It was the first night of Toronto Fashion Week, and I put a call out via Twitter saying that if you are among the 90 per cent of people in fashion who hate me, don’t bother saying hello. The call to action appeared to work, and only my friends spoke to me. It certainly isn’t the kind of message most people would send to a community that thrives on asking the question, “what’s new with you?” What’s interesting about fashion is the impulse to be noticed and to be seen, but the rules change when people are seated. While standing, any given subject can be seen peacocking, but when it comes to the point where the sole responsibility of the attendee is to sit, observe and appreciate or critique, you begin to get the impression that everyone in the first few rows has decided to group share a bottle of downers. That, or they’re part of some kind of cult lobotomy pact. Here are the expressions and gestures of Toronto Fashion Week as I saw them on night one:
To appear deep in thought, several audience members will rely on their index finger–it will rise up, then pause on their chin to suggest deep introspection. This will be repeated for every look, and it is accompanied by only a vacant expression. But not every person is as isolated. Despondent is also a popular look for Toronto Fashion Week, seen on Jeanne Beker, who only took a few moments during the Pink Tartan show to look up from her phone to discuss what I can only presume was fashion with Fashion editor-in-chief Bernadette Morra. The same can be said of Men’s Fashion editor David Livingstone, who spends most of a runway show propping his chin up with an arm, or cross-armed until a get-comfortable-lean seems more appropriate. Then of course, there is well-known crasher Richard Hum of Monster Media, some blog no one reads, who spends Toronto Fashion Week pretending to be a photographer whilst stealing seats that have swag on them. Hum indicates his interest in fashion by taking one photo, followed by scrambling to fit a stolen gift bag into his backpack.
Then there’s the “numb turtle,” where the body remains motionless and the head barely moves from left to right as the looks go down the runway. This was best executed by Flare‘s Fiona Green, who seemed to have the movement down to a science.
I spoke to a young woman from a blog I couldn’t find called “Too Hot for Toronto,” who has been spotted over the past two weeks because of her signature Kanye West shutter shades. I asked her who she was, and she said “I have been coming to fashion events for ten years now. Maybe I should work for blogTO so people will notice me.” She actively distances herself from people by putting up the shades barrier, protecting herself from any neccessity to emote.
I wonder why there’s this huge emphasis on looking nonplussed, especially considering these are chosen professions or chosen outings. There isn’t some legacy clause in the fabric of fashion media that says anyone needs to be there, or be seen. These are choices we make, because we enjoy fashion or enjoy attention. There really is no other reason one person should be at one of these events, so why are we so serious? Why do we appear so sad?
It must be an occupational hazard. Someone, somewhere, decided that emulation is the gateway to success–operating under the notion that by taking cues from Anna Wintour, a person can become Anna Wintour. But unfortunately, that isn’t the way real life works. You can dress up like a dog, but you are not a dog. Much like you can put lipstick on a pig, and that pig does not become a woman. There’s no one way to appear as an editor, so why do we aspire to be the most famous one, in actions but not thoughts. This appears to be yet another example of Toronto aspiring to be something that is not-Toronto.
I think it is about time that we resign ourselves to the fact that Toronto is Toronto. And if you don’t like it, leave. You really don’t have to be at Toronto Fashion Week if you don’t want to be at Toronto Fashion Week. It really is as simple as that.
Kevin Naulls is a Toronto-based writer and former editor of The Goods and The Hype at Torontolife.com. Follow him on Twitter @kevinjn.