We were all shocked by the sudden cancellation of Toronto Fashion Week, and there were many rumblings and speculations on who would pick up the torch. Leave it to the Jeff Rustia, Executive Director and founder of TOM* to have something up his sleeve.
The Toronto Women’s Fashion Week was announced back in August and instead of guessing, we went to the man himself to get some details on what we can expect during the inaugural launch, which kicks off on Friday, March 10th at the official new venue Waterworks located at 505 Richmond Street at the heart of the King West entertainment district in downtown Toronto.
Drew Brown: Can you give us some insight into how the decision to produce Toronto Women’s Fashion Week came about?
Jeff Rustia: Upon the news of IMG’s TFW (Toronto Fashion Week) closing its doors last Summer, many key figures in our fashion community, including designers, approached me and members of our TOM* Advisory Board to consider launching a platform for women’s wear, similar to the formula and success of TOM*. As you know, TOM*s heart and commitment has always been for the fashion designers, Canadian talent, and for the Canadian fashion industry as a whole. It only seemed natural to extend our current position to create an opportunity to re-champion women’s wear and its designers to show the world and Canadians alike that Toronto is a very talented, global city that truly supports fashion.
At the end of the day, we knew that we couldn’t stand by and let an important platform for women’s wear disappear. It’s always been about promoting and assisting the fashion industry in a way that has a greater purpose. So we are proud to bring a new version of it to life with Toronto Women’s Fashion Week.
DB: One of our favourite shows during TOM* is MensFashion4Hope which benefits the Kol Hope Foundation and SickKids. Will TW have a charity component?
JR: Yes, Toronto Women’s Fashion Week will have a charity component called WomensFashion4Hope, which will help the community of children with disabilities. WF4H will help the Kol Hope Fund at Easter Seals Canada, which helps children with disabilities acquire basic necessities such as wheelchairs, respite care, and help send kids to summer camps.
In our inaugural season, we are launching the Show Room – Pop up Shop initiative at 205 Yonge St., showcasing Canada’s established designers and leading emerging talents in a beautiful boutique setting for Fall/Winter 2017 to develop their business locally and internationally. A percentage of the sales will go to WomensFashion4Hope. As you know, we approach everything that we do with a social awareness. It’s fashion with a heart. It’s about industry insiders helping the industry from inside out. And I’m proud that we are able to continue our legacy of giving back to the community with Toronto Women’s Fashion Week.
DB: Being behind TOM* and now TW, do you feel any pressure in making fashion more viable here in Toronto?
JR: I wouldn’t describe it as pressure, but rather an ongoing commitment to do everything we can to assure the viability of the Canadian fashion community for many years to come. In order for the Canadian fashion community to perpetuate itself, we need to focus our energies into nurturing and encouraging the next generation of emerging talent, and to really help our designers develop and build the business of Canadian fashion. Our mandate at Toronto Women’s Fashion Week is to create forward initiatives such as impactful runway presentations, showrooms, pop-up shops, buyer and media days, and industry panel talks — all aimed at helping fashion designers build their business.
As a fashion week organization, we believe in the power of partnerships across and within our fashion community and all the various sectors including the designers, industry, buyers, media, and, of course, the consumer. Collaboration is key, and we are doing just that, partnering with fashion schools such as Ryerson and TFS, and collaborating with fashion organizations such as TFI, the world’s first fashion incubator, with the goal to develop synergies and share resources that will benefit everyone. Our platforms are aimed not only at showcasing Canadian talent, but also at engaging the industry, the media, and the consumer to become more invested in our designers and our Canadian fashion community.
DB: What has been the most rewarding and challenging thing you have learned/experienced since launching TOM* back in 2014?
JR: I think the most rewarding thing for me has been the incredible opportunity and honour to work with the amazing talent in this country from the fashion designers to our partner and sponsors, and especially our 300 staff and volunteers.
Also, I’m very grateful that TOM* has allowed me to bring to light the charity work that is very closely affiliated with everything that I do — that is, to help children with disabilities. It was important to me to find a way to not only highlight something that was deserving by promoting the fashion of this country, but also to do so in a way that goes beyond the industry itself and has a greater purpose — to showcase how fashion and giving back could go hand in hand. MensFashion4Hope has been the most rewarding and touching experience for me.
DB: Fill in the blank: I could not live without____________
JR: Creativity and positive energy
DB: The city has become more appealing to luxury and major retailers, how can we all work together to turn Toronto into a fashion capital?
JR: For Toronto to become a fashion capital, we have to work together to create a culture that encourages fashion innovation and creative energy. We must support and nurture our emerging talent and work closely with the fashion schools and organizations that are incubating innovation. We must inspire young people to look at fashion as a viable career. Let’s work towards putting Toronto in the forefront of fashion, where ideas take root and ideas are defined. We must make the city more inviting for fashion designers to settle here, make it their headquarters, set up showrooms, and overall see Toronto as being good for their business. We must encourage retailers and stockists to carry Canadian and devote areas just for Canadian designers.
All in all, we need to stand united and support one another and the various fashion platforms in the city — from events to shows, awards, and trade fairs. The more opportunities available to Canadian fashion designers to shine, the better it is for our industry and our city as a whole.
At Toronto Men’s Fashion Week and Toronto Women’s Fashion Week, we will continue to showcase and provide an international platform for Canadian talent and creativity. We will continue to invite national and international press and buyers to come to Toronto to give much needed exposure and spotlight on our designers.
Toronto Men’s Fashion Week runway shows kicks off on Monday, March 6th, Visit here for more information and to purchase tickets for Toronto Women’s Fashion Week Visit here.
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