[FAT] where the creatives come to play

With Canada trying to make a name for itself on the world stage – any world stage – it would seem only reasonable that the best answer would be to bring the world to Canada. And this is exactly what Vanja Vasic has achieved with [FAT] Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week.

A five-day event boasting some of the most forward thinking creative minds in fashion, music, photography and art from Canada and abroad, [FAT] has rooted itself in Toronto culture as the place to see and been. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, look no further. But unlike the name might imply, this isn’t a week reserved solely for the leather-clad set. This is a celebration of talent; new or established, mainstream or not, all are welcome.

With some 200 designers and artists showcasing their creations around the year’s theme Made with Love, it’s no surprise that over 5,000 people made their way to Liberty Village’s Studio City to take it all in.

For day 1, visitors would be privy to works around the theme of longing. We all know the feeling – some tension, a bit of fright, but more than anything, butterflies. This feeling was perfectly summed up in designer Hillary Sampliner’s Ruth Weil collection. Marking the debut for the couture collection, pieces drew inspiration from film noire giving them a classic and beautiful look, with hauntingly dark undertones.

Flirty skits and bustiers provided fun alternatives to standard cocktail wear. One might be inspired to plan a soirée if only to have reason to wear the gorgeous ombré skirt presented with a classic white bustier.

Meanwhile, a few floor length gowns and stunning eveningwear pieces showed the promise of a master dressmaker.

Lust proved to be fertile territory as inspiration for the second day, showcasing even the talents of Project Runway vet and fashion-favourite Evan Biddel. His Refined collection was a must-see show, featuring everything from stripes and studs, to leathers and lycra, and even a cartwheeling Maylee Todd.

But it may have been the fetish-wear collection of Pippa that stole the runway, giving the audience a glimpse of what country clubs could look like if latex and bondage were the attire de rigueur. A pink cable knit latex corset opened the show, perfectly befitting Lady Gaga, while a gold strapless onesie practically demands the creation of another Sex and the City movie. Certainly, everyone was feeling a little more lusty than usual once the lights dimmed on this show.

As history has often proved, rage can be the fuel to creative fires and day 3 showed no signs of refuting the theory.  Raw, powerful emotions were seen all around. In Heidi Ackerman’s Contruct This collection, we saw the kinds of clothes perfect for the woman scorned, ready to show off to an ex-lover. Formed, flattering, and showing off every curve perfectly. These are the clothes we want more of, so it’s no surprise Ackerman has been garnering such high praise for her designs.

On the photography front, Lynsie RobertsHaute Goth brought to the exhibit a kind of beautiful silent anger that makes you wonder what havoc could be wreaked if her girl paired up with Ackerman’s.

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On day four, our love story ends as we all hoped it would, with joy. We saw colour, optimism, and the utterly wearable designs of Avendano. The flirty and flowy looks from designer Mildred Avendano would look great on just about any woman – a hard feat for sure. A beautiful graphic blue skirt is the perfect day-to-evening piece, while a flowy red dress makes us all wish for Spring to stay forever.

Adding to the joyous vibe was Olga Barsky’s Dress Up photography. A cheeky look at gender and fashion, featuring drag artist Donnarama and photographed by Joyce Wong, the images are set in a turquoise house where Donnarama plays dress up. With the help of props, she navigates the house in an assortment of costumes that could have only been made better if they had been accompanied by a runway show.

Day 5’s market offered attendees the opportunity to purchase hot-off-the-runway looks from over 20 designers while taking a bit of time to digest everything the week presented.

And with that, our [FAT] love story ends for another year. But fear not, the 2011 show will be here before you know it, bringing with it the thrill of spring and new faces. With continued passion and support, [FAT] will keep growing, as will those emerging designers and artists who find their place within it.

If there’s a place Canada can stand out, it’s in its support of the arts. Yes, we have a ways to go yet, but with the existence of events like [FAT], it won’t be long before we take our stand on the world stage as a place where free though and creative design continue to shine bright.

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