The best from the first two nights of Toronto’s Alternative Fashion Week

Left: Emily Woudenberg. Right: Jessica Mary Clayton. Photography by Alice Zilberberg, digitalfabrik.ca

When attending [FAT], Toronto’s alternative arts and fashion week—with its norm-subverting, boundary-busting mandate—it’s impossible to predict what’s in store for the (equally eclectic) audience. Runway presentations over the first two nights have featured ballerinas, acrobats and a puzzling—albeit comical (though maybe not intentionally)—light-saber dual. But beyond the showmanship, we were delighted to discover some true talent. Here are our favourites from the first two nights:

[FAT] Tuesday

Our first foray into [FAT] 2011 was off to an auspicious start as we made it to our seats just in time to catch what may turn out to be one of the best runway shows of the week: Emily Woudenberg’s Penrose collection presented a number of covetable pieces, including rusty-rose floral print trousers and a studded cobalt clutch.

Hot on Woudenberg’s heels, English-born Ryerson grad and [FAT] veteran Jessica Mary Clayton garnered attention (an impressive achievement amongst whispers that Drake was in attendance) with her collection of lighter-than-air chiffon tanks and figure-flattering Fifties-inspired cocktail dresses in a pretty palette of dove blue, black and gray.

Later in the evening, we cast our over-stimulated eyes on Billie Mintz’s documentary of Pat McDonagh in which the FDCC-award-winning designer speaks candidly about fame and obscurity, recounting the “humbling” experience of being asked for her pass at a recent LG Fashion Week event. Interspersed scenes show two young girls fawning over timeless designs at McDonagh’s Toronto boutique, suggesting that while fame fades, true talent is immortal.

[FAT] Wednesday

However loosely attributed, each night of [FAT] is donned a theme, and Wednesday’s was ‘Natural Currencies.’ Appropriately, the first runway show was presented by Fashion Takes Action, the sartorial star of which was sustainable label JOOL, whose collection of reclaimed chambray and fringed numbers was perfectly punctuated with chartreuse chunky knit bangles.

Waiting for the next set, we hovered around the adjacent photography displays cast on flat-screen TVs. Meaghan Ogilvie’s Underwater series stole the show with beautifully executed shots of chiffon-clad models wading in a crystalline pool, fabric floating around them like seaweed or jellyfish.

After all the buzz over Berlin designer Julia Knupfer, we were beginning to feel antsy when her I.C.A. Watermelon collection was postponed to later that evening. Luckily, our attention was diverted to Bloordale sewing club The Make Den’s presentation of fun DIY garments, including a bold-shouldered ‘Gaga blazer’ that might have us convinced to take up a new hobby.

Nearly two hours later, we were relieved to discover the I.C.A. Watermelon show was worth the wait. Presented by Goethe-Institut, Knupfer’s collection of turban headbands and loose-knit sweater dresses almost had us wishing the cooler weather would stick around.