Museum Visit: 101 Tales of Fashion @ The Fashion History Museum
Gallery Visit: Gordon Shadrach – Visceral @ BAND Gallery
Gallery Visit: Through Lines @ Koffler Gallery
Gallery Visit: Braided Roots @ The Art Gallery of York University
Gallery Visit: Nordic Glass @ The Harbourfront Center
Art Installation: Waterlicht @ The Bentway
Art Fair: Nuit Blanche Scarborough
Exhibition Visit: Delacroix @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Exhibition Visit: Heavenly Bodies @ The Cloisters
Exhibition Visit: Heavenly Bodies @ the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gallery Visit: Free Ai WeiWei @ Harbourfront Center
Gallery Visit: Museum of Failure @ The Harbourfront Center
Gallery Visit: Kent Monkman @ Project Gallery
Exhibition Visit: Impressionist Treasures @ National Gallery of Canada
Exhibition Visit: Tunirrusiangit – Gifts They Gave @ The Art Gallery of Ontario
Exhibition Visit: Arctic Footwear @ The Bata Shoe Museum
Exhibition Visit: Artistry in Silk – The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota
Exhibition Visit: Napoleon – Art & Court Life@ Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Gallery Visit: Dorset Annual Print Collection Launch @ Dorset Fine Arts
Exhibition Visit: Fashion Victims @ the Bata Shoe Museum
Opera: The Nightingale and Other Short Fables
Exhibition Visit: Here We Are Here @ the Royal Ontario Museum
Theatre: Black Boys @ Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Image Credit: Buddies in Baddies Times Theatre
Exhibition Visit: Christian Dior @ Royal Ontario Museum
Gallery Visit: Sam Vernon | Rage Wave @ Gallery 44, 401 Richmond
Gallery Visit: Philip Hare | Terrorist @ Gallery 44, 401 Richmond
Artist Talk: Here We Are Here | Julie Crooks, Michele Pearson Clark & Silvia Forni @ Royal Ontario Museum
Gallery Visit: Feheley Fine Arts
Gallery Visit: Dorset Fine Arts
Theatre: Calpurnia @ Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Image Credit: Buddies in Baddies Times Theatre
Exhibition Visit: Lover, Loved, Liar | Adey Farah @ The Costume House
Exhibition Visit: Cutting the Ice | Annie Pootoogook @ McMichael Art Gallery
Exhibition Visit: The Art of Canada | Director’s Cut @ McMichael Art Gallery
Exhibition Visit: Asal Bashir @ Gales Gallery, York University
Toronto Offsite Design Festival: Matter | Urban Space Gallery @ 401 Richmond Gallery
Toronto Offsite Design Festival: Work/Life @ Umbra Toronto
Exhibition Visit: Guillermo del Toro | At Home With Monsters @ Art Gallery of Ontario
Theatre: Kiinalik|These Sharp Tools @ Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Image Credit: Buddies in Baddies Times Theatre
Exhibition Visit: Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve @ Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris
Exhibition Visit: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion @ The V&A, London
Exhibition Visit: Diligence & Elegance, Japanese Textiles @ The Textile Museum of Canada
Exhibition Visit: Alvar Aalto @ Ateneum Art Museum, Finland
Exhibition Visits: Every. Now. Then @ The Art Gallery of Ontario
Exhibition Visits: Commes des Garcons: Art of The In-Between @ The Met NY
Exhibition Visits: Irving Penn @ The Met NY
Exhibition Visits: Kent Monkman @ The Art Gallery of UofT
Exhibition Visits: Honest Ed’s Goodbye Installation
Exhibition Visits: The Power Plant Toronto
Exhibition Visits: Come Up To My Room 2017
Exhibition Visits: Picasso & His Muses @ Vancouver Art Gallery
Exhibition Visits: Manus x Machina @ The Met Museum
City Tour: Toronto Romanesque Buildings
Washington D.C. 2015
2014 Couture Report: The New Pulse of Fashion
Frequently the question is asked, how do trends occur? Where do they come from? How do they affect shifts in fashion, and by extension the way we dress? Many times the answer is hard to pin down. Sometimes it can be divined in subtle ways. Other times the answer is unmistakably clear. For example, the couture shows this season began and ended a week ago with two major bangs – Chanel and Dior. These two couture houses, the last of the surviving old guard of haute couture, have not just kept French high fashion alive – they have reshaped it. Couture has long been thought to be outdated and demode. But if close attention is paid to the very best of couture houses, there will be revealed the pulse of fashion, where trends originate. Both Raf Simons of Dior and Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel presented us with a crystal clear thesis statement on what is modern – lightness of cut, proportion and fabric. One that emboldens the wearer with a new spirit of agility and carefree attitude.
