The Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards
Canada’s fashion community finally had its chance to shine on Feb. 1st as tastemakers and fashion enthusiasts flocked to The Fairmont Royal York for the inaugural awards ceremony that recognized outstanding achievement and emerging talent in Canadian design. Budding philanthropist and CAFA director Brittney Kuczynskifeels the time has come to recognize Canadian talent: “Every other developed country in the world has a fashion awards show. When you consider how much Canada contributes to world creativity, it’s about time!”
The evening drew homegrown fashion stars, including Dean and Dan Caten of Milan-based label DSquared2, who were big winners, nabbing two of the coveted Karim Rashid-designed awards in the categories of Outstanding Achievement and International Canadian Designer of the Year. Model Coco Rocha, who has walked the runway for top designers such as Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld, was back on home turf, stunning in a DSquared2 gown, to accept her award for Model of the Year.
Before the show I spoke with Suzanne Rogers, who wore a dress by Montreal-born, London-based Erdem Moralioglu (also nominated in the International Designer category.) She said: “Young designers are hungry, they want to get out there and they want to make a name … we have to give the same support and the same big applause.” Big applause (and hooting usually reserved for hockey games) ensued when Rogers presented Jeremy Laing with the award for Womenswear Designer of the Year. Laing’s recent spring collection, with its early ’90s influence and palette of saturated brights, was a hit on the New York and Toronto fashion scene.
The evening wasn’t just about womenswear, however, as Montreal-native Travis Taddeo won the award for Menswear Designer of the Year with his gender-defiant looks that have gained a loyal following with Canadian fashion risk takers. Others recognized included Dexter and Byron Peart for their label WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie, Chris Nicholls with the Image Maker of the Year Award and George Antonopoulos with the award for Stylist of the Year.
CAFA honorary chair and Joe Fresh creative director Joe Mimran was the recipient of the Canadian Style Award, an honour that acknowledges an individual who exemplifies what makes Canada stylish. Mimran also presented veteran journalist Jeanne Beker with the 2014 Vanguard Award for her impact on Canadian and international fashion. A look back at some of Fashion Television’s greatest footage was a nostalgic moment for those who grew up with Beker’s unique approach to fashion reporting. Speaking with Beker earlier on the red carpet she told me, “We were the first in the world to cover fashion in the way that we covered it and always put Canadian designers on par with the other international designers, where they deserve to be.”
The highlight of the evening was the Emerging Talent Award given to Sarah Stevenson. I spoke with Sylvia Mantella, chair of the nomination committee, about the process behind the Emerging Talent Award. She said, “I wasn’t even aware of how much [talent] there was until we began this process. The emerging talent was not an easy category — you actually had to apply to this and produce a business plan, produce a portfolio. These people really worked hard to be nominated in this category.” The honour included a $10,000 cash prize and mentorship with Joe Mimran, which along with Stevenson’s consideration for environmental issues and artistic approach to textile design makes her one to watch.