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Making her itinerary for the Toronto Design Offsite Festival, Caitlin Agnew highlights the shows to catch

For Toronto's design lovers, there's no better time of year than January, when the city welcomes the Interior Design Show, the Toronto Design Offsite Festival (TO DO) and a series of satellite exhibitions. Now in its eighth year, TO DO – with its mandate to take design out of the studio and into the city – has grown into its largest offering yet. This year, the festival will feature nearly 120 events and exhibitions from Jan. 15 to 21.

For the festival's artistic director Deborah Wang, TO DO offers a new way to learn about and explore Toronto through design, no matter what your level of expertise. "Even for me, even having done this festival and job for almost eight years now and being in the field before, I'm still learning things," she says. "It's an open call for registration so I'm always learning about new people, new galleries, new shops."

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This year, those new participants are offering an even broader range of exhibitions, talks and activities. The Hacking Black Futures exhibition at BAND Gallery and Cultural Centre presents design speculations on black-centric societies that are free from oppression, discrimination and systemic racism, and invites participants to interact with installations. Meanwhile, Work/Life considers our disappearing boundaries between work and leisure, and features new and original housewares and working products for life in an urban centre. And part of the inaugural Guest of Honour Program is a talk featuring the founders of London's Aberrant Architecture, who will discuss "outtakes" of their work – the ideas, experiences and stories that fall outside of a final architecture or design.

For those with a keen sense of urban curiosity, a tour of Geary Avenue offers the unique opportunity see how this former industrial neighbourhood is transforming into a hub for artists and designers. Several stores and boutiques across town are also taking part in the festival, including Average. The Queen Street West design shop will be showcasing a range of objects making their Canadian debut, including pieces by Denmark's Moebe and Normann Copenhagen, as well as Montreal handbag brand The Atelier Yul.

As much as TO DO's offerings are geared toward the general public, members of Toronto's robust design community also have many reasons to look forward to this week, Wang says. "It becomes an occasion to do something, to gather makers you know or debut a new product or do a talk."


  • Montreal-based eyewear brand BonLook is collaborating with Canadian Olympic figure skater Tessa Virtue on a pair of optical and sunglass frames. Available online and in store beginning Jan. 15, each pair is engraved inside the temple with Virtue’s personal message of “Be fearless” and available in several shades. For more information, visit
  • Awards season is upon us, and that includes crowning the best retail window displays of the year. Have your say in the annual WindowsWear Awards, which recognizes the top window displays from around the world. This year’s program includes 36 different categories including Best Animated Window, Best Homage to a City Window, and Best Pink Window that can be voted for online. For more information, visit
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