A British invasion stormed Toronto last week as some of London's hottest young designers hopped the pond to hold court in The Bay's new luxury shopping oasis The Room for their God Save The Queen event. From vertiginous footwear wunderkinds Nicholas Kirkwood and Charlotte Dellal to prints master Erdem Moralioglu and knitwear star Mark Fast -- all the designers in attendance had something enviably unique to show off and something heartwarmingly kind to share about one another. After a private dinner, exclusive soiree, a full day of trunk shows and a panel discussion on London Fashion, it's safe to say these Brits are setting a fashionably quick pace for the future of fashion that's sure to keep us all on our well shod toes.
While a famous designer tends to sweep through Toronto every few months, it's incredibly rare for such an impressive handful of international visionaries to all be at a single event like God Save The Queen. This coup for The Bay comes after a string of successfully stylish events that are slowly but surely transforming the staid reputation of this venerable shopping institution. With a brand new gleaming white space curated by Creative Director Nicholas Mellamphy, The Room is going head-to-head with luxury shopping mecca Holt Renfrew; only time will tell whether there's room for them both in Toronto.
As the designers chatted on stage with author, broadcaster and fashion enthusiast Bronwyn Cosgrave during the London Fashion panel discussion, it became endearingly apparent that these designers are in fact all friends and respect each other's aesthetic. Certainly atypical of the notoriously cutthroat fashion industry, the camaraderie was genuine; "we have a wonderful sense of community where we all know each other and we're all friends... that's really special and really valuable," said Moralioglu. When asked who Dellal's dream collaboration would be with she didn't skip a beat, "any of the people here I'd love to collaborate with," she exclaimed. There is something so Canadian about their bond, perhaps due in part to some having Canadian roots, and in part thanks to their intuitive appreciation of the undeniable beauty of collaboration and the priceless feeling of support.
Cosgrave called Kirkwood the next Manolo Blahnik and Fast the next Azzedine Alaia but the reality is that each of the designers at God Save The Queen are unique in their own right and eager to push the boundaries of fashion in different ways. Though Kirkwood obviously favors a high, high heel, he's currently working on designs for a mid-height shoe and recently launched flat footwear. While he admitted that diversifying heel heights is indeed a strategic business decision, he insists that it's the challenge of making a new look interesting that's the true part of his personal mission. Collaborating with visionary designers like Rodarte's Mulleavy sisters challenges him even more, giving him "a chance to work outside my own box and design things I perhaps wouldn't normally put in my own collection." He was quick to remind everyone that influential fashion figures in London play an invaluable role in fostering confidence in young designers; he mentioned the late Isabella Blow -- one of his own personal mentors -- and designer Jonathan Saunders spoke about the incredible support highstreet chain TopShop has provided young British designers who have little money but big dreams. Lastly, the entire panel spoke of a pervasive sense of freedom in London, a freedom that's allowed them to realize their individual visions and make them a very stylish reality.
L-R: Marios Schwab (not pictured), Leith Clark, Erdem Moralioglu, Jonathan Saunders, Giles Deacon, Nicholas Kirkwood, Charlotte Dellal & Mark Fast.
God Save The Queen brought a unique British sensibility and charm to Toronto, reinforced The Room as a major fashion player not to be underestimated and hopefully, reminded everyone that truly beautiful things are created by passionate people who are brave enough to make their own magic. Toronto has a lot to learn but we're well on our way with just a little help from our friends.
Photos: Mallorie Bronfman-Thomas