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Cleopatra? Blade Runner? See what inspires Toronto LG Fashion Week designers

A model struts through Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.

Babar Khan for The Globe and Mail/babar khan The Globe and Mail

Expect a confident, even brash lineup of Canadian fashion talents to present their spring 2012 collections in Toronto's David Pecault Square during LG Fashion Week, which starts on Monday and concludes on Oct. 21. Here's a sneak peek at some names to watch, including a society stalwart, some exciting up-and-comers and a pair of comeback kids.


The Canadian boy wonder of the early millennium is back. Born and raised in Toronto, Mendonça, 34, creates sexy and sophisticated women's wear characterized by luxurious fabrics and an obsessive attention to detail. The debut of his eponymous label in 2001 marked him as one to watch and soon he was dressing celebrities such as Nelly Furtado and Mya. But after the economy started to tank in 2008, he closed up shop, retreating to Milan for an in-depth period of research into international design and its commercial viability. His return last season to LG Fashion Week saw him creatively refreshed and newly partnered with Beker Fashions, in business since 1923. What motivates him as a designer, however, remains unchanged, Mendonça says. "I am always inspired by a strong, confident woman," he notes. "This season, it's the queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, as seen through the lens of the 1960 Elizabeth Taylor film." Look, in other words, for natural fabrics such as silks, cottons and linens as well as custom-designed prints exploding with vibrant colours.

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WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17


A perennial Fashion Week favourite, Caoc brings his dress-making talents back to the tents this season after an extended absence. Good thing, too: Nothing moves down a catwalk quite like a Caoc creation. The designer is known for impeccably tailored separates and killer cocktail dresses, but, for spring 2012, he's adopting a decidedly relaxed approach.

"My biggest challenge this season was to create a relaxed shape but still show a feminine and sexy silhouette," he says. "[The collection]is more experimental, with the mixing of different fabrics and textures."

Think East Coast meets West with a tropical vibe thrown in – witness the hazy abstract print on the bright blue silk and jersey cocktail dress on our cover. There's an element of sportiness, too, with that mix of jersey, silk and lots of sheer panels peeking though.

WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 2 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18


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Peripatetic siblings Jamil and Alia Juma are Toronto ex-pats with homes in both Dongguan, China and New York, where their unisex JUMA label is based. Like the designers, their ready-to- wear clothing and accessories line is global in outlook:

"We focus on creating our own digital prints with imagery from our travels and encounters with different genres of artists and musicians," says Jamil, who studied biosystems engineering at McGill University before partnering with his sister, a graduate of the fashion program at Toronto's George Brown College, on their own label in 2003.

Recently, the duo designed the costumes for recording artist Nicki Minaj's latest summer tour and an exclusive line of fall scarves for Harvey Nichols Hong Kong. Their new spring collection also uses digital prints featuring a bold new colour palette: "It's inspired by Turkish ceramics," Jamil says, "translated into a resort like collection that's uplifting and optimistic."

WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17


There's no doubt that Pink Tartan, Kimberley Newport-Mimran's incredibly successful women's-wear label, will draw a crowd this week: The seats at her shows are always lined with the kind of cool, well-heeled girls that follow Newport-Mimran's every sartorial move. A stickler for theme, the designer blended uptown glamour with a combative edge to create her military-inspired fall collection.

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This time around, the details have softened: Expect to see a sixties inspired bent on Pink Tartan's signature shirting and crisp, polished shift dresses. "My inspiration is the French Riviera in 1962, my muse a modern Brigitte Bardot," Newport-Mimran says. "The styling is effortlessly chic: Easy little shifts in silk wool, capri pants with fitted sweaters and cat eye glasses."

WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19


Michelle Watson's directional sportswear label might look like it belongs on Daryl Hannah's spandex-loving character in Blade Runner, but the designer's signature four-way stretch bras, tanks and leggings are just as functional at the gym as they are on an acrobatic replicon. Watson, whose debut fall 2011 collection was picked up by the Bay, was working on Ralph Lauren's RX activewear label when she realized there was a gap in the market when it came to feminine, edgy workout gear. "I saw that yoga clothes really seemed to take over the market," the Toronto-based designer says.

"Women wear yoga gear all the time in Vancouver. If that's the way people want to dress, they want to look good all the time – even in athletic wear."

Look for Watson's sophomore collection to sport more of the same hard-edged sports bras and utilitarian bottoms infused with mesh panels and, this time, complementary layering pieces in the form of sheer toppers that perform just as well on the street as they do in the studio.

WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 3 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18


He's still in school, but Alberta-born Neigum, winner of the 2009 Western Canada Emerging Designer Contest, already looks destined for the top of his class.

The 23-year-old men's- and women's-wear designer is fast becoming known for his exceptional craftsmanship, high-quality fabrics and unique experimental designs, even as he pursues a degree in fashion design at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. A recent Manhattan showroom presentation of his visually daring spring line has been bought up by high-end New York boutique Dagny & Barstow and Bauhaus in Hong Kong, among other international retailers. That new line, the Drayton Valley native says, was inspired by what he knows best so far, the classroom: "Spring/ summer 2012 is an exploration of fundamental visual concepts discovered through math and science. The proportions, lengths and shapes are influenced by the golden ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence. The prints and colours are inspired by microbiology."

Give this kid an A.

WHEN TO CATCH THE SHOW: 3 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19




Toronto Fashion Week takes its first baby steps on a length of white paper rolled down a factory floor, among other makeshift catwalks erected in venues across the city.


TFW finds its first official venue in the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex, where Quebec designers appear in record numbers. Robin Kay, president of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, which oversees the event, declares her aim to be "a cohesive and commercially viable Canadian fashion identity."


The event grows in international stature when the FDCC hosts a presentation of Missoni's 50th-anniversary collection. The Missoni family chooses Toronto over New York to boost the city's fortunes during the SARS epidemic.


TFW comes of age: L'Oréal provides title sponsorship and Montreal's Parasuco denim brand closes the week; reviews are universally strong.


Fashion Week gets democratic: The event takes place in Nathan Phillips Square, home to Toronto City Hall; for the first time, tickets are sold to members of the public.


LG becomes the event's new title sponsor. It now costs $1-million a season to produce.


Fashion Week moves to a tent on King Street West, close to FDCC headquarters in Liberty Village; the following year, it moves yet again to the 16,000-squarefoot Allstream Centre at Exhibition Place to accommodate the growing demand for Canadian fashion.


Men's wear takes off: After years of focusing on women's clothing, men'swear lines, including Krane and Klaxon Howl, stake their claim on the runways.

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

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