By Julia Eskins
Photography by Kareen Mallon
|FAT| Arts & Fashion Week is a Toronto-based multi-art event that brings together innovative fashion designers, musicians, filmmakers and artists from across the globe. The event is renowned for pushing boundaries and celebrating the range of creativity in fashion. This April, the four-day fashion week will mark its seventh year and expand its reach to include more menswear designers, Fashion on Film and multimedia installation exhibits.
Vanja Vasic, the founder and driving force behind |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week, talks to FAJO Magazine about her inspirations, entrepreneurial challenges and the latest developments of this year’s event.
JULIA ESKINS: Could you tell us a bit about your fashion background prior to founding |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week?
VANJA VASIC: I was always searching for the creative, artistic aspect of fashion. Initially, when you go to school, it’s more about the technical side. I took a year off [from Ryerson University] and went to London to find myself. I was very much inspired by that city and how they were very inventive, innovative and always pushing the boundaries. I decided to come back to Ryerson and continue my education in fashion, but wanted to bring that vibe back to Toronto and create something that would allow people to express themselves differently. I felt that Canadians at that time weren’t really noticed on the fashion map and I wanted a place for people to be allowed to explore different ideas and be experimental.
FAT is known for its inclusivity of different types of models and designers. How does this objective affect the success of the event?
Toronto is so diverse, interesting and filled with so many different types of people. I think it’s important to represent them all in fashion: it brings interest to a collection and to a festival. It’s also more exciting and it’s more real. Often, we forget these people exist in the media world, where most aren’t above the age of 25 and all have a certain body type. It’s less interesting to constantly see the same thing over and over again.
What was your motive behind changing the name of the event from Alternative Fashion Week to |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week?
Initially, the festival began as an alternative to the mainstream. There was really nothing else like FAT out there at the time, in the sense that it had music and was a little bit bad ass!
But I think as we’ve grown, it’s no longer an alternative to anything else – it has become a creation of its own. Now it’s more about the integration of arts and fashion.
Like any long-running event, FAT has evolved. Now, seven years after its start date, how do you think you have changed personally?
I think as the event changed, so have I. I’m becoming a bit more mature and refined, and I think that is reflected in FAT as well. I have a very emotional connection with the festival because it’s been a part of me for so long.
At the beginning, because it was alternative, everyone thought it was an F-you to fashion… It took a lot of building and continuing to do what we do, to get people to understand what the event is all about.
How do you take these alternative sensibilities and apply them to your own personal style?
I am very much a yin-and-yang person. I like to mix things together. It’s not always alternative full-stop. I don’t full blown take it into my life, but I do like to incorporate elements and pieces.
What designers do you love to wear?
I would love to wear more Hussein Chalayan, he’s amazing. I have one of his pieces, which is great. I also love vintage pieces from designers because they are more special and more affordable. I have a couple of Valentino pieces. And I love to wear designers that show at the festival… Today, I’m wearing Sans Souci. She’s a Vancouver-based designer and does a lot of eco-fashion with old stockings pieced together. And Jasper Garvida, a Canadian designer living in the United Kingdom: he won Project Catwalk in 2008 and has showed at FAT in the past.
What do you look for in a potential designer or artist interested in participating in FAT?
We always look for designers that have a specific point of view and a unique story to their collection. We have stuff that’s completely wearable and stuff that’s complete costume; there are variations. We have a thematic focus every year, so we look for people who fit into that theme.
What do you do to stay inspired as you gear up for FAT?
It’s always nice to travel, have a fresh start somewhere, see a different culture and get away from your little box. We definitely try to incorporate new elements every year. For example, last year we brought in the Fashion on Film component. Also, every year we do a focus country. This year, it’s going to be Focus Germany and we have a couple of designers coming in from Berlin, plus a photography exhibition featuring German designers. The theme is going to be Fashion Scapes, which plays into the notion of landscapes, how fashion is always changing and always transitory.
In Vanja Vasic’s studio
For more information, visit http://fashionarttoronto.ca/
FAJO Magazine is a proud media partner of |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week 2012.