“Toronto has the greatest potential for becoming a fashion heavy weight with a plethora of emerging young talent and fashion veterans.”
The reality being that the fashion talent which is nurtured within Toronto, rarely remains here. International recognition outweighs homage to the city where one studied. Unfortunately, Toronto is unable to compete with the prestige of the fashion capitals of the world. The pressing issue being that Toronto does not have a platform to provide emerging designers the recognition they aspire, leading the talent to pack their bags and seek opportunities beyond Canadian borders. The very issue that Startup Fashion Week aims to solve.
The cancelation of Toronto Fashion Week shook the Canadian fashion industry to the core, but no one was more affected than the fashion student populous of the city. The news gave the impression that in order to participate in fashion week, one had to relocate. That the accustomed nature of the Toronto streets was temporary, a non-permanent home.
Iris Alibali recently graduated from the School of Fashion at George Brown. Entering the program with minimal knowledge of sewing, Iris left two years later with the technical skills to work in any part of the fashion industry. She claims she couldn’t be where she is today without the support and backing of George Brown College she received during her two years of study.
It wasn’t long after her graduation that Alibali created a mini collection of her own, one consisting of three designs that draw inspiration from Canada’s fur trade history. A commentary about oppression and female subjectivity, the three looks won Alibali first place at the Canadian Remix Fur competition. Being selected as one of the top ten finalists enabled her to realize her vision on an international scale, with her designs hitting the runway in Milan Fashion Week legitimizing her work as a competitive force in the elusive fashion industry.
“It gave me the experience and confidence to pursue my dream, something that I didn’t think I would get to do. Above all, it gave me a platform that allowed me to realize my vision and project internationally.”
This awarded mini collection is the very same Alibali will be showcasing at Startup Fashion Week. With these three designs, Iris communicates a turning point in Canadian history often discussed only tangentially in classrooms, textbooks and general discussion. Before its multicultural beauty and rolling green hills, the land we now occupy once belonged to the First Nations people before us. But when European settlers arrived in Canada, everything changed.
Alibali’s collection uses a feminist lens to communicate how ideals of Western femininity were forced onto the “savage” Native woman. With decorative corseting and exaggerated busts, Iris’s mini collection is a reclamation of native Canadian power in pride. The collection doubles as an illustration of the new Canadian identity, one that borrows from the colonizer and the colonized.
“The woman who would wear my designs would in essence be someone like me. A strong, independent, daring and intelligent woman who is unapologetic about who she is and what she wears.”