Off the Runway





Fall/Winter 2008

L'Oréal Fashion Week Recap

Many of my LFW badges of courage;
reminders of past fashion weeks
If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn't, wear if anyway and endure the ridicule.

I'm not being arrogant (well, maybe a little), but I know what I'm talking about. I've spent more time at the shows than just about anyone in the last bunch of years, and my focus has always been on the models. I watch them, I cast them, I work with them backstage, I talk to them, and most importantly I listen to them. Very often the shoes don't fit them.

Town Shoes has, for years, been a very supportive force, and we should all be grateful for their ongoing generosity. But designers do not pick up the footwear until the day before their respective shows, and it very often happens that the shoes are the wrong size. It isn't Town Shoes' fault, and I'm not blaming them even a little for any runway follies. It's just reality that when a designer can't match model to heel until the moments leading up to the show, they're risking missteps and mishaps.

I wasn't privy to the panel discussion Saturday that followed the L'Oréal Fashion Week, but from what I've heard the models were again under fire for not knowing how to walk. That's bullshit. This was the strongest collection of models Toronto has seen in the many seasons I've been attending, and for the most part they did the job brilliantly.

There were bad moments and there were weak models, but if you don't think that happens elsewhere you're being naïve. Lots of models with star potential are cast in Paris and Milan before they know how to walk, and lots of experienced runway types in New York and London are put in ill-fitting shoes.

The girls I worked with on Carlie Wong's and Nada Yousif's shows (both of which used Town Shoes) will recall me confirming their shoe size at the fittings, and having them try on their heels as soon as they finished hair & makeup on the day of show. Wong's show wanted a harder walk and the girls delivered. Yousif's show was a leisurely stroll though Paris, and again, the girls delivered. If they didn't, it would be my fault, and I would wear it.

Sadly, it's a time honoured tradition to pass the buck and blame the models. They can't speak up for themselves or they get labelled as troublemakers, and that sucks because honestly they don't get paid enough to endure that. Following numerous unpaid hours of travel to and from castings and callbacks, the money from bookings then pays for fittings, rehearsals, hair & makeup and the show itself. Really, the models don't make a lot of cash, and what they do is subject to a 20% cut for their agency, which is also generally going above and beyond to support Canadian fashion.

The rest of the industry needs to be more careful about where they point their fingers unless they want to lose access to the enormous pool of talent this city is blessed to have.

Unfortunately, life isn't always fair and many of the models that have consistently supported L'Oreal Fashion Week through the less enjoyable times weren't booked much this season. That so many agencies brought in models from the B.C., Alberta and Quebec is testimony to the improvements at LFW (and for that, kudos to the Fashion Design Council of Canada).

To the models that did book shows this season, congratulations. It wasn't easy, and you won your spot(s) over some amazing talent. On a personal note, for the four shows I was involved in casting, I found myself disappointed by the number of models I did not get to work with there are only so many spots available and some of my favourite people got left out. Like me, several agents were left scratching their heads at the number of runway vets that weren't getting booked. I don't think anyone expected so many agencies bringing in so much talent.

My thanks to four behind-the-scenes people that made fashion week an outstanding experience for me this season:

  • Modelresource's photographers Maja Hajduk and Matthew Lyn, who understand that getting images of the collections is nice... but I want the models.
  • Casting Agent Paola Palozzi-Fullerton, who I've watched with awe for years, and taught me what it means to really produce a show from start to finish.
  • Makeup artist Hung Vanngo, for reasons I won't say here... but trust me, he did something good for all of us this week.

    To the agents and bookers, congratulations on making this the strongest season ever, irrespective of the politics.

    To the many parents I spoke with, thank you for reminding me why I started this site in the first place.

    Finally, and most importantly, to the models themselves, thank you for your constant inspiration and support. I'm so damn lucky to do this as a job, and it's you that makes it possible. Please know your ongoing efforts are appreciated.


    Dan Grant,
  • Show Packages