion without compromising on the fun of styling. When she creates a product, she likes to think of all aspects of the design - size being no exception. Having been confined in an environment where her body was “too muscular” while training professionally in ballet, she wants to be part of the movement to celebrate all bodies and make us all feel confident and accepted.
Her second collection "Peaceful Presents" will be having its official debut at the Fashion Art Toronto pop-up this season. The debut collection "Sweet and Daring" will also be available at the pop-up and will be strutting down the runway on Nov 18 with Sandy Bottom Swimwear and Nov 19 with TMU.
Inspired by his Pakistani culture, Shan Ali creates unique fusion wear incorporating indigenous techniques, patterns, and textiles in his work with a Western twist. A key theme of his has always been to design with a decolonizing lens. The Pakistani fashion industry still has a long way to go, and he wants to be the change - and see the progress - by breaking barriers to entry in this inherently white-dominated industry. He aims to fill a gap that has not been filled, allowing Desi designers to tap into the industry. He believes that Brown designers deserve a seat in this Anglo-American market and need recognition for their talent often used by non-brown designers but seldom highlighted. Furthermore, he strives to distinguish his work from Indian designers, which Pakistanis usually get grouped into, as Pakistan and India are seen as counterparts.
Clothing created by Shan Ali. Images provided by designer via Instagram.
As for his work, the aforementioned unique fusions involve a creative process of mixing and matching modern techniques with cultural aesthetics. For example, this year for his capstone project, he’s creating a collection called "Desi Superstar" which is a collection for a pop star but with Pakistani textiles and Western silhouettes. He found himself using 3D-printing and LEDs, creating a new product that hasn't been seen yet specifically from a "Desi" lens. He will continue to use new technology and create new pieces with her own aesthetics for future collections.
You can find more of Shan’s work on Instagram.
Both Paty and Carter will be in attendance on Sunday to support their students and to see them through. “It’s super important to have these platforms that support emerging talent, and allow designers to express their creativity in a supportive environment,” Paty says.
“There's a lot of synergy between the way the FAT team is able to support the production side of a runway show, and that the output from the students is ready for the runway, and it's just really cool that we've been able to take part this year.”
Also participating in the FAT x TMU show is Adia Morgan, Curtis Matysek, Delfina Russo, Jina Kim, Jingfei Liu, Joseph Arruejo, Kat Wu, Mirabellle Zhou, Miss Harlow, Precious Ayolade, Riya Pareek, and Scarlet Dunlop.
Toronto Metropolitan University’s student showcase, in conjunction with Fashion Art Toronto, will be held on Sunday, Nov. 19th at 6 pm. FAT is held at Black Creek Assembly, located at 131 McCormack St. To grab your last-minute tickets and ensure you don’t miss the show, click here.