Byline: Miles Socha

TORONTO — Body-conscious suits and suit looks seemed to be foremost in buyers’ minds, as everything from sweatpants to ball gowns paraded in front of record crowds at the Toronto Ready-to-Wear Canadian Collections here.
Retailers praised the polished presentation and the fall collections that were full of shapely, ladylike suits as well as plush outerwear and unusual fuzzy and shiny fabrics. Outerwear was rated as another important category.
“I thought [the collections] were really great: lots of variety and very career-focused,” said Sheila Lendie, bridge buyer for Eaton’s, a 103-unit national department store chain. Echoing many others, Lendie said the suit, “in all its interpretations,” would be the focus of her seasonal buying.
“Everything is contoured to the body,” she said, and well accessorized with hats, gloves and high-heeled shoes for a pulled-together, conservative chic.
Most designers presented hip-length, waist-conscious jackets with pegged skirts that hit at the knee for a Forties retro look. But there were also cropped jackets shown with high-waisted pants and fingertip-length styles covering a variety of bottoms.
Lendie was one of several hundred buyers — mainly independent retailers from the Toronto area — who attended the two days of runway shows, which ended Feb. 13 at Toronto’s Hilton. Organizers of the event, now in its fifth year, estimate a record 1,200 attended, up 30 percent from the spring collections in September. The crowd included a large press contingent, buyers and apparel industry officials. They credited a Sunday opening and effective advertising for the hefty turnout. Although a few American buyers preregistered, organizers could not confirm their attendance.
A total of 21 designers from across Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia presented their offerings. The more prominent names included Brian Bailey, Michel Desjardins, Franco Mirabelli and Angela Bucaro.
As for budgets, many buyers said they planned to spend about the same as last fall or move up 5 to 10 percent. Buyers noted their interest in outerwear reflected more than Canada’s cold winters.
“Every designer had coats in their collection,” Eaton’s Lendie pointed out. “They obviously seem to think there’s a strong market. Three-quarter knee-length seems to be a good option because it doubles as dressy and casual.”
She was especially enthusiastic about Montreal outerwear designer Hilary Radley’s collection. It included iridescent, quilted parkas and fur-trimmed wool overcoats. “The merchandise is incredible,” said Lendie.
Mary Lu Toms, co-owner of Toronto’s Finishing Touches, a 3,000-square-foot boutique specializing in Canadian designer fashion, said the collections reflected a growing maturity and confidence among Canadian designers.
“I’m seeing people who are not afraid to make their own direction,” she said, praising a range of looks from the artful, eccentric creations of Montreal’s Marie Saint Pierre and the solid, salable sportswear of Toronto’s Brian Bailey. “The workmanship is excellent, even among the young designers.”
Toms also noted she planned to buy lots of outerwear, aware of a growing trend among customers to purchase multiple items and complete outfits.
“It’s a good overview, from classics to streetwear,” agreed Mary Turner, buyer of better sportswear for Hudson’s Bay Co., which operates 101 Bay department stores.
Turner said the collections reflect a new interest in skirt silhouettes, ranging from tulip and pleated shapes well above the knee to past-the-knee styles that were straight and pegged or flared and slit at one side. “All of the lengths looked great.”
She also liked satin skirts in bright jewel tones, pinstriped suits and the soft purple, green and pink blouses that enlivened a largely neutral palette. Turner also stressed the importance of shiny and fuzzy fabrics, often mixed with abandon in outfits.
— Fairchild News Service