Toronto Art En Vogue
Clothes are considered necessity and fashion is a driving force in culture and economy, but for all its influence, is fashion art? And where does it fit into Toronto’s artistic diversity?
If you were to look at the website for the Ontario Arts Council, you will notice that it does not include fashion as a part of the province’s cultural and artistic industries. The fashion industry has, over the years, been clamouring to have the council to recognize fashion as an artistic endeavour.
Members of the fashion industry are in constant rebuttal of this notion, though. To many in the fashion industry fashion is, undoubtedly, an art.
“Of course it’s an art,” says Toronto stylist and George Brown graduate, Claudia Flipfull. “Art funnels into what I’m doing now as a stylist.” She states that styling requires artistic discipline and theory: line, texture, colour, form, value and shape. “It all corresponds. We just use fabric instead of paint.”
“Without art,” she continues, “and without creative individuals, there would be no fashion. We’d all be walking around wearing potato sacks if fashion wasn’t a creative outlet.”
Fine art and fashion have always fed into one another. Dolce & Gabbana’s much buzzed about Fall 2013 Collection, for example, made waves and garnered acclaim for its heavy inspiration from Byzantine Italy and Catholic iconography. Blogs like Bianca Luini’s tumblr, Where I See Fashion (whereiseefashion.tumblr.com) find definitive similarities between runway’s latest collections and other visual mediums in the art world.
Fashion can, to many, seem like a business endeavour focussed on making sales that appeal to the masses, and not necessarily to tell a story or create something new. Flipfull can acknowledge that “fashion, is a business, sure, but there’s so much creativity involved that it can’t just be seen as that.”
However, it is not simply just that fashion is a business that deters people from considering fashion as an art. Because the medium does not solely appeal to an aesthete, because fashion has a function and purpose and, to some extent, necessity, it cannot completely consider an art form. The necessity itself means that some clothing and, in a similar vein, some fashion is done without drive or vision.
Flipfull recalls something her former George Brown professor, Ingrid Wagemans, once told her class: that fashion is an art and a science; you need both together. It is about merging the ideals of form and function together to create something independent, expressive and individual.
There is something wholly unique and integral about the number of artistic and cultural assets that Toronto has to offer. With recognized institutions all over the city in art, film, dance and theatre, Toronto’s artistic landscape is thriving. Regardless of whether or not fashion is officially an artistic industry, how does it all fit into the large and varied scene set by Toronto?
Flipfull has some hesitation to say that the arts and fashion have been fully integrated into the city. She notes that while she can draw inspiration from anywhere, whether it be live music or gallery openings, the two scenes are entirely separate.
“In both fields, there are some really great people. I think there are a lot of talented artists that have a lot of really great ideas and strong collaborations,” says Flipfull, “[however] a lot of really great creatives are being pushed out because of money and status. We’re not doing anything new or innovative here [...] and we’re a small part of the fashion world, and we’re afraid of looking stupid.”
Events, like Toronto Fashion Week, that gave emerging creators and designers a platform and exposure, have been floundering. When news about Toronto Fashion Week being cut surfaced, Catherine Bennett, senior vice-president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties said that they “really felt that our Canadian fashion footprint was not generating the local commercial funding that we really required [...]” in an interview with The Canadian Press.
While it can seem disappointing that the Canada’s largest event concerning the international fashion scene has had to struggle to make a name for itself, it allows for something new to grow. Without the pressure of such a large scale event, Toronto can pare off and reinvent fashion to suit its own needs and give itself room to define what fashion is to us.
While there is a sense of style that embeds itself into the city (Flipfull notes an undercurrent of hip hop influence because of artists like Drake), Torontonians do not necessarily put the art into it. She goes on to say that “[fashion people] know how to put clothes together, but they don’t know how to put the story, the meaning or the message behind it.”
She encourages emerging creators to “take inspiration from everywhere and merge it into what you’re doing. [...] Know how to combine art and fashion and be original!”
Small multi-disciplinary art venues such as Bloor West’s Super Wonder Gallery, Roncesvalles’ Black Cat Artspace and Ossington’s Artscape Youngspace have been host to a number of fashion shows that showcase fresh Torontonian talent. Spaces like these highlight the convergence of art and fashion and how local, grassroots creation and innovation are part of what Toronto has to offer as an artistic tour de force.
As a culture, Toronto is inching closer toward the recognition of fashion as an artistic discipline, and building from the ground up acts as solid foundation toward this goal. Tough shifts in the industry pose as challenge, creative individuals have moved in strides in order to prove that innovation and ingenuity can garner recognition and a voice in a larger artistic platform.