Unlike most young entrepreneurs, designers entering the fashion industry aren’t just up against local businesses: they have to compete against international brands and major retailers whose price points are impossible for any independent designer to match.

To get noticed and thrive, designers must wow customers with their creativity while maintaining a keen business sense, but it’s rare that an individual will possess a brain that equally balances artistic skill with commercial know-how. There are few who are blessed with both, so the majority depend on a resource like the Toronto Fashion Incubator for guidance, promotion and education. For these young Canadian talents, it’s not just valuable, it’s necessary.

TFI’s 25th anniversary is an important milestone for Canadian design. FLARE Editor-in-Chief Lisa Tant summed it up well when she spoke at the gala last week: “Without the Toronto Fashion Incubator, we wouldn’t have a Canadian fashion industry.”

I can’t recall what Canadian fashion was in 1987 but these days the scene is flourishing. All you have to do is go to Holt Renfrew or The Bay and wander to discover that Canadian fashion is on the rise. Pink Tartan, Lida Baday, Smythe, Jeremy Laing, Erdem, Denis Gagnon, Greta Constantine, CALLA: these names rival and compete with top international labels. Or, head to local boutiques like Queen West’s Robber or Yorkville’s RAC to discover wickedly cool independent designers like Ashley Rowe, Hoi Bo, Philip Sparks (now with his own store off Ossignton) and more. We don’t just got something, we have something to rave about.

So how does Toronto Fashion Incubator help? TFI works to help emerging designers grow their business by connecting them with industry leaders, navigating them through the landscape of publicity and PR and teaching designers how to create a business plan and manage cash flow. Of course, staging competitions that grant hefty sums of money like the New Labels Fashion Design Competition Runway Show held at The Rom last Wednesday in conjunction with TFI’s big 25th also helps.

This is the only competition of its kind in Canada where a new designer is awarded a sum of money, and this year Suzanne Rogers donated $25, 000 to Alberta’s Sid Neigum, who won the judges over with his fall/winter 2012 collection that takes inspiration from the “avant-garde club culture.”

Fashion everyone was in attendance and beyond the runway, which also included labels Jameson Kane, [blak] i, and Montreal’s Patrick Larrivee, guests were clad in eclectic and daring style that provided an ongoing show throughout the evening. Naturally, this always makes our job a little more fun. See the photo gallery below.

Photos by Becca Lemire (Click to Enlarge)