SDTC: What did FAT look like in its first year, and how does that compare to now?
VV: The first year of FAT was held in a small club on King St. West. It was a low-tech, 2-day event on a shoestring budget, with local designers and artists. Today, the festival has grown to a to a five-day event, with Canadian and International participants and over 40 fashion collections showing each year, in addition to a well developed art program that includes fashion films, photography, performances and multimedia installations.
What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the Canadian fashion industry over the past decade?
The Canadian fashion landscape was very conservative 10 years ago and that’s one of the main reasons I launched FAT – to have a more experimental and innovative platform for designers. Today Canadian designers have a lot more confidence to be creative and take pride in their work and it shows in their collections. There is a lot more personality in Canadian fashion today!
What show, or party, will always stick out in your memory?
The time a dance party broke out on the FAT runway at the end of the Babu et Moi Collection. It was amazing! The entire front row – sponsors, VIPs, media all got up and had an amazing dance party on the runway to close off FAT!
What questions do you find yourself asking now, in terms of what’s next in your career?
I definitely want to continue building Canada’s fashion identity and pushing fashion forward. Also, I am always thinking of ways to create new platforms and opportunities to merge fashion and art.
As the director of FAT, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the past ten years?
Our biggest challenges are definitely lack of funding and lack of support from the mainstream fashion industry. Many of the young and emerging designers, artists and even models that take part at FAT are so talented and eventually go on to bigger shows and gain more press, but the mainstream industry in Toronto is still very close-minded about supporting non-conservative fashion and art!
What professional practices do you have in place now that has really helped FAT grow?
I grew up in an artistic family, which is highly resourceful, and independent – that is my first source of influence. I studied fashion design in Toronto. I studied interdisciplinary practices surrounding fashion in London, England. I am self-taught in event planning, managing, design, communication and many other aspects involved in putting on a major event. In a way, I grew with the event and the event grew with me.
Where does one start in this industry?
First, follow your passion! Then become a part of a group, organization or support network of like-minded people in the industry to inspire you, to connect with and to learn from. Don’t wait for opportunities – go get them and make your own if you can’t find the job you’re looking for.
What are you most excited for at this year’s FAT?
I can never pin point one thing to be excited about at FAT – the whole week and experience is always an adrenaline rush of fashion and art! This year we’re putting together a 10-year retrospective exhibition and it will be wonderful to see it come to life. I’m excited to see the fashion collections come to life on the runway and the art exhibits realized in the exhibition and to witness how the designers and artists will interpret the #MADEINCANADA theme through their work.