Politics, disorganization and a shortage of focused collections threatened to overshadow the seventh installment of Toronto Fashion Week, which ran March 22-26.

Tensions between certain designers reluctant to present their collections at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex and the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC) were not resolved in time for Fashion Week so that those who did not participate at the Grand were left off the printed official calendar. Attendance lists were also disorganized; there were recurring problems with seating assignments that resulted in shows being delayed.

Oftentimes, there was even the suggestion of a shorter three-day calendar.

More than 350 different media organizations attended the shows at the Grand and several off-site venues. Participants included respected Canadian brands such as MISURA, MACKAGE, HILARY RADLEY, LAYER and DAVID DIXON; young designers from the Toronto Fashion Incubator and urbanwear brands including ROCAWEAR, KILLAH and EVOLUTION L.A.B.B. There were also participants from the First Nations and Quebec.

In a series of addresses throughout the week, FDCC Robin Kay, the president of the FDCC, pinpointed Toronto Fashion Week’s overall weakness not on poor organization or talent, but poor self-promotion, and reiterated the FDCC’s commitment to branding Canadian talent.

As a result, this season saw the addition of retail events, a seminar and foreign flair to the calendar. London-based designer ASHISH was on hand to present an installation of his fall/winter 04-05 collection in i-cii boutique. New stores such as Franke and Boutique Le Trou in the trendy Queen West district hosted media visits.

Mid-week, celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch and brand development expert Rose Masnak delivered a seminar on building stronger brand identities and bringing more polish to runway presentations and front-row glamour to Fashion Week.

The highlight of Fashion Week was a retrospective runway presentation of MISSONI’s designs from 1958-2003, co-organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce.

Among the strongest collections for fall/winter 04-05, HOUSE OF SPY had an androgynous, ’20s quality. Drop-waisted mini-dresses in navy or black were decorated with oversized turquoise checks or subtle pink topstitching. Three-quarter sleeved red and olive boatneck sweaters with waist-ties, blousons and flared herringbone skirts with black ribbing were rendered in sueded cotton.

DAVID DIXON’s ’50s-inspired line included a mumsy ice blue topper, peony print silk blouses, gray herringbone jackets and skirts with sporty cobalt blue and black velvet banded hems, as well as dresses and jean jackets in silver silk lame.

ARTHUR MENDONÇA’s silky black and white striped blouses, jackets with nipped waists, cropped trousers, horizontal pleating and godets strove for a modern, sultry Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent look.

Menswear newcomer HAITHEM ELKADIKI updated the classics with subtle workwear and military influences, using brown or black bull denim on bomber-style jackets and four-pocket vests with leather trims, pockets and loops for gripping sewn on the spine. There were also shirts with storm flap detailing, straight-cut beige stretch cotton pants and jeans with touches of paint.

Equally impressive was KRANE, a line of oiled leather and canvas knapsacks, totes and duffel bags inspired by war map blueprints from the ’40s in military green, brown and black.

The overall trends for Toronto can be summed as neat silhouettes borrowed from the ’20s and ’60s, round-collared overcoats and bombers with ribbing, cropped bolero-style jackets, pencil or flared skirts no longer than the knee, floaty blouses, form-fitted capris and pants, often with equestrian-styled seaming. Fabrics ranged from tweed, glittery jersey and silk to leather used mainly as inserts. There was a lesser emphasis on prints, with stripes, checks and marble patterns appearing most often. Colors were mostly black, white, gray, chocolate, magenta, aqua, pea green, red and yellow.

- Tim Yap, Toronto Correspondent, Sportswear International