KEITH BEATY / TORSTAR news service


Yonge-Dundas Square will be home to the Fashion And Design Festival, on through this Saturday. See

The featureless concrete slab of Yonge-Dundas Square is getting a $1 million makeover: It’s where Toronto’s first Fashion And Design Festival is taking place this weekend.

The event hails from Montreal and promises lots of lights, cameras and runway action.

“What we are doing is ‘fashiontainment,’ because it is not a traditional fashion show,” says festival organizer Chantal Durivage of Sensation Mode. “There are some fashion shows and live music, dancers, animation, culture ... we break a little bit of the traditional fashion show and bring an aspect of entertainment around it.”

Retailers such as The Bay, Smart Set, Roots and RW & Co. are appearing on the runway — a natural since they have stores in the Eaton Centre across from the venue. The show runs until Saturday.

“We are talking to the consumer, the general public,” says Durivage, “They are not used to traditional fashion shows and what we want to tell them is that there is a theory around the clothes: It is an art, it is a culture.”

Whereas traditional fashion shows are exclusive, invitation-only events unveiling clothing for the next season, retailers are showing their end-of-season summer collections with a few fall teasers. In fact, the retailers may benefit more than the actual Toronto-based fashion designers, given the location and audience.

“I know there are amazing places like King and Queen and places around the water but we wanted to make sure that all of our brands and all of the people can get what they see very fast and very close,” Durivage says of the see-and-shop mentality that the festival embraces.

Toronto’s Izzy Camilleri is one of 16 local designers — most of whom will also show during L’Oreal Fashion Week in October — lending their clothes to support the festival’s Highlight Toronto runway show. “It’s more public awareness of the brand, honestly. I am not expecting much,” says Camilleri. “It is only going to be four outfits and it is going to be quick.”

Unlike the retailers who pay a fee to show their lines in separate runway shows, designers who are invited to show 10 or fewer outfits have to give up creative control, including casting of models and hair and makeup, in order to participate.

“There is not going to be much of a presence or a statement that will be made but, you know, it is always good to participate and promote Canadian fashion,” Camilleri says.

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