Toronto’s first men’s fashion week allegedly drops collection for being “too feminine”
by Kevin Naulls
Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM) kicks off tomorrow (August 12), but the calendar will be short one designer.
Mic. Carter’s L’Uomo Strano has been pulled from the event’s roster, in a situation the designer describes as a conflict of interest.
“I attended a fitting held by TOM on August 9. The reception by their team was positive, and the line was introduced as being avant-garde and haute couture by the event producer, Hans Koechling. I received a call from the Executive Director, Jeff Rustia, the following morning, informing me that the collection was too feminine and that it had to be re-conceived by his stylist so that it would appear to be more masculine,” Carter says of an event that allegedly took place just three days before the fashion week was set to begin.
It’s an interesting development, as it calls into question the definitions of masculinity and femininity that continue to evolve as the world investigates gendered language.
But for Executive Director, Jeff Rustia, there appears to be no grey area in the world of gender, and any means of treading beyond traditional definitions is considered worrisome. According to Carter, “[Rustia] described the collection as ‘emasculating’ and said that he was concerned the headlines would read, ‘At Toronto’s first Men’s Fashion Week, they are presenting women’s wear?’”
A cursory glance at TOM’s official homepage corroborates this petrified man child response to a few extra pieces of flair. Facial hair, musculature, tattoos and blue steel-like attitude are the only signatures of masculinity represented in its welcome graphic, and it all reads like an erasable whiteboard at an ad agency brainstorm. There are no men in skirts, or artful representations of man as seen on runways from Yohji Yamamoto to Walter Van Beirendonck – it’s all fairly basic. While the commercial fashion world might codify its offerings, a fashion week, as far as I can tell, is meant to showcase the city’s talent. Fuck, the world has bronies for Christ’s sake.
Whether or not a buyer or observer feels Carter is talented is subjective, but what’s clear is that the organizers were seeking out his aesthetic for the launch.
“I was approached in April by the Executive Director of TOM via Facebook. We had worked together before – I presented a piece as part of the 2013 Canada Philippines Fashion Week, which he also produced. He was very persistent with ensuring that I would participate in this Fashion Week,” Carter tells me in an E-mail.
Instead, the director allegedly abandoned his interest in the designer’s aesthetic, and began taking accessories off like some sort of Men’s Fashion Coco Chanel. “He suggested, for instance, to style the looks with army boots instead of men’s Indian kurta slippers. I asked for some time to think about it, and responded to the executive director via email articulating my concerns,” Carter says of the organization’s heavy-handed and caricatured approach to men’s fashion.
And when it came time for Carter to get the ol’ heave ho? Well, according to Carter, TOM asked the event’s stylist, Julia Gignac, to be the bearer of bad news. Because when the chips fall and there’s awful news to dispense, a man – a masculine, hearty stock – doesn’t do it himself. He sends the stylist, and she calls on the phone. Carter basically received a Post-It note. I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.
By August, Carter tells me he had spent a total of $8,000 to produce the looks. Now they don’t have a runway.
And to think The Guardian’s Morwenna Ferrier just said, as of Monday morning (August 11), "This coming season, expect to have your boundaries pushed, as garments, styles and models move fluidly between gender expectations."
All attempts to reach TOM organizers were not returned by press time.
Toronto doesn’t just have a problem mayor.
My friend Shawn posted the cover of his upcoming collection Nothing Looks Familiar on Facebook the other day.
You can read about his book, which will be released in October, on Arsenal Pulp’s website HERE.
Stoked for this.
The Literary Goon
"Many of the stories in Nothing Looks Familiar focus on characters marginalized by society, from bullied kids to meth-smoking mothers—each one stepping out from places of danger and unhappiness and into the great unknown, but determined to come out on the other side changed. Who better than Shawn Syms to guide them—and us—through?”
Continue reading Little Fiction’s 2014-15 Book Preview.
If you’ve been paying close attention, you know the biggest thing that happened to me in 2013 was moving from the U.S. to Canada. I’ve slowly but steadily been adding more Canadian queer lit to my reading list - here are reviews of two Canadian books I enjoyed in the past few months!
Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline
Wow, typing it out, I bet that title is a pain in the neck for library catalogers. Anywho! Calling a short story collection a “mixed bag” is a boring thing to say because it’s always true, but never true in the same way for any two people. I think of The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard as really consistent, but see it called a “mixed bag” a lot. I’m constantly surprised by which stories other people consider the weakest in that book, because they’re never the same as mine. So I’ll talk about my highlights and my criticisms, but take it all with a grain of salt, I guess!
This short story collection edited by Shawn Syms “explores the intersection between social media and literature”. My expectations might have been too high, but I felt a bit disappointed by the amount of stories that relied on cleverness and didn’t really engage with any of the ripe concepts of isolation and connection inherent to social media. The book also opened with a weirdly violent two page story that dampened my excitement right off. That said, I was pleased with the amount of queer content and there were definitely some real gems.
SO MUCH FUN by Megan Stielestra chronicles one night and the complicated relationships between three women through pictures posted (and not posted) to Instagram. Cordyceps by K. Tait Jarboe opens with Ada booting up her deceased father’s old PC, still running Windows 95 - the nostalgic yearning this story creates makes it stand out amongst all the references to texting and facebook (full disclosure: I read this story before it was published and Jarboe is a friend and they’re cool). People Who Are Michael by Alex Leslie is a great closing story - a series of videos chronicle the rise and disappearance of a youtube celebrity, likely based on a certain ultra-famous Canadian pop star. My favorite, though, was No One Else Really Wants to Listen by Heather Birrell, told through posts to a forum for pregnant women. I won’t tell you much more about it, but it’s the kind of story that makes you want to lie down and digest.
This young adult novel by Paul Yee is narrated by Ray Liu, a Chinese immigrant living in Toronto who loves video games. When his dad finds out he’s been looking at gay websites, he’s kicked out of the house immediately. Alone in the city, and unwilling to tell his friends or family the reason he was kicked out, he is motivated by three things: He won’t go back to his father for help, he won’t let anyone stereotype him as a bad or lazy immigrant, and he will keep his high rank in his favorite MMORPG. When a few bad encounters cost Ray everything he had left, he goes to the part of town where the “money boys” are - male sex workers that sleep with men.
This is the only YA book I’ve encountered that frankly discusses sex work done by choice or for survival (as opposed to YA books that deal with sexual exploitation like My Book of Life By Angel and Sold). It’s also one of very few YA books I can think of with a queer Asian protagonist. Its reviews on goodreads aren’t stellar (a lot of people seemed to dislike the ending; I really liked it), but I thought it was generally quite good, and at 184 pages, it’s a quick read. I would recommend it.
The chaos of the modem’s dial and low-bit woosh sends a cold and sentimental wave down Ada’s spine. She hasn’t heard it since she was a child; its effect is like putting a shell to her ear for the first time and wondering if it really is the ocean. She’s been to the ocean many times, without her father. Those memories have no tug, just hold space in her mind full of plain contentment. The modem sound is so mundane, so rare and lost a thing that it’s precious. It triggers every time she went hunting through directories, fleshing out her Geocities with scans of drawings and poems and submitting the page to webrings. Even now, that particular garish shade of blue, web-safe hexadecimal #0000FF, almost chokes her as she boots up a version of Netscape Navigator that still supports the blink tag.
from “Cordyceps” by K. Tait Jarboe (hey I know that asshole), in the forthcoming Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesfromlivingonline
You can preorder the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Friend-Follow-Text-storiesFromLivingOnline-Shawn/dp/1926531809
Going to try to fuse reading events with digital arts mayhem because the internet is soooo hot right now.
You just have to pick your voice and go with it.
So you can’t win. You just have to pick your voice and go with it. No matter how you write about art in this country, you are going to get shit on for it. So you might as well do in the way that you want to. And I think it also proves that there is no wrong way to discuss art.
Me and Mr Wuffles take Chicago by storm. #FFT