Fashion has always been fickle, but never quite like this. This past September, eight students from around Toronto’s academic block (George Brown, Academy of Design and Seneca College) took part in a fashion challenge that went against the grain of conventional design. You can forget about the garbage dump romps noted on last season’s Project Runway; these wannabe designers were met with an even greater and, well, delicate challenge — the Cashmere Student Design Competition (which also staged a similar show with Montreal fashion design students), curated by one of the nation’s favourite fashion darlings, David Dixon. Each competitor participated in a first for the world of couture: creating a dress made entirely of bathroom tissue. And they didn’t disappoint.

The catwalk, adorned with, yes, you guessed it, Cashmere toilet paper, saw models strutting the runway in confections worthy of a Barney’s buyer’s eye. Given total artistic freedom, the vibe was a sexed-up version of a winter fairytale. And the design aesthetic? One tall order. Tissue was stiffened to create a papier mâché-like fabric; some pieces were braided while others were constructed with precision pleats. Perhaps the most innovative was one enterprising student’s task of spinning the material into yarn so as to knit the pieces on a very flirtatious sundress.

The winner, Nancy Hoang, a 20-year-old student from George Brown, took inspiration from ballerinas and fairy tales to design a girly frock adorned with papier-mâché flowers and a textured three-layer skirt. “In terms of her technique and the combination of that with her vision of childhood dreams, you saw a story tied together so well,” says Susan Langdon, executive director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator, and one of four judges on the panel. She adds that it was a tough decision to make, but Hoang’s design was the most innovative and detailed of the competitors. The second-year student leaves with a bursary for $2,500 and a memorable experience. “People will actually get an idea of how my designing is and how my creativity is,” says a gleeful Hoang.

Click here to see runway images.

Image courtesy Geoff Barrenger