Fashion Week in Toronto, like any Fashion Week, can easily live up to its industry clichés of high luster, opaque hierarchies and camp seriousness. Who-would-wear-that warmly meets who-could-afford-that, as indulgent sartorialism and unbridled materialism run amok in the tents on David Pecaut Square, under the befuddled pastel gaze of Metro Hall and its 10% across-the-board budget cuts.
Don’t be fooled. This is the U.N. General Assembly of Fashion, where delegations from the four corners of the industry gather to present, deliberate and vote on their world. Runway collections, like politics, are mostly ephemeral and constantly cycling. But the people, the representatives of their style states, are the enduring feature and ultimately what Fashion Week is really about.
Everyone brings their agenda, or at least stands up to be counted among the family of nations, appearing in furs and flowing locks like envoys from far-flung regions, or with a duffle coat across the shoulders as if just off the train from the nearest border. Emissaries from the Superpowers – confident in stride with sky-high heels and wedges, trim leather jackets, Luis Vuitton clutches and razor-sharp suits – make waves and gather armloads of knowing (or is it fearful?) glances. The Fashion Forwards, fervent and sincere in their adoption of trends before they’re trending, mingle with representatives from Retroland sporting side-parts and On The Waterfront coats.
Subcults – serene goths clad in midnight black with flourishes of the occult; swashbuckling glam rockers wrapped in voluminous scarves – nestle resolutely on the fringes of the scene, like Lichtenstein or Monaco. Middle Power ambassadors pick their way through the crowds, gently advancing the classic look in brogues, cashmere v-necks, trench coats, pearls and billowy dresses. Always somewhere in sight are the peoples of the neutral nations, quietly content in their baseball caps, hoodies, scuffed boots, big cardigans and little touches of something. Designers, models and media stars – the career diplomats of the institution – coast through the front doors and out into the city, enigmatic and always with-purpose, left alone but constantly admired.
At Fashion Week the wars are verbal (and often not even audible beyond the internet) and everyone gets a seat at the table for the price of a ticket. The glamour is obvious, but it’s of a grinding sort, the kind that keeps a world system chugging along. What matters here is the community of style. The red carpet is peppered with autumn leaves, and the softly spinning gears of International Relations never looked so chic.