Canadian fashion industry reacts as IMG Canada becomes new owner, producer of Toronto Fashion Week

August 9, 2012

By Hannah Yakobi

Photography by Kareen Mallon, and courtesy of FDCC and interviewees

Canadian fashion industry woke up this morning to a major announcement – Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week will now be owned by IMG Canada and operated in collaboration with IMG Fashion, global leader in fashion event production and management.

Founded in 1999 by Robin Kay – President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada – this leading event was previously owned by FDCC and, over the years, has grown to become the second largest fashion week in North America. Kay will remain the president of the FDCC and continue to support Canadian designers. She will serve as a consultant to the event, bringing her in-depth knowledge of the Canadian fashion landscape and strong industry relationships.

When asked by FAJO what will she miss the most about working on the Toronto Fashion Week, Kay said it will be “the moment on opening night, when the million moving parts of building fashion week distill into a single moment – a single step on the lit runway.”

“It is impossible to distill the last 14 years into single moments,” she added. “Each season has had so many moments that have exceeded my expectations. Today, I am very pleased to hand over the reins and the ongoing success of Toronto Fashion Week to a global company where the designers will continue to thrive.”

Robin Kay. Photo courtesy of FDCC.

Toronto will now join IMG’s impressive roster of fashion weeks in the cities of New York, London, Milan, Moscow, Berlin, Sydney, Tokyo, Mumbai, Istanbul and Miami.

IMG stated in its release this morning that the new ownership will open “the door to a global network of expertise, contacts and numerous fashion initiatives that will, undoubtedly, give Canadian designers unprecedented benefits.” The company also adds that it will continue to work with local fashion consultants, because they want to keep the event regionally significant, while further elevating it to the international stage.

“We look forward to the exciting changes ahead,” said Sam Galet, VP Managing Director of IMG Canada, in the release. “Our main goal will [continue] to focus on Canadian design talent.”

A runway show at the Toronto Fashion Week last season. Photo: Kareen Mallon, FAJO Magazine.

In 2010, FDCC commissioned IMG to consult on a variety of event matters that included production, designer outreach, marketing and sponsorship sales. There were talks in the industry for the last few months that the fashion week may change hands, but nothing was confirmed until today.

While heading Toronto Fashion Week, Kay oversaw 26 successful seasons that presented hundreds of designer runway shows, including leading industry names such as Missoni, Philip Bloch, Pink Tartan, Joe Fresh, Jay Manuel, Cynthia Rowley and David Dixon.

FAJO Magazine asked some of the industry leaders about their thoughts on this major change.

Here is what they said.

Farley Chatto, Canadian designer

“I anticipated the change but wasn’t sure it was going to happen. My first reaction was a combination of shock and excitement. Robin has done a
great job with the fashion week – change is always good, however, and it
will bring vitality back to the event.

“Hopefully, IMG will be able to give back to the industry and the Fashion
Week will be reinvigorated, while also becoming more of an industry event
as opposed to a consumer one.”

Sunny Fong (VAWK), Canadian designer

“The FDCC has done a great job with growing Fashion Week here in Toronto. [It] is exciting though to see what is going to happen this season, and how fashion week will reach another level. I think it is a great move.

“IMG is a global company, internationally recognized for delivering some of the greatest fashion, sports and entertainment events. With change there is adjustment… But this change is for management on a global level, which may expose Canadian fashion globally.”

Sid Neigum, Canadian designer

“My first reaction was relief. This could be a good thing for Toronto, if IMG makes some informed decisions. Hopefully, it will mean more global recognition for Toronto.

“It might [also] encourage designers from Canada to stick around longer before showing elsewhere.”

Gail McInnes, director of Magnet Creative Management

“Given IMG’s past record of purchasing other international fashion weeks, including Berlin and Melbourne, it doesn’t come as a surprise; I had been expecting it for a while. IMG has helped grow and develop Toronto Fashion Week immensely since
they partnered with the FDCC by bringing in new sponsors, [and started] the Mercedes-Benz StartUp competition.

“What it will mean is potentially more sponsorship money coming in for the week. Will that trickle down to the designers? I do hope so, but I’ve always been an
optimist. Hopefully, IMG can help us build that identity that everyone seems to crave so much.”

Anita Clarke, founder and editor-in-chief of I want – I got

“Finally – I’ve been waiting for this announcement since IMG came on board. I’ve heard a lot of sale rumours over the summer, so it’s great to get the final confirmation.

“I’m hoping that becoming part of the IMG Fashion family will create a fashion week that designers from all over the country want to participate in.

“I also hope that IMG is able to expand Toronto Fashion Week and create other opportunities besides the excellent press coverage it brings.”

Vanja Vasic, executive director of |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week

“As a huge supporter of fashion designers, I was excited to hear the announcement. Ultimately, I hope it’s designers that benefit from this news.

“With IMG’s focus on Canadian fashion, I’m hopeful that new doors will be
opened for collaboration between fashion weeks in Canada, including lFATl
Arts & Fashion week, which just had its seventh season in Toronto showcasing
emerging Canadian and international fashion designers. With IMG as the new
owner of the Toronto Fashion Week, I feel encouraged that Canadian designers
may see more contact with the international fashion market. How amazing
would that be!”

Leesa Butler, F-list.ca and regional director of Fashion Group International

“Great news for Canada. It’s been in the works for a while, many of us knew
this was a natural progression of the event, a good point in its successful life
cycle for Robin to hand the creative reigns to IMG.

“Ideally, [this] will bring some international focus to our fashion weeks. That
would be good for many of our designers, who must think globally about their
business. I don’t see this impacting the Canadian fashion industry beyond that,
[and] don’t expect it to impact our retail and manufacturing. And, frankly, that
has more to do with a designer’s success than a fashion show.”

The spring 2013 collections will be presented at the David Pecaut Square in the heart of Toronto, from Oct.22 to Oct.26, 2012.

Photo of Leesa Butler by J R Bernstein.

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