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Backstage at Toronto Fashion Week

I can’t say I strutted down the catwalk; it was more of a trot really. Luckily there was no one in the audience as I’m not exactly model material – I was busy eyeing up the SWAG bags on the front row to be honest. We were being led down the catwalk by an efficient looking lady wearing a head set. She suddenly veered to the left at the end of the runway and encouraged us to duck behind a thick black curtain.

Walking the catwalk

Toronto Tourism together with the brilliant Karen from Tippett PR had somehow negotiated us backstage access to Toronto Fashion Week. Behind the curtains I was expecting to find the air chokingly thick with hair spray, half naked skinny women and lots of shouting from harassed looking divas. What we found was an almost serene scene, the models looked they were being pampered instead of prodded and the make up artists and stylists weren’t too flustered or self important to talk to us about their work.

“We’re going for a very simple, straight, centre-parted look for the hair today,” the head stylist for Redken in charge of the look for the Pink Tartan show informed us. He waved towards the rows of models, sitting patiently as their hair of varying shades was ironed by assistants. The only manic movements came from me as I darted about photographing them all.

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“We chose a bold plum lip to accentuate the gold on her eyes,” said Grace Lee, the lead make up artist for Maybelline in Canada who was in charge of the models faces. She was holding a short tutorial for the press (made up mainly of beauty and fashion bloggers) explaining the look for the show whilst her assistant handed us a bag containing all the Maybelline make up we would need to recreate it. (Highly recommend the dream bouncy blush Ladies; it genuinely bounces to the touch in a dreamy fashion.) Someone on the edge of the circle was politely trying to get Grace’s attention. The show preceding Pink Tartan was about to go on and the models needing touching up. Grace looked momentarily torn; she excused herself from the group, which she seemed genuinely apologetic about having to leave to continue her job. She returned a few minutes later, brushes in hand, job complete and ready to turn her attention once again to us. I felt honoured.

Grace Lee applying make up
The tool kit!

The make up for Pink Tartan by Grace Lee at Maybelline

We swing by the media area on the way to our seats and I take the opportunity to stock up on Vitamin Water and fresh fruit. In comparison to backstage the front of house is buzzing, literally swarming with Canadian fashionistas. I spy a lot of neon, including satchels, and some interesting headwear, they type of which I had last seen at the Ascot Races. Generally though, the audience is well dressed in an elegant but not intimidating way. I am still wondering how all the people currently spilling onto the runway are going to fit on the benches when the lights drop and the Pink Tartan show begins.

I covet every single item of the Pink Tartan collection. The items with feathers, peplums, silk – I want them all. The whole collection is incredibly elegant but also completely wearable. My ignorant summation of the collection would be: if Reiss were Canadian. What really struck me was the models ability to wear the outerwear without having their arms in the sleeves. This, Grazia informs me, is the new fashion for jackets and coats and is known as ‘The Shrug’. You can forget shoulder bags this season then!

The 'shrug' at Pink Tartan

Furry at Pink Tartan

The final show at Toronto Fashion was quite special! Dare to Wear Love is a charitable initiative whereby the designers are invited to create an outfit for the themed show and local celebs and dignitaries model them, with much bravado. A breakfast TV presenter egged on the crowd as she walked the runway, a wrestler had everyone in stitches when she (yes she!) carried a man down the catwalk and a young girl who had earned her place in the show by raising a lot of money for charity had everyone in tears, apart from her Dad who just whooped all the while. Another highlight was the reggae singer that provided the crooning accompaniment on the catwalk to Bob Marley’s gorgeous granddaughter Donisha Prendergrast. Great fun for a great cause – the funds raised at the event help to turn the tide against HIV and AIDS in Africa through the support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

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Cydelic by Choryin modelled by Trish Stratus, WWE wrestler and model Photo George Pimentel

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Franke by Kendra Francis modelled by Donisha Prendergast, artist and granddaughter of Bob Marley Photo by George Pimentel

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Susan Dicks and Co modelled by Dare to Wear Red Winner— Danielle Brown Photo by George Pimentel

Dare to Wear Love was a charming conclusion to a Fashion Week that oozed sophistication and charm, front and backstage.

Click here to find out what it’s like to dine at the top of Toronto’s CN Tower.

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