Alternative Fashion Week 2011: Day One by Adam Bunch and Carmen Cheung

The theme for the first night of FAT was centered around what the schedule called the "mythological, theatrical and imaginative realm." And it seemed like a pretty fitting choice before you'd even seen your first model walk down the runway. This year's events are being held at SUDBURY 99, which is a glass factory turned film studio turned miscellaneous event space in a construction-plagued expanse a couple of blocks south of the Gladstone Hotel. Walking in from the drizzle, from the landscape of half-built condo towers and  big pits of dirt, it already felt like stepping into a different world. It was warm inside and dry and there was beer. There were lots of young, pretty-looking people in cool clothes standing around. And there were artsy chandeliers hanging low from the ceiling in a very alien jellyfish kind of a way. Bands belted out indie tunes from underneath them. There were art installations, too: lots of video terminals and what seemed to be a naked man lying in a pile of cloth in a way that really made it hard not to stop and think about the human body and its relationship to textiles. Beyond that, there was the runway: a clatter of photo shutters and women with just plain absurdly long legs modeling clothes from this year's crop of young and generally local designers.

For the most part, the clothes themselves were less blatantly "alternative" than the surroundings. Joy Couture's floor-length gowns were downright mainstream, high waists and vibrant colours from the world of prom queens and Disney princesses. And Belinda Visag's fairy tale bows and pleated, above-the-knee skirts didn't exactly seem risque next to a man lying around naked in scraps of cloth. But as a self-respecting, Zooey-Deschanel-loving, indie-raised male, I absolutely loved them. Being accessible is obviously far from always a bad thing; most collections were full of interesting and wearable pieces that played with convention, weaving influences and time periods together. Plus, the night did end with Asphyxia's blatantly alternative, gothy, steampunkish, leather-meets-lace collection. And there was Anna J. MacIntyre's painfully slow peformance piece, "The Carnie", which involved a carousel headpiece and a long process of revealing a series of masks. Which I guess was ambitious at the very least.

In the end, what may have been the two most memorable collections belonged to two very designers. Ludica, a former Ryerson student now based in Jamaica, presented a whirl of '70s and '80s references in vivid colour, with plenty of off-the-shoulder pieces, retro prints, triangle motifs, and more than one playful nod toward a way-the-hell-sexier take on the black stripes of an old Star Trek uniform. Meanwhile, Zanete Auzina's pieces were pretty much the opposite. Her collection was full of muted and neutral tones, with layers of texture: regal, monochromatic cascades of feathers and folds.











Day Two of our coverage of Alternative Fashion Week is here.

Photos by Carmen Cheung, Photo Editor of The Little Red Umbrella, Toronto-based freelance photographer and former Photo Editor of SoundProof Magazine. You can find more of her work on her website here and follow her on Twitter (@carmencheung).

Text by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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