Toronto Fashion Week

The crowd was eager with anticipation as it has been years since Thien Le has shown his designs at Toronto’s L’Oreal Fashion Week.


No one was disappointed when the models made their way through the lunchtime gathering of 40 people last Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons Hotel. In fact, silence fell as the first kimono came onto the floor.


Even the show’s announcer Mary Symons, president of the non-profit Toronto Fashion Incubator and a former Dior house model, kept mum for most of the show, allowing everyone to simply take in the fruits of an artist’s labour.



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Looks from Thien Le’s fall 2007 collection, presented during Toronto’s L’Oréal Fashion Week.

Part of the collection was lavish Japanese-inspired designs: a kimono-fashioned jacket, gowns styled after kimonos and then a traditional embroidered wedding kimono over a white wedding dress. The other part was a salute to the glamour and silhouette of the Great Gatsby era: bias-cut gowns, sequin-covered gowns and dresses in chiffon and burned-out velvet.

Shirley Douglas, a fan of Le’s work, thought a restaurant over lunch was the perfect venue for such an elegant show.

“With all the natural light -— not the harsh spotlights — you could really see, appreciate the fabric and the designs.”

She knows a thing or two about restaurant fashion shows as she was once a model for a fashion house in England.

“I worked for Dior when I was about 19,” said the petite actor, explaining that the designer was dabbling in a line for smaller women and was using her, at five-foot-two, to create cutting patterns.

She also worked for another English company, where she had to model outfits and tell buyers the price. But the actor in her surfaced and she enunciated the prices as if she were on stage and the designer asked to tone it down a little.

“I was with all the giant models. I was sort of the tiny mascot,” she said. “Fashion saved me as I was fortunate that I never had to work in a restaurant.”

When asked why he hasn’t taken part in Toronto Fashion Week in the past few years, Le said it was because of time and money.

“It costs a lot and I don’t like to spend my time organizing things. I like to spend my time making clothes.”

In addition to spending on fabrics (he said he could have bought a BMW with all the money he spent on kimono silk), Le has adopted 60 children in Vietnam who live in a monastery there.

“I have been making donations for a long time, but when I went there and saw how these kids live, I realized that I am a spoiled brat and I had to adopt them,” he said, adding that he wants them to live in the country where they were born but wants to make sure they have better living conditions.