Isabel Vollrath designs photographed by Magnus Ragnvid Chammon. All photos taken by Bianca Teixeira.
Paris, Milan, London, New York. These are the world’s accepted fashion captials, but, like most everything else, Toronto’s alternative Arts & Fashion Week (FAT) doesn’t care about what’s generally accepted.
This season, FAT teamed up with Goethe-Institut Toronto to present FAT’s Focus Germany— a carefully curated four-day festival that highlights Germany’s (Berlin, in particular) rich arts and culture scene. Audiences are invited to journey through featured artists’ photography exhibits, art installations, fashion films, and runway collections.
For 50 years, Goethe-Institut Toronto has promoted an ongoing dialogue between Canadian and German artists to help shape Canadians’ understanding of modern German culture. They even offer classes for people who want to either study or teach the German language.
Katrin Spranger jewellery photographed by Thomas Stoess
On the runway, Focus Germany presented new collections by two Berlin-based designers. Esther Perbandt‘s collection showed on Wednesday and presented an androgynous line made from sustainable fabrics. Inspired by the Hitchcockian-term “MacGuffin,” which means an object or person that catches the viewer’s attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction, Perbandt designs with the wearers of her clothes in mind. The second designer, who won’t show until Friday, is Von Bardonitz. His collection promises the avant-garde, gender-bending aesthetic that FAT-goers crave.
I caught up with FAT’s executive director, Vanja Vasic, to ask about the collaboration with Goethe-Insitut Toronto and the inspirational influence German art brings to the festival.
“FAT definitely has a mandate to incorporate international organizations and bring international perspectives to Canada,” says Vasic. “In order to really support Canadian design, you have to merge Canada with the world. And I think Germany – Berlin in particular – is interesting to us because they have a very conceptual approach to fashion. A lot of it can be commercial, but it’s with a story, with a concept. That’s what FAT is doing and it makes sense to merge the two.”
Last year, FAT tested the waters by bringing Berlin designer Julia KnÃ¼pfer, known for her sustainable fashions, to the festival. It her show’s success that inspired Goethe-Institut to incorporate over fourteen contemporary designers and photographers in this year’s display.
Jutta BrendemÃ¼hl, program coordinator at Goethe-Insitut Toronto, decided to collaborate with FAT because of they shared platform of ideas.”[FAT] gets what the Goethe-Institut is about,” says BrendemÃ¼hl. “It’s about meaningful international dialogue, crossing cultures, thinking ahead, and taking a closer look beyond a mere show and tell. For me, the success of the Berlin scene largely boils down to that sense of freedom and “chutzpe” that allows for a bohemian, but edgy, easiness and a willingness to risk as well as fail. Berlin is an incubator for new ideas, new trends and experimentation. I think that’s the attraction, the dream.”
The walls around the FAT runway this year showcase an array of artwork. Hamburg jewellery artist Katrin Spranger‘s pieces hang on studs and are also featured in a set of photos shot by Thomas Stoess. Belin-based designer Isabel Vollrath‘s collection also appear in photos shot by Magnus Ragnvid Chammon.A Katrin Spranger necklace.
Lisa Shahno designs photographed by Valeria Mitelman
“Designing for the people is what fashion should be,” said Vasic. “It’s not just about what you’re wearing; it’s about telling a story and captivating your audience through a vision. It’s about building up the fantasy of fashion because that is what people are drawn to.”
Bianca Teixeira writes about style for Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @BeeLauraTee.