Monday, April 14, 2008

CRAFTY HAPPENING: a review of [FAT] toronto alternative arts & fashion week

Michelle Rothstein, a new edition to our growing team of TCA profilers offers up a critical perspective on [FAT] Toronto Alternative Arts & Fashion Week (April 9-11). Read on and feel free to comment with your own impressions of the event.

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Review of [FAT]: Urban Experiment (April 10, 2008) by Michelle Rothstein

I like fashion – don’t follow it, but like it. I love clothes, but am definitely not an expert – but I know what moves me. Last Thursday night I went to [FAT] Toronto Alternative Arts & Fashion Week, and although I had fun and loved watching the fashion shows, I was sort of under whelmed by the whole event. Granted, I didn’t take in all three days, so perhaps my view is slightly askew – so I am only going to review Thursday night’s installation entitled “Urban Experiment.”

FAT is a three year-old cross-disciplinary extravaganza taking place in the Distillery District’s Fermenting Cellar. It is billed as a multi-arts festival with a mandate of showcasing artistic disciplines rooted in fashion, and their exploration of the human body in today's time. It’s a fantastic concept and one that should blow your socks off, unfortunately my socks are still in tact.

First of all, what is meant by alternative? Is it simply an escape from big box culture, corporations and mass produced clothes and art? Ok, they got that. But if alternative means challenging new works that alter your perspective – well that, they didn’t get. Banal video installations harkened back to the days of early video art. Nothing that inspiring or eye catching which is super sad considering how much this medium has changed over the last 30 years. There were individual moments of beauty like a clothes line of drying clothes or the hipster Jesus floating through the city which I hope was an homage and not a rip off of a Parisian short film from a decade ago, but nothing actually brought any context to the overall show. Which brings us to the night’s actual context, “Urban Experiment.”

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hipster Jesus!

Loads of representations of goings on in the street, back alleys and the interplay between private and public space. A valiant effort, but again, they felt reductive, empty and dated. A loop of the London Underground and streets of the world-class city were played on looming large screens from the ceiling. Again, the context confused me: Why London? Because it’s cool? The roots of alternative fashion? Because Beefeater was a sponsor? How did it tie into the rest of the show? Is London an Urban Experiment? As a cultural studies grad I was trying desperately to piece it together, but kept falling short.

Ok, so moving on from these lofty ideals - I take you to the fashion – the big draw. Now watching clothes collections come down a runway is a lot of fun. If you haven’t done it – do it. Even when I didn’t love the clothes it was fun to see the different types of models, genders, struts and attitudes – that was cool and yes, alternative to the shows I have seen on FT and the like. From the segments I saw, the stand-outs were Dilly Daisy’s playful collection; CMichelon’s stunning and spectacular chic afghan blanket doily–wear - so beautiful and so craft! And of course, The Rage’s fun and irreverent spectacle featuring different placards, including one that urged us to “Buy Local.” Absolutely! As far as the relationship to the other works and music around the room I must admit I didn’t see it. But, it was still interesting to see what people were up to under the alternative moniker.

One of CMichelon's lovely crocheted pieces

The best moment of the evening had to be the Virginia Titty Killers, a band of merry men who truly brought some meaning to the event. Not only was their music amazing, their performance was the most exciting art of the night. Seven guys took the small stage and just blasted and played and had an unabashed good time. There was a George Clinton party atmosphere and it mixed-up different styles in both music and fashion. These guys were the embodiment of what the evening should have been. These were the true Urban Experiment of music worlds and cultures colliding to bring something new and fabulous to our collective consciousness.

I love the idea of art, fashion and music coming together. I have been to many events like this throughout the world and always appreciate people pushing boundaries and trying something new. I applaud the drive, emotion and need for an event like FAT in our city; I just wish there were more of a fluidity of meaning and a mindful approach to representation. That being said, a good time was had by all so maybe the Urban Experiment is simply about a good unpretentious party – and that they got. I guess for our town – that’s something new.

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Some cutie models at the show

For more photos &coverage of [FAT], visit She Does the City & Toronto Street Fashion


Michelle Rothstein is a Toronto resident with a passion for design and a love of the hand-made. Her business MOB, is a travelling salon-style show and website ( which brings individual and sophisticated works to the design hungry for the sheer love it. She is psyched that Toronto is getting much more styley in its old age.


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