"We have a choice to make collectively: Do we value fashion and all that it adds to our society both culturally and economically, or do we idly let the rest of the world leave us in the dust?"
For more than a decade, Toronto Fashion Week was the largest fashion showcase in Canada and the second largest fashion week in North America. It was one of the country’s premiere cultural events, and a vital platform for homegrown designers to reach media, consumers and stylists.
Yesterday, owner IMG abruptly cancelled it. The news came with no warning and sent shockwaves through the fashion community.
“We really felt that our Canadian fashion footprint was not generating the local commercial funding that we really required in order for us to continue producing the event to the highest standard that, really, the industry deserves and the designers in Toronto deserve,” Catherine Bennett, senior vice-president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties, told The Canadian Press.
The industry consensus is that, after six-season title sponsor World MasterCard pulled its funding earlier this year, IMG couldn’t find significant enough corporate funding to make up for the loss.
The thing is IMG is right about Toronto Fashion Week not receiving enough local sport – but not because of a lack of commercial funding. Canadian fashion, a vital cultural industry, lacks the support of the federal and provincial governments.
Without government support, almost no successful cultural festival or event would continue to exist. Museums, arts festivals, music festivals, theatre festivals and film festivals all rely on government grants totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Relying on corporate sponsors to fund Canadian culture simply doesn’t cut it.
But unlike the music, book and magazine publishing, visual art, theatre and digital media industries, the Ontario and Canadian governments don’t consider fashion a cultural industry. It qualifies for zero funding. Canada is almost alone in this among first-world nations: Britain, France, Italy and Hong Kong all contribute significant funds to designers and fashion weeks.
Quite frankly, it’s shocking Toronto Fashion Week lasted this long without federal or provincial dollars to bolster it.
Last fall, the Ontario government decided to review its cultural strategy. Despite promises to seriously consider funding fashion, the industry was left out of the province’s cultural plan once again.
Even without funding, the fashion industry employs over 50,000 people in Ontario. It indirectly creates jobs in other sectors like the arts, media, marketing and public relations. Toronto reports the city’s fashion boutiques generate $2.6 billion in annual sales.
The cancellation of Toronto Fashion Week presents a fork in the road. We have a choice to make collectively: Do we value fashion and all that it adds to our society both culturally and economically, or do we idly let the rest of the world leave us in the dust?
If there was ever a time for the government to step up to the plate, this is it.
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