In the newly renovated Great Hall on Queen Street West in Toronto, an event on Feb. 6 and 7 kicked off the first of many fall 2017 fashion happenings to be held in the city. While the truncated timeline of Re\Set wasn’t on par with the packed schedules of major fashion weeks, it was a fulsome showcase of some of Canada’s most impressive design talent.
“Having worked with designers over the last seven years, we learned a lot about what is important to them, and what it takes for them to have a successful business,” says Dwayne Kennedy, co-founder and fashion director of The Collections, which developed Re\Set and has previously been involved with several fashion events in the city.
“Fashion is ever changing and constantly needs to be re-invented, as do the traditional formats of showing and promoting your brand to the industry and consumer.” Increasingly, brands are tapping into see-now-buy-now retailing and social media launches, which leaves less and less room for the stodgy approach of a closed-off runway show for editors and front-row mainstays.
“We wanted to reset the traditional model and bring it back to The Collections’ core values of focusing on the designers,” says Kennedy. He and his partners, Mel Ashcroft and Brian A. Richards, developed the concept with Robin Kay, who at one point ran Toronto’s fashion week. “We’ve been planning an alternative concept for a while and started officially producing Re\Set at the end of 2016,” Kennedy says.
Within the Great Hall’s main level and basement spaces, designers including Hilary MacMillan, Triarchy, Beaufille, Klaxon Howl and Krane presented their wares to stylists, the media and consumers in a variety of ways. Toronto-based label Markoo chose a static presentation, its models sitting pretty in an array of edgy, tailored looks.
“We really liked the concept as a whole – basically an interactive space in a beautiful location that showcased a lineup of really cool young designers,” says Tania Martins, one half of Markoo’s design team. The brand’s presence at Re\Set was particularly novel, as Martins and her partner Mona Koochek have chosen not to participate in previous fashion weeks. “Other Toronto fashion events often felt outdated and they focused on bigger commercial companies and brands,” Koochek says. “Re\Set was very selective and spotlighted Canadian designers that are making clothing that’s relative and inspiring.”
Re\Set was a success in large part because of the intimacy created in the space; another reason was the inclusion of a central showroom space at the venue, which allowed accessory brands to participate in the event. Their booths were transactional, meaning designers could walk away with not just media coverage but sales as well.
“When The Collections team approached me about the inaugural event, they mentioned the opportunity for designers and brands to talk to media and buyers directly, and the ability to offer a seasonless and see-now-buy-now approach,” says Elle AyoubZadeh, designer of burgeoning shoe line Zvelle. “That fits in with our model of being direct to consumer.”
Rosa Halpern, who creates customized leather jackets under the label Namesake, agrees. “I was able to display not only my finished jackets, but also the leather options on offer in their raw form,” she says. “So much of working with leather is tangible and sensory – the smell, the texture, the weight. In a typical [show] format, the process behind the jackets would not be on display.”
In a world where access and storytelling is increasingly imperative to the survival of a fashion brand, Re\Set has confidently emerged as a dynamic way forward for Canada’s designers. “A lot of the time, the designer is not put front and centre in fashion,” Kennedy says. “They do a 12-minute runway show, have 20 minutes of time with media after, and then go back to their studio until next season.” With Re\Set, the designer can be the star – even if they’re not on the runway.