With another Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM) just under his stylish belt, Jeff Rustia, the founder and executive director of the event, chats with IN about menswear—at home and abroad.
IN MAGAZINE How has TOM helped to put Canadian men’s designers on the map?
JEFF RUSTIA From the very beginning, TOM was always built and designed to increase the profile and image of menswear in Canada. I am very happy to see that Toronto’s own men-focused fashion week has opened the floodgates of opportunity for Canadian menswear designers on many levels. It has definitely increased brand awareness and catapulted many of the menswear designers from anonymity into stardom. The event has attracted both national and global attention, giving designers international exposure in publications such as Vogue Italia, WWD, GQ, Details and even Forbes Magazine. On a business level, it has further stimulated an already-growing business of men’s fashion in Canada, providing a platform for menswear designers to showcase their collections firsthand to retailers, stockists, department stores, editors, media and directly to a growing audience of new male consumers.
IN What’s the biggest challenge in pulling together an event such as this one?
JR Like any big event, it requires project management, team effort and the ability to orchestrate many different moving parts at the same time—all with the focus on producing a world-class fashion week that would showcase the best of Canada and its talent. In just three seasons, Toronto Men’s Fashion Week has grown to such epic proportions, with more than 15,000 total visitors, over 20 menswear designer presentations, hundreds of male models, 400 designer looks, 40 corporate sponsors, 200 backstage crew members and volunteers, spanning eight days and nights. That includes trunk shows, showrooms, TOM talks, panel series, meet-and-greets and power brunches. All of this would not be possible without the support and passion of our Sponsors, Patrons, Friends and, most of all, our TOM crew and volunteers.
IN How is the fashion world’s perception of Canadian designers changing?
JR The national and global attention we’ve received has definitely put the spotlight on Toronto and, specifically, on Toronto Men’s Fashion Week. TOM has proven to be an amazing platform to show the world what Toronto has to offer in terms of homegrown talented menswear designers. As a result, it has further strengthened the perception that Canadian designers are fashion forward, innovative and creative.
IN What are two or three of the biggest changes you’ve seen in men’s fashion over the past decade?
JR Men’s fashion has become more daring these days. Although it may still be a classic cut, you’ll find the blue business suit has broken out of its usual mould with the introduction of more bright colours, from electric blue to shocking pink. I’m also seeing more patterns, camouflage, glitter and shimmer in men’s clothes from two-piece suits to casual wear. And I love the fact that men today are experimenting with and using more accessories to finish their looks and outfits—from pocket squares to bow ties, hats and sunglasses.
IN Where do you see men’s fashion going?
JR I think men’s fashion will continue to head toward its current direction of marrying classic design with a modern edge. Men love anything with a tale, like the wingtip shoe or a tweed jacket or a pocket square. But at the same time, the new millennial man is unashamed about being more fashion-daring and adding that modern twist to his style, which can manifest itself through the use of more shiny, metallic fabrics, bright colours and patterns.
IN Are there two or three accessories to watch for in the coming year?
JR It’s a very exciting time to be a man—and a very exciting season for men’s accessories. All things boyish are making a comeback in spring-summer 2016, with key accessories such as the classic baseball cap to scout-style bandana neckerchiefs to the ever-so-chic slip-on shoes. Many of the world’s top menswear designers are incorporating these looks, ranging from casual day to evening wear. TOM’s ad campaign carried examples of these accessories.
IN There’s a lot said about finding one’s personal style: How do you think one taps into that?
JR Personal style is very important. It goes beyond just making a good first impression. Great style is about confidence. In my opinion, you can tap into your personal style simply by understanding yourself, what you really like and, of course, what looks good on you. I always say, Be true to yourself and be creative. Experiment with just about everything—patterns, textures, colours, shoes, accessories…until you hit the point when you say, Now, this is me! It’s all about feeling good in your own skin. Your style should reflect your personality, individuality and how you celebrate life. Be fearless in fashion. Once you find your style, own it! Because anything that makes you feel good-looking on the inside and out, never ever goes out of style.
IN How important is fashion to your own life?
JR I am what you would call, in every sense of the word, a “fashion enthusiast”! So it goes without saying that fashion infiltrates every part of my life: where I live, where I work, what I do, what I wear, what I listen to—fashion, design, style, art, music, food, drinks. Fashion is life. It is creativity. It is the ultimate form of personal expression. I choose to dress myself in a way that makes me happy and expresses who I am and what I’m feeling.
For more information, visit www.tomfw.com.
Produced and directed by Roberto Vazquez – Photography by Mckenzie James
Styling: Bridge Fashion Marketing; Styling assistants: Carl Woo & Sarah Bundhwani; Hairstylist: Daniel Fortunato (hair sponsored by American Crew); Makeup artist: Maria Rodriguez; Producer: Maria Princess Perez; Videographer: Jakob Burkhardt; Assistant director: Kareem King; First assistant camera: Elmer Cuaresm