There will be a lot of lingerie on the catwalk tonight as Fashion Art Toronto returns for its annual celebration of all things indie and imaginative, but don’t expect anything resembling a conventional parade of bronzed flesh and sexist fantasy.
Instead, FAT‘s opening night will showcase designer visions of cosplay, cartoons, Catholicism and much more, all referencing women’s foundation garments under a thematic umbrella called ‘Un Dressed’.
A lingerie fashion show like no other, Un Dress will feature runway shows from 9 avant-garde designers for whom undergarments are a window into the imagination and a starting point for deeper explorations of sex, gender, fantasy and pop culture.
This year marks the 11th edition of Toronto’s alternative fashion week, an uninhibited (and occasionally profane) rave of creativity that has launched some of Canada’s most esteemed fashion labels. The overall theme for FAT 2016 is “Dress Codes”, with five nightly runway shows that look at the role fashion plays in constructing identity.
As an indie showcase, though, most of FAT’s participating designers are more interested in challenging conventional understandings of identity, and nowhere is that more apparent than in tonight’s Un Dress lineup.
Using materials ranging from polished latex to wearable wire sculpture, designers look to the past and the future — and fictionalized versions of both.
Ironically, the most controversial set may come from the only traditional lingerie designer in the Un Dress lineup — Carrie Russell of With Love Lingerie, who will introduce a new lingerie collection, called Mercy (above), inspired by the religious iconography of stained glass art found in Catholic churches.
“I like the idea of taking the dress code of religious garb and translating it into a sensual lingerie collection,” she says, although it’s unlikely the local archdiocese will endorse such an endeavour.
Tonight’s runway appearance will be the third for Russell’s boutique label (which recently relocated its studio to nearby Hamilton), and she appreciates the platform that FAT provides for independent creatives who spend long hours working in solitude.
“Every year I’ve come to really appreciate the fact that FAT pushes me to dream and be a bit more whimsical in my designs,” Russell told Lingerie Talk. “FAT is accepting of lingerie as fashion, which is absolutely refreshing and I never feel marginalized as I have felt in other fashion venues before.
“I have a fashion background first and foremost and express my style and interpretation of beauty through my lingerie designs and to have a stage to showcase those creations is a thrill. … To have the opportunity to make standout show-stopping pieces and work with a team of talented models, makeup and hair artists is quite the privilege and I feel I owe it to them and the attendees to put on a beautiful show.”
Here’s a brief introduction to some of the designers and labels participating in tonight’s Un Dress runway show, which kicks off with a performance from Toronto burlesque artist Pastel Supernova.
A perennial favorite on the FAT stage, corset designer Dianna DiNoble always delivers a visually powerful catwalk and this year promises to be no different with the appearance of burlesque star Laura Desiree in Starkers’ latest. The brand also recently introduced its first capsule collection of lingerie (coincidentally called ‘Undressed’) meant to complement its corsets and corset dresses.
Watch for elements of retro fantasy and pastel-hued cosplay in the ‘Homeworld’ collection from this new label by Nashville expat Annabel Gerke. It’s inspired by the cult cartoon show Steven Universe.
Another FAT veteran, designer Allie Wood has embraced the evening’s themes of freedom and restraint with wearable, upcycled art/fashion that uses extravagant wire sculptures. A preview of her 2016 collection ‘Pleasure’, these complex pieces are meant to allude to “passions rippling just beneath the surface” and come with huge pre-show buzz.
The womenswear designer will debut ‘Ahola’ (yes, it’s “aloha” backwards), a visually arresting line that explores the florid culture and environment of Oahu and which was developed though a “communitarian pubic art process.”
What would an avant-garde fashion show be without some retro-tinged J-Pop sci-fi for the Otaku crowd? Designers Katherine Laird and Jennifer Murtagh will bow ‘Neko-Pop’, a collection inspired by Japanese pussycat culture and examining “historic ideas of feminine sexuality through fantasy and play.” The art work alone is poster-worthy.
One of Canada’s most admired indie lingerie labels plunges into its source material for its luxury collections that are often drawn from art, history and literature. The new ‘Mercy’ collection, with its colourful Catholic iconography and highly suggestive imagery, will cause brows to furrow, tongues to wag and fans to gush.
FAT exists because of brands like HOE, the adored latex design house that somehow renews itself each season. This time, designers Mina Smart and Ashley Davies will deliver a new collection called ‘Sex Magick’ that is a tribute to 1970s femme fatales like the late sex icon Tura (Faster, Pusscat! Kill! Kill!) Satana and (gulp!) Vampirella. Unmissable.