A look from Sid Neigum's award-winning TFI New Labels collection. All photography courtesy of George Pimentel.In romance, three little words can make all the difference. In the Toronto fashion scene, it's three letters. TFI—the Toronto Fashion Incubator—has been nurturing local style talent for 25 years, counting designers such as David Dixon, Arthur Mendonça and Joeffer Caoc among its starry alumni. Last night, TFI celebrated its milestone with an appropriately stylish soirée—complete with two fashion competitions— at the Royal Ontario Museum. Inside the ROM crystal, guests circulated with champagne flutes, admiring all the posing on display, from fellow partiers, the dance flash mob and, in quieter form, from an installation of mannequins decked out in dresses created by TFI designers past and present. Every party needs a guest of honour, and last night it was Susan Langdon, the executive director of TFI, who, in her 18-year tenure, has transformed the incubator into a globally recognized innovator in how to support up-and-coming designers. (The first organization of its kind in the world, TFI has since inspired similar groups in 33 countries.) "Reaching 25 years is the accomplishment," Langdon told ELLE last night. "I feel so privileged to be able to work with the designers that we've worked with, to see them at the very beginnings of their careers and to watch them develop and grow." What has she learned about herself during the journey? "I'm a survivor. You have to be." We'll toast to that. For the first fashion competition of the evening, 25 designers/design labels created ensembles inspired by Barbie, that lissomé embodiment of traditional perfection. A playful-yet-elegant black and white striped outfit by Sar Couture took home the top prize, but we loved the finale look—a mermaid style dress with gorgeous, complex drapery worn by Dina Pugliese. The annual New Labels show started soon after. Competing for the $25,000 cash prize were nascent designers and labels Sid Neigum, Jameson Kane, [blak] i, and Patrick Larivée.
Designer Sid Neigum accepting the TFI New Labels award at TFI 25 in Toronto last night.Our table became unofficial Team Sid HQ—not only because Neigum's 12-look collection was the best of the night, nailing chic-minimalism-with-an-avant-garde-twist, but because Neigum's parents were sitting with us, cameras in hand, on the edge of their seats, as Suzanne Rogers announced the winner. And Sid it was. "I'm so proud—he's worked so hard," Sid's mom tearfully told the table as we squinted at the table's dusty pink hydrangeas, getting misty right along with her. Way to go, Sid. Congrats, TFI. All in all, a great night for Toronto fashion.