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Design diversity

On one side of the catwalk sit nervous budding designers, their eyes the sole indicators of any present jitters.

On one side of the catwalk sit nervous budding designers, their eyes the sole indicators of any present jitters. Judgment, on the other hand, flows from the facial expressions of the fashion professionals who scribble notes as garments slink by on the svelte limbs of the models on parade.

This vogue vision is not filling the tents at Toronto Fashion Week, nor the seasonal debuts in New York or Paris. The scene is ripped from the unexpectedly stylish streets of Ottawa, the backdrop for the second season of design reality program Project Runway Canada, in which 14 aspiring designers compete for $100,000.

“The style in Ottawa tends to be thought of as conservative and high quality, with embassies and ambassadors and all kinds of high-end events,” said Andrea Gabourie, the series’ executive producer. “But I think there’s a real emerging diversity in fashion here ... One of our goals with the show is making Canadians excited about knowing who the Canadian fashion designers are and buying their clothes.”

Elevating designers into national recognition is largely established by the immediacy with which the show allows a complete unknown to display their construction and design abilities not just to the Canadian public, but also to internationally respected designers.

Brian Bailey is one of them. The women’s sportswear and eveningwear designer and Canada’s first to produce complementary collections for both traditional and plus sizes returns this season to mentor the contestants.

“It’s about immediate brand building,” Bailey said. “It’s about delivering into the hearts and homes of Canadians across Canada that watch television that we have a Canadian design industry and that (its designers) are fabulous! That’s a damn nice Canadian thing to say, isn’t it?”

But, while it may be nice to make Canadian designers feel special, there’s no denying the misconception that the show is a fashion stepchild to the United States, says this season’s host supermodel Iman.

“They have no idea how great their talent is, so they don’t bring their game on because they think, ‘Oh where will it go?’

“Fashion is global. There’s not just a Canadian designer.”

She begs to prove the Canadian designers wrong by bringing her industry expertise to the table.

“By sheer luck, wouldn’t it be great if I discovered the genius of tomorrow?” she says, with a roar of laughter.

Ready for takeoff

• Project Runway Canada premieres on Global TV Tuesday night at 10 p.m.

 
 
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