For those just starting out in the fashion industry, getting funding, mentorship, and exposure can be a very real struggle. For the fourth year in a row, Mercedes-Benz is offering young Canadian artists the chance to see all that hard work pay off. The Mercedes-Benz Start Up (MBSU) National Finale Runway, last night at World MasterCard Fashion Week, saw 6 emerging designers from across the country present mini-collections – all competing for the highly-coveted prize of a $30,000 bursary, mentorship, and, of course, the prestigious title of Mercedes-Benz Start Up Award Designer. Previous winners include MARTIN LIM, DUY, Malorie Urbanovitch, and Matière Noire – many of whom have gone on to experience international acclaim, among innumerable other benefits of the program.
In a showdown reminiscent of my favourite season finales of Project Runway, the 6 program finalists presented their best for spring/summer 2015 looks. Dare we say Bernadette Morra played an excellent Nina Garcia? Among the crème de la crème presenting were Toronto-based womenswear and accessories sister duo Chloe and Parris Gordon, better known as Beaufille; Parson’s and Central Saint Martins’ grad, Laura Siegel; cutting-edge lifestyle designers Helder Aguiar and Diego Fuchs, with their label BLAK.I; Portugal and Montreal-trained Valerie Tolila with her line, VAIKEN; Vancouver-Island-based west coast girl Eliza Faulkner; and Alberta-born, New-York-trained, Toronto Fashion Incubator New Labels Award winner Sid Neigum.
As our favourite Toronto fashion week Twitters have doubtlessly already informed you, Sid Neigum ultimately took home the prize. His collection, featuring strong structural elements, loose silhouettes, woven fabric, cutout designs, and a monochromatic colour palette, left the room in an excited silence. If I had to take a stab at where he drew his inspiration from, I would say it was somewhere between origami and an episode of Touched By An Angel — in the best way, of course. Neigum’s construction and taste level are impeccable and, while the other designers put forward excellent presentations, his level of polish and attention to detail made him the clear winner.
At the risk of raining a little bit on the parade though, there was some controversy within the fashion community regarding the finalist choices. While the award can be given to anybody who launched his or her line within the last 5 years, certain designers have been around for a few seasons (and solo shows) at World MasterCard Fashion Week. This draws into question what it actually means to be a “start up” fashion label. We mention this not as a commentary on the events of last night so much as a desire to start a conversation about how best to allocate funds, support, and exposure to artists at the beginnings of their careers. Would somebody with incredible vision but less experience and polish due to their age have had a fighting chance?
Other highlights from the MBSU runway included Beaufille’s use of very 90s-referential oxblood-dyed leather, Laura Siegel’s incorporation of turbans (officially predicting this one as a mass market trend within the next year or two), all-white-everything at Vaiken, and an all-blue-everything borderline Canadian tuxedo at Eliza Faulkner. (Editor’s Note: Be sure check out our Twitter @ViewTheVibe for shots of our favourite looks from the tents.) The Mercedes-Benz Start Up Awards never fail to deliver an amazing catwalk and, paired with the Joe Fresh party highlighting emerging designers, the evening could not have gone more perfectly.
Congratulations, Sid Neigum. We cannot wait to see more from you.
What did you think of the MSBU Awards showcase? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at @ViewTheVibe