Thursday 11 April 2013

Fashion Crimes: The BIG Debate

Last night I went to a really informative and inspirational discussion. No, I'm not talking about Oprah. While no one gave up their Jimmy Choo's at the event I attended, I still enjoyed the panel discussion Fashion Crimes: The BIG Debate held at the ROM in Toronto. I headed over with a PR friend of mine who heard about the panel while trying to research cool things in Toronto for us to do together.

Five panelists included Canadian designer Jeremy Laing, Ryerson University School of Fashion chair Robert Ott, branding and fashion lawyer Ashlee Froese, VP and buying director for The Room at The Bay Nicholas Mellamphy and the always electric Jeanne Beker who acted as moderator.

The discussion of the evening ranged from talking about the pros and cons of fast fashion, marketing and branding in a social media obsessed world and the blogger phenomenon, the panel gave great insight and a few laughs about what it means to be involved in the fashion industry in Canada today.

When it came to talking about fast fashion Canadian designer Jeremy Laing acknowledged that while he is no proponent of the trend, it's not something that bothers him. "It's the reality of the business," he said. "If anything [when I see the high street ripping me off] it inspires me to do something different in my next collection."

The panel itself seemed a little bit split on verdict of whether supporting fast fashion is sustainable, and whether high street fashions cheapen designer labels,  but they all seemed to agree that it's something that is not going anywhere, anytime soon. 

The other part of the discussion that piqued my interest was when the panel turned their spotlight on the explosion of fashion bloggers over the last five years. "I have a journalist friend who laments at the six billion journalists in the world today," said Ryerson chair Robert Ott. "I always tell him, 'just think about the 12 billion fashion critics. Everyone is a critic twice over, of their own style, plus a critic of what everyone else should be wearing."

Laing for one says that the blogosphere explosion is having a more adverse effect on him, and he believes it's a trend that will soon pass. He no longer looks at websites or blogs for fashion inspiration. "I have friends who are very successful bloggers, and I'm definitely proud of them," he said. "But I don't look at their blogs every day. If anything, this attention on bloggers makes me focus more on my own work."

"I think that one day people will get tired of dressing for the internet, wearing bright coloured patterns on patterns, and put on a black jacket again," he said.

When Beker posed the question to the panel, "Where do you get your fashion from?" The speakers fell silent. Not one of them could give a solid answer on where they gathered fashion inspiration. It was Ott who offered some wisdom on the subject.

"We are consumers looking for taste-makers, but we don't know who they are today," he said. "Do you trust the magazine editor, or the 'wild west' that has become the internet?"

A thought-provoking, yet short panel. At an hour and 20 minutes, I would have liked the discussion to be a bit longer and to come to a few more definite conclusions, but leaving the debate open-ended left lot's of room for a post-discussion wine and cheese fest in Yorkville. No complaints here!

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