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5 must-see shows for Toronto Fashion Week

Designer Rad Hourani

Jérôme Galland for The Globe and Mail/jérôme galland The Globe and Mail

A worldly new sponsor and influx of designers based in other cities brings Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week one step closer to being a can't-miss showcase on the North American circuit.


With a mix of sheepishness and amazement, Rad Hourani admits that he hasn't visited Toronto, where he will be presenting his ninth RAD by Rad Hourani collection during his Toronto Fashion Week debut, in about a decade. In 2005, the 29-year-old stylist-turned-designer left his home in Montreal for France, where he is currently based; his clothes, however, are all made in Canada.

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Last month, the collection that he'll be showing in Toronto was also presented during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, where Hourani displayed the same strictly worked aesthetics that he continues to finesse each 'season.' The designer doesn't use the s-word as a rule.

Nor does he follow conventional gender lines. Rather, everything is unisex and seasonless, he says.

"It's a reflection of who I am. I see the world like that," he explains. Realizing that people do want to buy heavier clothes toward winter, however, Hourani has peppered his fall line with such new introductions as down coats and "the perfect hood," a design that he compares to a cube, complete with a 90-degree tip.

The muted green hues that offer relief from his omnipresent black, moreover, were inspired by his retreat to rural settings, although this isn't to suggest that he has gone soft. For fall 2012, he has still played up his signature angles, in flaps and panels and all-over shapes, as much as ever.

"With a high-end unisex line, I'm communicating a language people are not used to," he says. "Hopefully, people [will]react to it." – Amy Verner


First introduced to fans on Project Runway Canada, Romanian-born Lucian Matis creates women's clothing that is sensual and sophisticated, but with a strong visual twist: Think brightly coloured feather mini-dresses and nude chiffon jumpers studded with heavy metal, clothes the Toronto-based designer showed last season for spring.

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For the fall and winter collection making its debut Monday evening at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Matis links sensuality to a close-up study of nature: "I am inspired by the exquisite markings of a butterfly, the movement of frosted ice patterns on a window, the incredible lines found in the deepest recesses of flowers, volcanic rock and sand shapes," says the 32-year-old graduate of Ryerson University's fashion program.

"It's an idea I am expressing through my upcoming collection called Ligne, the French word for line."

Some of these ideas will spill over into a second collection of versatile pieces the designer is showing on Tuesday; made for the career woman "who loves a splash of [trendiness]in her wardrobe," these will be presented under the MATIS by Lucian Matis label. – Deirdre Kelly


Last year, Danielle Martin and Pao Lim, the husband-and-wife design duo behind the Montreal-based label Martin Lim, were the beneficiaries of Toronto Fashion Week's inaugural Mercedes- Benz Start Up initiative intended to foster and promote fresh talent – even though the designers are hardly newcomers.

Graduates of the prestigious Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London, Martin, 39, and Lim, 44, have been quietly honing their skills for close to 15 years now, working in the Paris ateliers of such global fashion heavyweights as Christian Lacroix and Roland Mouret. Appearing on the Canadian scene last season, however, they took the country's newest fashion-design prize by wowing the judges with their fluid yet very wearable silk separates and dresses.

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Their sophomore collection for fall is inspired by "sport-couture graphic modernism," a retro aesthetic borrowed from the 1960s, Lim explains. "We are also introducing organic draped dresses for cocktail and evening events, featuring modernist cuts and finishings," he adds. – Deirdre Kelly


After opening a handful of Joe Fresh stand-alone stores across Canada this year and last, Mimran's fast-fashion empire is heading south: After a slight delay, the brand's Fifth Avenue flagship will finally open in New York this month.

Now that the Big Apple launch is imminent, it makes sense that Mimran describes this season's offerings as having more of a downtown feel than ever before.

"You'll see a lot of rich, deep colours like red wines, cranberries and mustards," he says, adding that textures such as tweeds, leathers and silks will be coupled with a bold use of pattern. As for shapes, devotees can look forward to the same clean look of seasons past but with such contemporary cool-girl twists as peplums, long skirts and cropped jackets.

Whether or not Joe Fresh and Mimran ultimately take Manhattan, they will arguably be the hottest ticket under the tents in Toronto, their old stomping grounds, this week. Expect pandemonium. – Tiyana Grulovic


Although Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong have always incorporated men's-wear elements into their much-sought-after women's line, Greta Constantine, this season marks the first time that Ezra Constantine, its two-year-old male counterpart, steps out on its own during World MasterCard Fashion Week.

"Men have always been a bit of an accessory [for us]" Pickersgill says. "This season, the collection stands out on its own."

Wong, who has more of a hand in the men's line, describes the key theme for fall 2012 as protection or, more specifically, the idea of armour. "The collection is underlined by utilitarian, functional elements," he says. "Cream accents balance out the darker, structural silhouettes."

Expect to see hard knits, boiled wools and cotton shirtings in addition to the directional draped silhouettes Ezra often offers.

"We're playing with different combinations of fabrics and, by extension, textures," Wong says, "to offer up our own vision of armour."

Soldier on, boys. – Tiyana Grulovic

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