A New Attitude at Chanel
First, Chanel. Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Spring 2014 was a standout for the clear concepts it presented. The entire collection was a masterclass in modernity. It was all about movement and attitude. The shapes were simple and architectural; the fabrics were light and airy. Watching the show gave the viewer the impression that the models were comfortable, often an after-thought in fashion. This allowed the girls to move freely, with an unhindered, free-spirited energy. They ran and skipped down the staircase at the Grand Palais to emphasize this point. Karl, in a Chanel-sponsored interview, explained the important element of the collection was the attitude of the girl. Such an elegant and carefree attitude comes from within. The right clothes serve to bring out this feeling and amplify its effects.
The show centered around the idea of elevated sportswear and architectural shapes. The latter part of the collection highlighted elaborately embroidered tunics, pullovers, and shorts. These clothes were for modern, active women. Real women in need of easy, well-made clothing that kept up with the fast pace of life, yet made them feel pampered and special. These were not clothes for the red carpet – that outdated, dream-like construction of Hollywood film studios.
This season Karl introduced a new concept – the couture sneaker. Running shoes crafted by the shoe-making House of Massaro were paired with every look, and came in luxuries finishes such as embroidered lace and python. Couture is normally worn with high-heeled shoes or boots, so the choice of running shoe was notable. This signals a definite shift in direction, to a more dynamic, free spirited attitude. Previously this highest of fashion expression was associated with descriptions like precious, inaccessible, removed from daily life. This Chanel couture show erased that.
New Theme of Lightness at Dior
The Dior couture show also made one stand up and take notice. Raf Simons’ fourth couture collection was indeed a technical masterpiece. His sharp cut and proportions clearly point to the new theme of lightness. Inspired by his own vision of what Christian Dior might have created had he designed in the 1960s, Raf sent out a collection of trapeze shapes that were cut away from the body. He also made a statement with the use of delicate embroideries and distinctive cutouts, allowing a movement of air throughout the clothes as the girls walked the show.
The idea of sportswear separates also permeated the Dior show. There were cardigan coats, jumpsuits, and a couture take on the printed t-shirt. Many of the looks were paired with well cut, slim pants, while hemlines on some dresses were short in the front, long in the back. It should be noted that active footwear also made appearance at the Dior show. Many of the couture looks were also paired back to embroidered running shoes and a new low-heeled hybrid shoe. This brought a sense of dynamism to such formal clothes.
A New Shift in Fashion
So what does this all mean? How will this influence fashion? How will this impact what the ready-to-wear consumer purchases on a mass-market level? The most important thing the Dior and Chanel did was to introduce the news ideas of lightness and agility. They have placed these ideas front and center in the conversation on fashion. It will be on designers’ minds as they create designs for the upcoming seasons. Already there has been a perceptible shift in recent years from overwrought, inaccessible designs to fashion that does not compromise practicality for luxury. The rise of Phoebe Philo at Celine, Stella McCartney, and even Raf Simons himself are clear markers of this. Retail consumers can watch out for a definite sportswear influence, as the trend toward luxuriously crafted sportswear catches fire with other high fashion brands. Consumers should also watch out for clothing that is more sharply cut to emphasize the body while freeing it for increased movement. These changes will serve to empower the wearer with dynamism and carefree attitude, a trend that started during Paris Couture Week at Chanel and Dior.
Images: (Chanel) 10magazine.com/au (Dior) arcstreet.com
Is Holt Renfrew Prepared for Competition?
In the rapidly growing retail Canadian landscape, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth avenue have recently dominated the news. The question on everyone’s mind is – how will Holt Renfrew handle the imminent threat from the South? Is the venerable brand equipped to come out on top? Holt Renfrew has also had its share of newsworthy moments lately. Early in February, news broke that Holts was planning a standalone sartorial store next door to main menswear rival Harry Rosen. This news follows hot on the heels of the company’s decision to merge with Montreal department store Ogilvy and create a larger, joint-venture retail offering. Also, there is no doubt customers have been awed by Holts’ ambitious 120,000 square foot renovation of the Yorkdale store. These three locations reveal Holt Renfrew’s aggressive retail and real estate strategy to meet its competition head on. Holts is consolidating its efforts, enlarging its existing footprint, and expanding into new retail territories.
