Friday, March 20, 2009

Highlights of LG Fashion Week AW2009

Fashion editor Barbie (circa 2001)

One of the most noticeable changes this season was that the ticket price for media went down from $100 to $75. I still think it sucks that we (as in the "we, the Press") have to pay for any event that "we" give coverage for. This is akin to getting an advertising agency to pay funds to the company it's advertising. The company not only gets advertising for free, it gets money from the advertiser without even having to mention the advertiser or acknowledge it's existence. After all it's not like I saw posters for FAB magazine all over LG fashion week. So what gives?

The usual comments that I've gotten because photographers complain about this in London (not only in Toronto) is that fashion week _____ (name a place) can charge press money because other fashion weeks around the world are charging press money. Does that make it fair? No. But it is a reality.

That said, having to pay $60 canadian dollars (approx - based on the exchange rate last year) to cover London fashion week compared to paying $75 in Toronto really upsets me. Even if it's not my money, it is definitely money taken out of the magazine's budget which could go to paying me or some other photographer.

I might have brought this up before but here's a comparison.

$60 in London gets you, the photographer...
  • access to the photo pit at the different venues
  • a photo lounge (just for photographers, no other media) with internet.
  • lockers for your gear (provided you get there early)
  • access to a Canon service desk for your camera (it's a Canon sponsored event after all)
  • a bus (just for photographers, no other media) to take you to the different venues of which there are a lot more.
  • water without having to compete with the rest of the media or people in general.
  • access to food
  • incredible lighting in the main tent on the catwalk (consistent color temperature, and light levels at every point of the catwalk thanks to Simon the lighting tech).

$75 in Toronto gets you, the photographer...
  • access to the photo pit (maybe). Last year the photo pit for the secondary catwalk was so small only 12 photographers were allowed to shoot it based on knowing the FDCC main photographer. Positioning in the main photo pit is also determined by the FDCC photographer.
  • water (if there's any available).
  • kit kat chocolate bars (if any were available)
  • okay lighting in the fashion tent (sockets under the models eyes depending on where on the catwalk they were standing, front corners were poorly lit). On the plus side the lighting was better this season.

The other interesting thing about Toronto fashion week is that there are no on-site washrooms in the main fashion tent. Depending on what time you need to go, you either go to City Hall (which is not available at night), the skating rink washroom (which is kind of sketchy for a big to do event), or across the street to the Sheridan Centre Hotel.

The lack of washrooms is also apparent in the Scotiabank Nuit Blance all night art event as well. Perhaps Torontonians don't have to pee.

Now that I've gotten this off my chest I would like to say that by the fifth day I was quite impressed by the volunteers bringing bottled water directly out to photographers in the photo pit. It's a small gesture but a very welcomed one. For most photographers, shooting fashion week, hours are long, the air is stale, and while a bunch of models parade up and down the catwalk the position you're crouched in resembles a shrimp. A hunched over and cramped shrimp.

To add to that it's usually dark and there's risk of a gas leak from some fellow photographer that might have eaten beans the day before. You can't move so you're forced to breathe it in and hope it dissipates quickly. If it's really bad thank the heavens (or your camera manufacturer) for giving you autofocus for when your eyes start watering. Yes, this is the glamorous life of a fashion week photographer.

At one point my legs felt like they weren't going to work any more as the blood either pooled in them or didn't get to them thanks to the yoga like positioning of the body (the shrimp position). The tingling, burning sensation of your leg or body part falling asleep would have to be ignored while shooting. I didn't want to spasm, move and wreck someone else's shot not to mention my own.

I was lucky. I didn't have someone's foot in my back or someone lying on me, at least not for the beginning of the week. Over the course of the week, three people fell on me, I fell on a person getting out of my spot (with a cramped tingly leg), four monopods whacked me (by accident, so they say), my hand got stepped on, and I managed to save a monopod from falling. Unfortunately while saving the monopod the photographer who owned it fell into another photographer. Well the equipment was saved! There could have been a $5000 piece of camera gear on that afterall... could have...

Okay on to the highlights...


As it's Barbie's 50th anniversary, there was a display in the fashion tent showcasing 70 various Barbie dolls, some Barbie shoes and Barbie furniture. They even had a Barbie fashion show (with real models) . Upon exiting the fashion tent you received a random Barbie doll.


the Lundstrom collection

One of the more elegant collections this year, if not a tad conservative, was the Lundstrom line.

The photo pit

Marilyn Denis

If you thought Marilyn Denis was cool from listening to her on the CHUM morning show or watching her on city line, seeing her on the runway would hammer in that stereotype. While you could tell the audience was having a good time by the applause for each celebrity walking down the catwalk for the Heart Truth, it wasn't until Marilyn Denis came out in a Farley Chatto outfit with a finger in the air posing ala Saturday Night Fever and then started dancing down the catwalk to the Bee Gees "You should be Dancing" that the audience exploded. They started clapping to the music. You couldn't help but cheer her on as she pulled a few people out of the viewers area to dance with her.

