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L'Oréal Fashion Week Spring 2007 Preview

Heather Marks
following Pink Tartan
Today, two days before L'Oréal Fashion Week, I'm watching Fashion File's report on Pink Tartan's FW/06 collection. A big part of the story focuses on the participation of one of the world's most recognized models; Canadian Heather Marks. This story exposes Pink Tartan to potential consumers in more than 147 countries. Nice investment, eh?

The forthcoming edition of LFW is the first since the Fashion Design Council of Canada entered a new era of cooperation with Toronto's modelling agencies. That statement may sound somewhat grandiose, but if the recent goodwill exhibited between the FDCC and the agencies continues, Toronto may very well benefit from seeing more top Canadian models making this city part of their runway schedule. And that is nothing but positive for the designers.

This coming week will be particularly interesting for me, as several of the ideas Modelresource trumpeted in the past are now being put into practice. For instance, last season's fashion week summary concluded with the following:
I'm calling on the FDCC to appoint someone from the modelling industry to the Board of Directors, or at the very least to the Advisory Council. Somebody needs to be at the table when decisions are made to ensure the models have a voice. Someone needs to act as a liaison between the agencies and the organizers. And most importantly, now more than ever, the FDCC needs to demonstrate that it values the modelling industry's contributions and cares about its ongoing support.
By August the FDCC had indeed engaged the industry, and within weeks of the initial meeting Elite booker Matti Gidilevich had been selected by Toronto's agencies as their liaison.

Since then there has been major progress in recognizing both models and agencies, including one major initiative Modelresource has been suggesting for years.

The first time in fact, was more than three years ago - before there even was a dot-ca version of Modelresource - when offered this suggestion:
Another way to draw more attention to the event, and wave the flag at the same time, would be to bring in top Canadian models. Sao Paolo's fashion week used to be a blip on the fashion map. Now international media flock to Brazil to see the likes of Gisele, Isabeli Fontana, Alessandra Ambrósio or Ana Beatriz Barros.
A few weeks ago Toronto agencies were invited to submit names for the FDCC's consideration, and throughout the week five top Canadian models will be allocated, one per night, to a different designer's collection. Money has been set aside for flights, accommodations and a $1,000 show appearance for each model.

The head of the FDCC says she sees the value in having top models' names attached to the shows. "Our models are stars," Robin Kay told me during a recent interview, "and being Canadian we haven't believed in the star system, but we have to."

To her credit, Kay admits there hasn't always been proper recognition of the contributions made by the modelling industry. "I was battling through enormous obstacles while the industry was tremendously supportive, from the agencies, to the sponsors, to the designers, to the media. And now, I feel I am able to see the parts of the whole.

"The number one thing is to recognize the parts, and the authentic work they have done. Now, in the twelfth season of fashion week I feel I have the opportunity to focus on the agencies in a way that is more profitable to them both financially and professionally, by recognizing who they are, by having one as a liaison, by allowing more to happen around them on site. Because they are the industry. And through that my hope is that their talent will get more recognition and more business."

Kay stepped into the job of presenting Canada's largest fashion showcase at the time tobacco companies were no longer allowed to sponsor cultural events. DuMaurier, which Kay says contributed $500,000 in cash to previous shows, was no longer a benefactor. "I came in to a budget of $10,000."

The DuMaurier days are still recalled fondly by the agencies, as models regularly pulled in more than $1,000 during the shows. Today many of the models are lucky if they get paid at all. Kay points out however that with more money came fewer opportunities, saying "only 50 models were used for the entire week and had a guaranteed income. They did all the shows."

"And I wanted to do that one year, but we never had enough money for the models, and we also wanted a broader cast of models. Now, at least 100 models are able to experience it.

"But it's definitely worth a conversation. What can the FDCC do, to make sure the girls are getting paid?"

One thing the FDCC does not want to do is interfere with the agency/client relationship. It is the designers' role to select the models best suited to their runway vision. "I think that's the right way to do it, and that's certainly how it's done worldwide.

"But I think if the agencies felt that we could assist them by doing some sort of regulatory criteria we should talk about it as a group, and they should help us define it so we can do that on their behalf."

Recently the Council has formed bonds in with similarly minded organizations in places like Russia and Belgium, and are currently working to determine Canada's contribution to the inaugural World Fashion Week and World Fashion Awards to be held in Los Angeles.

Along with being charged with the task of selecting Canada's top designer, the FDCC has also been asked to select two Canadian models to attend WFW/WFA, all expenses paid. Expect to see the pair chosen from the five big names appearing this week.

Kay was a successful designer herself prior to founding the FDCC, so I thought it only fitting to ask what she would want to say to the models.

"It's true that every model makes or breaks an outfit. So I think having that knowledge and ownership of the service they're proving the designer is so important on so many levels.

"And I think models should look at being in the shows as a tremendous honour."

For the record, Modelresource agrees.


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advice from backstage

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  • Fashion Week Preview
  • FDCC Meeting Notes

    F/W '06 SUMMARY
  • Last season's recap

    S/S '06 SUMMARY
  • S/S '06 recap