One week ago, I woke up thinking that this year’s edition of the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards was a great one! And it wasn’t because I had the chance to speak with lots of people I love and hadn’t seen in almost 3 years, or because I had so much fun at the after-party or even because I wore the most beautiful dress (thank you Wiwa!). Although all of this had an impact on how I felt, what stuck with me were the heartfelt and inspiring speeches from winners that really showcased the diversity of our industry – something that we definitely don’t see enough!
Whether it was Ethiopian beauty Awar Odhiang winning the Model of the Year Award, non-binary makeup artist, stylist and content creator Myles Sexton scoring the Digital Fashion Creator Award or designer Izzy Camilleri receiving the Fashion Impact Award for her designs created specifically for wheelchair users… all night I thought to myself « representation matters, representation matters, representation matters »!
Of course, inclusive representation matters in all industries, but I feel it’s particularly important in fashion because… it affects every single one of us; after all, we all get dressed! The images we create, the clothes we design, the models we choose need to be an inspiration for everyone. And if some people or groups feel left out of the style conversation… then fashion is failing. But Saturday at the CAFAs, fashion was definitely winning! And that’s why I was so happy to witness what I hope is a turning point in our industry.
I was especially happy to see the strong representation of indigenous fashion talents, helmed by Sage Paul, who received one of the two Changemaker awards of the night. This prize was introduced this year to celebrate individuals who have spearheaded meaningful, positive and progressive change within the fashion industry… and that’s exactly what Sage Paul has done with the creation of Indigenous Fashion Arts – a festival/platform/marketplace that showcases Indigenous talents and amplifies their voices to a broader audience, both in Canada and internationally. Among the many projects she made happen, you might’ve heard about a fashion collaboration with Maison Simons… The 2020 collab featured creations by 8 Indigenous designers from different communities in Canada and the result was beautiful. I personally bought two pieces and wrote about the collection right here! All this to say that this award was so very deserved and that I can’t wait to see more Indigenous designs in mainstream fashion.
The second Changemaker Award honoured George Sully, who also supports, uplifts, represents and amplifies the voices of his community through Black designers of Canada, a platform he created in 2020. Right now, the website features more than 200 designers that work in fashion, but also furniture, interior, industrial and graphic design. And every year, Black Designers of Canada celebrates its growing community with the BDC Awards of Excellence.
What amazes me the most about these two individuals is that they know firsthand the challenges both Indigenous and Black designers face in our industry, and they didn’t only break barriers for themselves, but made it their mission to be a vector of change for their communities… and I couldn’t be happier that CAFA decided to shine a light on their work.
I also want to give a shoutout to our Montreal winners : Maguire (Emerging Talent Accessories), Kevin Quang Thai Nguyen (Fashion Design Student) and Marie-Ève Lecavalier, who brought home the most coveted award of the night (Womenswear Designer of the year)… just 3 years after winning Emerging Fashion Designer! If you don’t know her work, please go check it out. You will be amazed!
Lastly, let me congratulate Vicky Milner and her team for this wonderful 2022 edition. Vicky, I’ve told you many times how proud I am to be part of the nominating committee… and I have to say that my feeling was even stronger this year!
Already can’t wait for the next gala!
All images are by George Pimentel