Volume 91, Issue 95

Friday, March 27, 1998



Ready for the next millennium

By Jael Lodge
Gazette Staff

And the winner is.....

Though it was far from being a star-studded event like the Oscars, onlookers at the Fedex Fashion Export awards at the Matinée ready-to-wear shows in Toronto this week were definitely filled with the same keen interest in what people were wearing.

Federal Express presented the inaugural award, in recognition of Canadian designers who have succeeded in being competitive in international markets.

The fashion shows themselves have been in existence since 1991, although Norma Meneguzzi-Spall, executive director of Designers Ontario, notes, "There have been previous incarnations of these shows since '74."

Eighteen designers were chosen by a jury to participate in this year's show. In order to be a part of the Matinée ready-to-wear event, designers must have at least two seasons of designs, or four collections and a viable business. Meneguzzi-Spall emphasizes that those involved must also display great professionalism.

She explains that by holding the shows over two days, in the concept of collections like those in Milan, New York or Paris, the designers are able to show the full breadth of their collection – up to about 50 garments. By doing this, Meneguzzi-Spall says designers can really show their collections to the public and buyers and ensure national media exposure.

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
CAN I JUST WEAR THIS HOME? Feizal Virani's sexy suits are a show (not to mention a traffic) stopper.

Meneguzzi-Spall also says many designers are doing well south of the border.

In his speech introducing the the Fedex Fashion Export award, retail analyst Anthony Stokan points to export as a necessity, as the market in Canada is "not available."

In Stokan's view, the technology making information more accessible is also causing geographic borders to become irrelevant – making for a world culture that creates world-wide demand.

"Global brands are the norm," he adds.

Stokan suggests that stores of the new millennium will either be very large or very specialized and says designers will have to adjust to meet this demand.

The winner of the inaugural award this year was Franco Mirabelli, a Toronto-based designer who has been developing an international reputation for the past decade.

Initially, Mirabelli had travelled to the United States to attend the New York trade show named "Prt," to gain the attention of Canadian buyers with whom he couldn't get appointments. "I never dreamt I would sell to American stores," he says.

Ironically, he notes, those same Canadian buyers who initially turned him down are now having difficulty getting appointments with him because he is so busy with his foreign clients. The tables have definitely turned, as he estimates that he now ships 40 per cent of his business to the United States.

Mirabelli attributes his international success by vowing to be different from other designers who "shipped late, did not ship the whole line, or did not ship at all." He is currently looking into exporting his designs to Europe, with a possible start in London.

An honourable mention went to Marisa Minicucci, who was not present at the ceremony, for the development of global plans, including a multi-media marketing strategy.

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
YES, WE DO GO TO WESTERN. Models show off the latest line from Roots, called "Roots Registered Jeans," at the Matinée ready-to-wear show on Wednesday in Toronto.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazfocus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998