In this extensive look back at the yearly Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA), Milan Tanedjikov offers an exclusive insight into the beginnings of LIGNES DE FUITE Talent Incubator. Moreover, he highlights the outstanding nominees originating from Montreal in this special 10th-anniversary edition.
My introduction to CAFA began through a mutual friend, Annie, who worked at ZOÏ, the PR agency responsible for the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards ceremony. This marked a significant turning point in my career. It was in the year 2014 when I began establishing my reputation as a creative fashion design lecturer at LaSalle College, overseeing the final year projects of graduate students and collaborating on the Signature Graduation Show. Simultaneously, I was deeply involved in THE FINE PRINT, a cool magazine project founded and led by Estelle Gervais, the editor-in-chief.
My role at LaSalle College seamlessly aligned with CAFA's mission to celebrate outstanding accomplishments and emerging talents in the Canadian fashion industry. I specifically contributed to the selection of LaSalle College students for the Fashion Student Award, a new initiative sponsored by Simons at the time. This undertaking strongly resonated with my ambition to bridge the gap between educational institutions and the industry. It was during this period that the need for a talent incubator for young designers became unmistakably clear in my mind. I'm deeply appreciative of CAFA and its founder, Vicky Milner, for providing me with a goal, a deadline, and a distinct sense of purpose for LIGNES DE FUITE.
More specifically, our challenge was to assist recent graduates from LaSalle College in creating distinctive five-look personal collections, emphasizing innovation and commercial appeal. A year later, Omega Li, the first graduate to undergo our LIGNES DE FUITE program, not only secured a nomination but also claimed the prestigious first prize. From 2016 onward, our mentees consistently secured nominations, with some years boasting two nominees. In 2022, during the first post-COVID edition of the awards ceremony, our protégé, Kevin Quang Thái Nguyễn, emerged victorious, validating the effectiveness of our incubation system. This transformation turned LIGNES DE FUITE from an Instagram account and print publication showcasing student work into a fully-fledged incubator. With over five years of experience, our one-of-a-kind educational initiative serves as an alternative for college graduates seeking independent design careers, bypassing unnecessary university courses and costs. We express our deep gratitude to industry professionals for their invaluable support, with a special acknowledgment of Céline Chicoine, without whom none of this would have been possible.
This year, our nominee was Will Crosson, a proponent of the New Sincerity movement, symbolizing a noteworthy cultural change. In opposition to postmodern design, Will's project emphasizes craftsmanship, a sense of belonging, ideal archetypes, and an unwavering commitment to perfection. Though he didn't secure the award, countercultural concepts like his can face delayed recognition. Nevertheless, Will holds undeniable potential to impact Canadian fashion.
Speaking of impact, what makes this year at CAFA particularly special for me is my decision to apply for the Fashion Impact Award. My goal was to establish LIGNES DE FUITE as an integrated yet independent entity. It comes as no surprise that LIGNES DE FUITE's nomination for the Fashion Impact Award of the Year marks a significant milestone. Furthermore, LIGNES DE FUITE, Vol. 3 print publication, art-directed by Raphael Viens and edited by myself, Gio Caci, Alexia Georgieva, Tishana Carnavalle, and Roxanne Ouellette-Bernier, stands as a truly unique platform deserving of wider recognition. In all honesty, there's nothing quite like it, not just in Canada but possibly in the world. Simply put, I am genuinely delighted to have been nominated, acknowledging the collective effort of many contributors. It's a true gift to everyone involved.
I'll spare you the intricate details, but ironically, obtaining the nomination appeared less daunting than navigating the logistics of attending the 10th-anniversary edition of CAFA in Toronto. Regardless, I managed to make my way to the event, which was highly anticipated and lavish. To my delight, it not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. While Montreal possesses its distinct coolness, it became apparent that Toronto had firmly cemented its status as the new epicenter of the Canadian fashion industry. The red carpet photographs, the sophisticated dinner, the vibrant crowd, and the lively party collectively delivered a truly unforgettable and enlightening experience. The evening was made even more special by the presence of close friends, colleagues from Montreal, and many former students. I was enthusiastic about celebrating their significant successes and, with the assistance of the talented young photographer, Connory Ballantyne, offering our audience an exclusive glimpse into the ambiance of the evening and their perspective on the significance of CAFA.
Garrett Naccarato, a former student at LaSalle College and a collaborator on THE FINE PRINT magazine project, was nominated for "Image Maker of the Year." Another former student of mine, Rebecca Lemire, who has launched a super interesting 3D seamless knitwear Olbrich, was nominated for the Innovation Award. In my opinion, her work contributes significantly to the much-needed reindustrialization of the Canadian manufacturing sector. I was also super happy for Jemée, one of the collaborators I had the pleasure of working with for LIGNES DE FUITE Print Publication, a tooth gem artist from Montreal, represented by Folio Artists. She secured a nomination in the NEW GEN category.
I also had the chance to hang out with Coco, another remarkable individual nominated in the "Fresh Face of the Year" category, represented by Human Kind Model Agency in Montreal, who achieved so much this year, gracing the runways in incredible shows in Paris. Notably, she was adorned in a creation by one of my former students, Olivier Vouligny.
In the Hair Stylist of the Year CAFA category, Montreal had two nominees: Stephane Scotto Di Cesare and Andrew Ly. Stephane is a master wig maker with whom I've collaborated on numerous occasions. I admire his nomadic ideology, and he is always a pleasure to talk with and exchange ideas. Andrew Ly, an equally talented Montreal beauty director, consistently demonstrates his remarkable skills year after year. It's worth mentioning that he secured the award, and I offer my heartfelt congratulations. In his words, he aptly summed up the significance of CAFA for the Canadian fashion and art community:
“What Vicky Milner and the team at CAFA have done for the Canadian fashion and art community is so important. We don’t have anything like this that brings our community together to celebrate our hard work and art. Most artists and designers lack funding, and it’s absolutely necessary to have an event like CAFA that brings us all together to celebrate, love, and support one another. We are a community after all.”
With this, I look forward to going back to work. I have a lot to do. We have managed to produce most of LIGNES DE FUITE Vol. 4 content, and now I am entering the editing stage. Our goal is to complete it in the spring and launch it in May in Montreal. I am also hopeful that I can put together an event in Toronto, possibly in collaboration with Vanja Vasic, the founder of FAT, who was also nominated for the Fashion Impact Award of the Year. I think we have a similar background and approach, and perhaps with some help from Cody from Liminul, LIGNES DE FUITE can finally conquer Toronto.
Text Milan Tanedjikov Images Connory Ballentyne, Chen Marry & Alexis Monet Video Jessy Collucci
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