Toronto Fashion Week 2019 Gets With the Times With These Designers
From feathers and crinoline to ethnically sourced fabrics, Toronto Fashion Week 2019 offered us upcoming trends for Spring/Summer 2020. Runway favourites like Narces returned, while Kim Newport lit up the runway with her comeback collection featuring her fresh takes on her understated luxury styles — but designers Hilary MacMillan, Lesley Hampton and Anisha Kumar offered attendees a new lens to look at fashion.
Lesley Hampton: Merging design with activismEver since launching her brand three years ago, Lesley Hampton has been unapologetically leaving her mark on fashion by marrying her passions for both design and activism. With a focus on bright colours and romantic silhouettes and shapes, Hampton’s Spring/Summer line was a stand-out at Toronto Fashion Week. Known for incorporating causes into her clothing, Hampton has shed light on mental health, inclusivity and Indigenous issues every time her models hit the runway. This time was no different — her collection had a special emphasis on mental health.
To describe the line, Hampton referred to a quote from the final report for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women: “We must know our past, understand it and accept it if the future is to have meaning.”
Lesley Hampton: On how to wear Indigenous designs respectfullyEven though Hampton incorporates Indigenous designs into her work, her designs are available for anyone to wear. She states that there’s a clear difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.
“There’s nothing wrong with a non-Indigenous person wearing Indigenous beadwork like earrings or a necklace. As long as you know that it came from an Indigenous artisan — it’s not a rip off designer fast fashion type of thing. You know the story behind it,” she says. “It’s knowing where to draw the line in respect to head dresses or something that’s very culturally significant that doesn’t go on everybody within the culture.”
Lesley Hampton: Fashion as a means to highlight mental healthThe vibrant pieces we saw on the runway had a deeper meaning for Hampton who wanted to highlight the importance of mental health. “While developing the collection, I kind of used the creation of it as a catalyst to bring myself out of a darker period of time. By using color therapy and elemental therapy within the collection, not only did I create a bright, happier collection but it actually kind of helped me out personally.”
That aspect was so important that Hampton ended her show walking down the runway with a model wearing a dress made out of copper which signified colour and elemental therapy.
Anisha Kumar: Combining ethnic culture with contemporary designsMaking her debut at Toronto Fashion Week 2019, Anisha Kumar launched her brand in the summer of 2018. The fresh designer combines cultural construction techniques with a more modern, contemporary style — aiming to achieve a high fashion streetwear vibe. Unafraid to source colours and textures typically found in ethnic fabrics, Kumar leverages her identity to create unique pieces with the purpose of stepping up any clothing personality and style in a moment.
Acknowledging her carbon footprint, Kumar continues to improve her designs with sustainability and ethics in mind.
Anisha Kumar: Connecting styles from the east and westAnisha Kumar noticed a gap in South Asian fashion and wanted to bring a new edge and create a sexy look for everyday wear that could be styled with ease. Inspired by music and the Toronto culture, she aims to design for a wide range of ethnicities and casts models in all shapes and sizes — offering diversity on her runway. Kumar combines contemporary neutrals of the western world with fabrics from the east for unique designs.
“Especially with Indian — South Asian clothing — you’ve got a lot of bright colours but you don’t really see black that often. Or white, or gray. The neutral colours are sometimes missing — that was one of the things I wanted to bring in,” says Kumar.
Anisha Kumar: Pro-tips to wearing her designsThough her designs are beautiful, some may fear the social risks of wearing ethnically influenced designs as fashionable streetwear. When asked how folks can avoid culture appropriation, Anisha Kumar insists on drawing people towards culture appreciation — and encourages people to be respectful as they mix up styles.
”Have fun, just experiment — play with it,” says Kumar. “That’s the whole point of fashion — especially for me, I love the idea of wearing something you’re so excited for the world to see you in.”
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Hilary MacMillan: Fashion in every sizeAs a Canadian designer who proudly wears ‘feminist’ on the back of her sporty bomber jackets, it is no surprise to see models of all shapes and sizes rocking Hilary MacMillan’s bright blue-sky inspired spring 2020 collection at Toronto Fashion Week. Called Cerulean, the pieces in her light and airy collection were a very wearable mix of soft pastel separates, silky black jumpsuits, and white vegan snakeskin jackets for good measure, that will be available for the first time in sizes from 2 to 28.
“I've been wanting to expand our sizing for so long,” says Hilary. “I think people are kind of fed up with the fashion industry not being size-inclusive.”
Hilary MacMillan: Social media is changing the conversationIt’s no coincidence that the show opened with Lizzo’s summer ballad, Truth Hurts. An icon of body positivity, the singer has been one of the many celebs bringing body positivity to the spotlight.
“I think social media has been a total game-changer in this whole body positivity movement that's happening right now and celebrities are taking to it,” says Hilary who heard the demand for extended sizing in her last collection and expanded sizing for her Spring 2020 collection again after the outcry of support from fans.
“We design for a confident, powerful woman and we want people to feel confident and powerful on our clothing,” she says.
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Hilary MacMillan: Design challengeDespite the demand, the challenges and financial risks of offering extended sizing is real for smaller designers. Beyond producing extra inventory, each design has to be reviewed and re-drafted to fit various body types.
“A lot of people don't know, but designing for larger sizes isn't just about making things bigger,” says Hilary. The process often involves grading patterns to fit different hip and armhole sizes, proportions that can alter the design entirely. Designing for various sizes consistently and beautifully is a rare talent that Hilary has mastered. Meaning you know you can feel confident and comfortable in the figure-hugging smocked dress or her dreamy hand-woven denim jacket, no matter your size or shape. Love the looks? Pre-order your favourite Hilary MacMillan pieces.
Kim Newport: Bringing back the Audrey Hepburn vibePink Tartan designer Kim Newport-Mimran launched a new eveningwear line this Toronto Fashion Week at the ROM. For spring, this designer is encouraging people to think pink — and is offering new options for the classic little black dress. Combining ‘60s chic with the modern girl boss attitude — it’s clear Newport-Mimran was inspired by style icon Audrey Hepburn.
These looks will give you anything but the mean reds — and let's be honest, they may even help cure the blues.