When Toronto Fashion Week closed down in the summer, Canadian designers were set adrift. It didn’t take long for another initiative to take charge and results after the first day of FashionCAN added a clever twist to the runway format.

Design by Lucian Matis
Design by Stephan Caras

Organized by CAFA, the brains behind the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards, the FashionCAN showcase reduced the former week to two days and moved it into the yet-to-be-opened wing (doors open Tuesday) of Yorkdale Shopping Centre, one of North America’s highest grossing malls. And the golden ticket that made ALL the difference to the designers I spoke to – a FashionCAN pop-up shop will be open in Yorkdale until December 31 so designers get much needed exposure and sales. Brilliant.

Maybe it was the new location? Or the absence of the circus that TOFW had become? Sunday’s shows felt fresh and approachable with pieces that any fashion lover would thrill to wear.

Mackage kicked off Sunday’s show schedule right outside their new boutique. The Montreal duo of Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan know how to cut a cute winter jacket and the runway was packed with their coveted fitted parkas and fur trimmed snow boots. Extra points for Mackage’s arrow hardware handbags. So good.

Other highlights of day one included:

*Bustle Sprouts is the children’s wear collection on Bustle’s runway featuring Shawn and Ruth’s own curly blonde children. Too cute.

*Lucian Matis knows what his socialite fans want – major ballgowns, tight and sexy shift dresses, and printed pantsuits. His best look? A striped pantsuit with bias ruffle peplum and wide trousers. He also stole the show with his beauty approach of sleek hair with matte gold leaf headbands and oversized earrings.

*Stephane Caras and his son Kyriakos co-designed the latest Caras collection which delivered spring red carpet looks in pastel floral jacquards. The best pieces were short, frilled and sexy.

*The Feral is the new name for Sons of Odin and that untethered name is on point for the streetwise collection which stomped down the runway. Zac’s khaki jackets over mesh tees, ruched and tied knee-length trousers and oversized hoodies got a thumbs up from the guys in the front row.

*Mikhael Kale took it down a notch for a Rihanna worthy street look by layering corsets and origami bows over Kale logoed sweatshirts and hoodies.

*Calgarian Paul Hardy quietly stole the day with his lyrical collection of intricate looks featuring shearling jackets, knit leggings and ruffled safari blouses. Hardy always spins elaborate tales of inspiration for his romantic collections. Spring 17 is inspired by the Jewish legend about Lots wife who turned into a pillar of salt. Hardy wove that story into a moody colour palette of deep navy, smoke and salt with eclectic combinations of casual pieces (a raw leather cardigan) paired with formal (a chiffon and satin shirt dress and silk pearl necklace).

A pop-up of designer pieces will be open until Dec 31
Jeanne Beker interviewed designers after the show