As a photographer on the left side of the pit it caused real havoc. Getting photos of the outfits as half the catwalk was now blocked by dancing fools was impossible. Some days you get the photos and some days you don't. I felt bad for the guys that needed the photos to make money.



The middle day of the week and probably the busiest of Fashion week. Two designers, a break, then four of Toronto's biggest heavy hitters in a row, followed by some Love Show (what the heck is that?). Comrags, Andy The-Anh, Pink Tartan, and Joe Fresh.

It didn't take long for the photo pit to get cramped. Extra chairs were added to the side of the catwalk that started to encroach the photo pit area. The people in the audience could be compared to cattle squished into a small area inhumane spaces for mass production. In fact cows actually have more space than that of these people trying to get a glimpse of fashion.

The security were like the herding dogs trying to keep people out of the camera's line of sight. It was no small task. Photographers in the corner of the pit were getting stepped on. Camera gear knocked around. Stuffing that many people into the tent was not a great idea. I'm surprised it didn't flag some kind of fire hazard.

Some of the people couldn't even see from the back where they were. I saw a few storm out the emergency exit when they couldn't see anything of interest.

The Andy The-Anh collection

Andy's catwalk presentation was interesting in that the models were all over the place on the runway. They came in waves and as individuals. It was a nice change up from the standard one at a time sequence coming at you down the catwalk. Some photographers wait for the model to get to the end of the catwalk, stop and pose, to photograph them. This choreography messed them up a bit.

Andy The-Anh, the designer

After Pink Tartan and the Joe Fresh collection there was this Love Show on the schedule. None of the photographers knew what this was but we all stuck around to see it. We didn't have a choice. The love show started right after the Joe Fresh collection. I remember because I was in excruciating pain while people in the audience were given refreshments. Cramped into the position of a shrimp on one butt cheek made my ass sore. It seemed to take forever for Robin Kay to come out an address the audience and get on with it.

What followed was nice in theory but the results were not so great. A guy came out singing a Berry White tune which was then followed up by another singer and a church choir singing "All you need is love". The audience didn't seem to know what to do. Some of the choir women tried getting people up to dance. There was one incident where the person in the audience being pulled out of her chair didn't want to let go of her chair. In the end the choir person moved on to another guest leaving the one she pulled all flustered.

Jeanie Becker enjoys the Love show

Not everyone was a stiff in their chair. There were a few people that started to sing along near the end. Even Toronto Fashion icon Jeanie Becker seemed to be having a good time.

Finally the show was over, people were moving out and us photographers started crawling out of our spots to stand. It felt good to stretch the body and legs again. From the fashion tent to outside and then to the Brant House for the Calvin Klein show.

Calvin Klein catwalk at the Brant House

Due to the traffic in the fashion tent and the need to visit a washroom we didn't get to the Brant house until about 10:55pm. Five minutes before the scheduled show. It should be known that most fashion shows that take place at a pub or restaurant rarely start on time and this was no exception. That was great. We had time to settle in, get a drink, and strategically position ourselves for the oncoming catwalk.

While I'm not much of a clubber I would like to say that I really liked the DJ and his music selection that night. The overall atmosphere of the Brant house was a nice change of being couped up in the main tent's photo pit. The demographic consisted of people in their mid twenties, early thirties. For the most part well behaved and having fun. Very cool.


Stacey Mckenzie starts the line up for the all mens collection from Carlton Brown

The big surprise show was the Carlton Brown. Rumour had it that there would be some men's fashion in it and my fashion editor called me the night before to make sure I covered it. What we didn't know was that the whole collection was for men (with the exception of the first model). I have to admit that I really liked the catwalk attitude Stacey McKenize gave to us photographers. It really gave us something fun to shoot. Not just another lifeless fashion model that could have been replaced by a zombie. Oh no. No where close.

Ed Hardy

Next was the Ed Hardy show. People wearing swimsuits for autumn/winter? Sure why not, they were wearing head wear and scarves and the odd jacket after all. It could be winter hot tub wear after all. So okay, it was a lot of eye candy... a lot... for both sexes and the models were adorned wearing colourful bathing gear and studded jackets with designs to match your Ed Hardy cell phone bling.


Sara Duke of Ryerson U.

What looked to be a washout for men's wear for the day, based on reading the advance schedule, had a surprise in store for me. While shooting the clothing designed by Ryerson students mainly to reserve my shooting spot for future catwalks and to test shoot the lighting, one student, Sara Duke had made an all male clothing line. It showed potential.

On the saturday just after fashion week I showed these outfits to Max, the fashion editor at FAB, during our photo editing session. He was really impressed. So much so that he used one of the photos in the magazine (see photo above).

Sara Duke, if you're out there reading this. Congratulations and thanks for making my photographic day. If you want to read Max's writeup. It's FAB issue #369.

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