Real Estate War & Enlarged Footprint
Since opening shop 176 years ago, Holts has not faced such stiff competition. With Nordstrom and Saks aggressively moving into the Canadian markets in the next year, the stakes have never been higher. There is now an all out war for the Canadian luxury consumer, and space is therefore limited. With Saks taking over key Hudson’s Bay store fronts, the battle for prime real estate is heating up. Saks surprised industry watchers in late January when it announced that it will set up shop in the HBC’s iconic Queen Street store. Nordstrom has already announced plans to occupy the current Sears space in Eaton Center as its first Toronto location. In addition, it’s planning on taking up the mammoth share of the new 300, 000 square feet expansion to Yorkdale Mall.
Holts’ strategy is to play up its home court advantage. It is the established player in the market and has a clear head start, especially in terms of existing real estate. Not content to rest on its laurels, Holt Renfrew is aiming to win by enlarging these existing stores into luxurious flagships to rival the newcomers. This is part of a grand plan to enlarge its retail foot print by 40% via a $300 million expansion, the largest in the company’s history. First on that list was the Yorkdale store. Once a dated space, the store has just finished a massive renovation that doubled its square footage to 120,000 square feet. This wise decision gives the brand a major presence in one of the most profitable malls in North America, one that will also be home to a brand new Nordstrom store in 2016. Also on the Holts agenda is planned renovations to the flagship Bloor Street store, as well as the Calgary location. Both stores will see significant changes that will enlarge their square footage. The Bloor Street store alone will grow to a staggering 200,000 square feet, encompassing eight floors and a completely reworked site map.
Consolidation of Efforts and New Partnerships
With tight real estate competition, the leaders at Holt Renfrew are concentrating all efforts on the highest performing geographical markets. Because of this, Holts is exiting the Sherway Gardens Mall. Instead the company is choosing to erect a brand new store at the Square One shopping center, itself the subject an $84 million expansion. Sitting at the prime intersection of booming residential areas like Mississauga, Brampton and Milton, this new location is primed to welcome a larger customer base.
The Montreal market, however, requires a different solution. Instead of closing the Montreal store, Holts has joined forces with storied Quebec department store Ogilvy. Founded in 1866 and purchased by Holts’ parent company Selfridges in 2011, Ogilvy is a rich part of Quebec’s retailing history. This partnership will house both brands under the same roof, creating a dominant presence in the Quebec market. With Saks soon to open in the HBC nearby, an announcement like this could not come at better time.
Expansion into New Retail Territories
While Holts is strengthening existing roots in flagship stores, it is carefully expanding into new areas of future growth. A revamped designer outlet concept, a stronger menswear focus, and plans for an e-commerce presence are telling signs. These three areas are already established domains of Nordstrom and Saks in the U.S market. For Holts to stay competitive, it must offer an alternative to its customers. The conversion of the Last Call Outlet, previously a home for marked-down sale merchandise – to a more upscale outlet of new lower priced designer lines, was a shrewd one. A similar concept exists at Nordstrom’s ‘The Rack,’ and Saks’ Off Fifth stores. With the latter two parent companies coming into Canada within the year, it is only a matter of time before their sister outlets join the Canadian retail landscape.
Another rapidly growing market is menswear. Holts recently announced it will open a standalone menswear store concentrating on sartorial brands like Canali, Etro and Ermenegildo Zegna. A similar concept was launched by J.Crew in 2012 when it decided to give its Ludlow suiting selection a separate home. The Ludlow Shop in Tribeca, New York was such a success, another store opened soon after in Boston. Holts is betting on similar results for its menswear shop. The location of this new outpost next door to main menswear competitor Harry Rosen is no coincidence. Holt Renfrew is aggressively positioning itself in an all out battle for the luxury consumer.
The last arena to jump into is e-commerce. An increasing number of consumers are flocking online to shop, a trend reflected in strong sales. Nordstrom recently released reports of an estimated 37 % increase in online sales in 2012. Furthermore, Saks is planning an e-commerce site tailored to the Canadian market. Therefore the next logical step for Holts must be to offer a dynamic online experience that entices shoppers to purchase product in an efficient and hassle free manner.
This is an exciting time in the Canadian retail market. With new entries from Saks and Nordstrom, the fight over the Canadian luxury consumer is heating up. Incumbent Holt Renfrew seems poised to handle the competition. The brand is consolidating its efforts, enlarging its existing footprint, and expanding into new retail territories.
Images: Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. Architects Inc.
New York 2012