T he rest of Canada may be hunkering down for a long, cold winter, but for those in the fashion industry, spring is
in the air. Last week, 16 of the country’s top designers and six rising stars got together at the The Matinée Fashion Ready-toWear in Toronto to strut their spring ’98 wares. And when winter coats come off, there is no place to hide—a point illustrated by many of the designers’ use of slim silhouettes and slinky or sheer fabrics. From the form-fitting tube dresses by Saskatchewan native Crystal Siemens to the sophisticated silk suits by Nairobi-born, Vancouverbased Feizal Virani, the designs demanded a fit figure.
Whatever their design philosophy, the participants, selected from a jury of their peers, were just glad to be there. Despite huge garment industries in other locales, Toronto is the only North American site outside New York City where prestigious runway shows are held. But the five-year-old event nearly went under until Matinée, one of the brands of Montreal-based Imperial Tobacco Ltd., stepped forward last January and bailed out the fall ’97 collections. Now, the designers are feeling more optimistic. Says Toronto’s Franco Mirabelli: “It’s been phenomenal— now we have to keep the momentum up.”
The return of a legend
Canadian Robert Farnon may not be that well-known in his homeland any more, but elsewhere he is regarded as the greatest living composer of light orchestral music. So when Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra announced that it would perform a special three-concert series in honor of Farnon’s 80th birthday, friends and fans from as far afield as San Francisco and London made sure they were there. As well as the NAC Orchestra, conducted by Victor Feldbrill, performers included violinist Juliette Kang, Vibraphonist Peter Appleyard and jazz singer Diana Krall. Farnon, who travelled to Ottawa from his Guernsey Island home in Britain, declared himself delighted. “I thought they wouldn’t re-
member me in Canada, but they’re spoiling me rotten.” In the 1940s, the Torontoborn Farnon was one of the original members of the hugely successful CBC Radio program The Happy Gang. His fame grew during the Second World War when he was leader of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, working in London alongside U.S. bandleader Glenn Miller and Britain’s George Melachrino on radio broadcasts heard by millions. Farnon stayed on in Britain after the war, writing hundreds of songs over the course of his career, and scores for more than 40 films. Farnon is also widely respected as an arranger for such diverse singers as Vera Lynn, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. Although he may have left Canada long ago, Farnon says the country never left him. “So much of my music is inspired by the places I remember.”
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