TORONTO – Toronto Fashion Week is calling it quits.

In a move that surprised the industry, IMG Canada last week said that it would end the semi-annual event due to lack of financial support on a local commercial level.

“This is a huge blow to our industry,” said Toronto Fashion Incubator executive director Susan Langdon, whose organization works with young Canadian designers to develop their brands. “If anyone could have secured a big-name sponsor for this event it would have been IMG. But even they couldn’t find a presenting sponsor given Canada’s tough economic climate.

“Now this will mean limiting the exposure for up-and-coming Canadian designers,” said Langdon. “It will also mean more financial burden for designers, particularly newcomers. Now they will each have to produce their own shows, which even at a bare-bones level could cost $25,000 [Canadian, or about $19,390]. That’s a lot for someone starting out in this industry,” Langdon added.

IMG Canada operated this event since 2012. It is known as the largest fashion week in Canada and the second largest in North America in collaboration with its parent company, IMG World, which manages fashion weeks internationally in New York, Tokyo and Sydney.

But hopes remain high that TFW’s end will spawn some new entity that can survive and thrive.

“The time had come for this event to evolve,” said Canadian designer David Dixon. “I know this all sounds so final, but this change of guard has happened before.”

Matinée Fashion Foundation, for example, withdrew its financial support for Toronto Fashion Week in 2000, but the show went on. The event also lost its title as World MasterCard Fashion Week in March 2016, when that sponsor withdrew its support.

“I believe a keen eye will come along and see what is engaging about Toronto Fashion Week and resurrect it again,” said Dixon.