“I think Canadians are self-loathing, or we don’t think we’re cool,” Alberta-born, Toronto-based designer Sid Neigum tells me in his studio. “Something’s not good until it’s sold internationally. We see that in music all the time [too].” This issue is one that all Canadian designers are well-versed in. Since his debut at Toronto Fashion Week in 2011, Sid Neigum’s label has gone on to win every major national competition available to emerging designers, in addition to other numerous accolades. Despite this warm reception from the media and fashion incubators, Neigum’s success with local buyers has been limited to avant-garde retailers like The Room and Jonathan+Olivia.
At first glance, this may not seem odd—his is still a youngish label, after all. However, the response to the line from international buyers seems to have exceeded the often-ambivalent attitude Canadian stores reserve for homegrown talent. Neigum has a solid customer base within the Asian market, and often makes the trip to Paris during fashion week to meet with buyers there. “A lot of times what I’ve experienced is that Canada is so foreign [in Asia], they just think it’s more interesting, [in the same way] we sometimes think Asian designers are more interesting.” Certainly, otherness is appealing. But what about national pride? Our neighbours to the south figured out the economic benefits of nurturing domestic talent decades ago (see: the extravaganza that is now New York Fashion Week).
Then again, Toronto Fashion Week will never be NYFW—we simply don’t have the population or international cache to support an event of that magnitude. Which means that for Canadian designers looking to expand their business, the next logical step is to show in one of the four fashion capitals. “Showing internationally has been a goal since day one, I just haven’t had the opportunity to do it,” Neigum says. That is, until he was chosen as the Canadian recipient of DHL’s Exported program last year, which afforded him the chance to show both his Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 collections in a city of his choosing. “I picked London because I felt strongly about it being a place for more avant-garde [collections] versus New York [which is] more street, and Milan [is] more designer. Tokyo was a contender as well, but there’s a history of Canadians showing in London like Thomas Tait, Erdem, and Mark Fast, so I think it’s a natural progression.”
Last night marked Neigum’s London debut, with his Fall 2016 show serving up some of the designer’s signature fashion formulas. This season specifically drew on the geometric implications of the golden ratio, translated into proportions and silhouettes to be worn on the body. The fabrics tapped into Neigum’s flair for the scientific, incorporating polyurethane blends, neoprene, and even a custom textile comprised of 28% metal—ideal for the experimental vibe that permeates LFW. “I plan to show in London from now on,” Neigum states matter-of-factly, before—ever the even-keeled Canadian—diplomatically adding, “but I’ll keep my homebase and continue doing things here.” For now.
Click through the gallery for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Sid Neigum Fall 2016 collection, as well as some highlights from last night’s presentation.
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