Bad press, good press, hirings, firings, funerals and launches - the fashion community had its share of drama this past year. Here are the top players who cast a rosy glow on Canadian fashion and design in 2004.
1 Willow Grant
960 Queen West, 416-533-7553, www.willowgrant.com Willow Grant made it to the half-year mark, and we can't wait to toast its first year. Fashion can be an expensive business, which is why the Willow Grant collective is such a valuable addition to Toronto's fashion scene. Instead of remaining invisible without retail availability, up-and-coming designers now have the chance to realize their dreams: rent a rack and get their stuff sold and onto the backs of fashionistas - where it belongs.
2 Design Exchange 10th Anniversary
234 Bay, 416-363-6121, www.dx.org Since opening in 1994, the DX (a charitable, not-for-profit organization) has met its mission statement by cultivating and promoting Canadian design on home soil and abroad. Located in the circa-1912 former Toronto Stock Exchange Building, the DX not only features a museum and resource centre, but plays an important role on the social scene too, hosting lecture series, educational programs, workshops, fashion shows, summer camps and even highbrow events like its 10th-anniversary Black And White gala this past October. Make a point of going. A lot has happened in the world of Canadian design in the last decade. You can even purchase some of the proof at the DX's on-site Umbra store.
3 the rise oF Dundas West
Dundas West isn't what it used to be, thanks to an influx of businesses promoting Canadian design. The breakout of fashionista retail haunts like Georgie Bolesworth (891 Dundas West, 416-703-7625), Skirt (903 Dundas West, 647-436-3357), Sunshine Deli (895 Dundas West, 416-364-8832) and Clandestino (249 Crawford, 647-436-4761) has changed the shopping landscape from fruitless to fabulous. This blossoming neighbourhood keeps it real in a we-don't-open-until-Wednesday kind of way. The Gap it isn't, and we thank you.
4 SMYTHE LES VESTS
at the World Design Lab (Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor West, 416-922-2333) Having the well-heeled set clambering to be on the waiting list for your second collection - of only jackets - months before it hits the racks is downright amazing. But not unbelievable. Smythe, co-designed by long-time friends Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe, benefits from a collective experience base that includes a degree from Parsons, an MBA from U of T, design stints at Prada, Celine and the Gap, a buying gig at Holt Renfrew and a career in investment banking. Whew. With these tools in place, it's no surprise Smythe and Lenczner have put together the tightest waiting-list-worthy line. And as everyone knows, regardless of the season, Canada is jacket country.
5 Daria Werbowy supermodel
Whether you know it or not, you have seen the face of local-model-turned-fashion-superstar Werbowy. She's only 20 years old and already she's snagged a lucrative advertising deal for Gucci and is the face of the Prada perfume campaign, never mind being on the cover of every fashion mag on the planet. Italian Vogue tagged her "the face of today." Go, Daria.
6 HOT OPENINGS
Sephora and H&M After years of hopeful speculation and much cross-border shopping, Toronto's fashion diehards got what we wanted, a Sephora (220 Yonge, 416-595-7227, www.sephora.com) and H&M (1 Dundas West, 416-593-0064 and others, www.hm.com) to call our own. Both are euphoria-making additions to the retail map thanks to the killer selection of beauty goods at Sephora and the under-$50 trendwear at H&M. You do have to deal with guilty lows when you come down off your retail high. Shopping at these places does little to support Canadian business.
7 KNIT MANIA
Infected with the arts-and-crafts bug a few years ago, Toronto has hit full-fledged knit mania. Three stores fed the frenzy - Lettuce Knit (661/2 Nassau, 416-203-9970, www. lettuceknit. com), Knitomatic (1378 Bathurst, 416-653-7849, knitomatic.blogspot.com) and the Knit Café (1050 Queen West, 416-533-5648). Whether you're jonesin' for new yarn or just need a place to get your knit on, these havens are all sympathetic to your knitster needs.
8 NEW MAGALOGUES
Coveting the lucrative ad revenue generated by stickers-included U.S. shopping mag Lucky, Toronto publishers spent some pretty coin launching competing Canadian versions this year - LouLou at Rogers Publishing (www. louloumagazine.com) and Wish at St. Joseph Media (www.wish.ca.). These mags are all about the shopping, so don't look for editorial depth, but the picks and info about them are priceless.
9 Fashion Queen
at Spin Gallery While collisions can be gruesome, some - art and fashion, peanut butter and chocolate - are things of beauty. Notice the success of the Fashion Queen event held annually at Spin (1100 Queen West, 416-530-7656, www. spingallery.ca). Brainchild of curator Juno Youn , Fashion Queen provides the energy and spectacle of a runway without the overwhelming commerce that typically goes with it. A collaboration of fashion designers, artists, DJs, stylists and models, the event puts performance art over the catwalk, and the party over the schmoozefest.
10 Rose Mastnak, branding guru
Canadian fashion is really on an upswing. And who better to recognize, nurture and successfully market those labels than branding guru Rose Mastnak? Launched earlier this year, Mastnak's firm, Rose (www.buildingfashionbrands.com), helps Canadian design talents get their lines up to international grade so they can compete in the lucrative global shopping arena.
Kate Macdonald (1960-2004)
Nothing knocked the Canadian fashion world harder on its ass than the sudden and tragic death of this seasoned fashion editor. Kate MacDonald, RIP. She was loved by many for her gentle manner and kind heart, and her passing leaves us shaking our heads in regret, sadness and reflection.
THE SWAN on FOX On a way more trivial note, this reality TV binge must be stopped. Sexy egomaniacs stranded on an island - sort of entertaining. Home renos - potentially educational. But stay-at-home mom gets makeover or her kids' toys get tossed: I'm thinking bleach martini. Or Swan? Puh-lease. Who will keep chucking her junk, picking her outfits or giving her lipo once the cameras stop rolling? No more. My eyes - and my heart - can't take it.
THE LADY LOOK What a fussy, fussy year fashion threw down for us. With muses ranging from Hollywood glamazons of yore to sexy schoolmarms, role-playing was the theme de jour. And what good did it do you, dear shopper? You invested a lot of money to look like you stepped off a stage, complete with capelet, lingerie top, lady suit and more brooches than Sarah Jessica Parker can shake a hip at. Year of the lady - man, am I glad it's over. Here's to a spring lineup that's less of a caricature.