S/ Was There: Meet The TFI New Labels Winner

The first-ever season of Toronto Women’s Fashion Week came to a close on Sunday, and on Thursday March 9th, the 3-day Canadian style extravaganza kicked off with a 30th anniversary party for the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI). The black-tie gala took place at the city’s heritage Waterworks building, and set a fashionable tone for the runway presentations that followed over the weekend in the same lofty space. Dubbed TFIXXX, partygoers including Mayor John Tory, philanthropist and socialite Sylvia Mantella, ET Canada’s Cheryl Hickey, and renowned fashion journalist Jeanne Beker, enjoyed Belvedere Vodka cocktails, Diabolica wine, and a sultry performance by international burlesque and cabaret performer, Coco Framboise. The fête was also home to the non-profit, small business centre’s 25th New Labels competition, an annual fashion show celebrated for shining a spotlight on up-and-coming homegrown talent.

Budding designers and TFI members Andrew Coimbra, Claire Lemaitre-Auger, Michael Zoffranieri, Ryan Alexander and Sebastian Guarin rounded out the list of New Labels finalists, and faced off in the Project Runway-like contest in front of a panel of judges and crowd seated at black-lacquered tables and sleek leather couches that lined the catwalk.

It seemed all 5 finalists were on their way to establishing themselves in the fashion industry from Toronto’s Coimbra having previously interned at Pink Tartan, Philip Sparks and Proenza Schouler, to Montrealer Lemaitre-Auger who trained with French-Canadian designer Denis Gagnon. But this year’s cheers, hollers and grand prize, valued at over $90,000, went to Mississauga’s Zoffranieri for his ultra-feminine eveningwear collection ZOFF. The 22-year-old, Ryerson School of Fashion graduate was awarded, among other things, a $30,000 cash award to further his brand from TFI supporter and philanthropist Suzanne Rogers, a sponsored photoshoot and editorial features, and the opportunity to hit the runways at the next Toronto Women’s Fashion Week spring 2018.

Prior to the competition and being given the top honour, we caught up with the young designer backstage. Here’s what Zoffranieri had to say about his silhouette-skimming looks, and the TFI New Labels experience.

“I did a few design competitions in high school and my teachers really recommended that I take an internship. I did one at David Dixon, which was just up the street from my high school. After that point and working in that environment, I was just like, ‘I could do this. I want to do this!’”

“It’s very tailored, but focusing on how can I make women feel badass, and also really showing off her body. That’s the ZOFF woman–she loves showing off her body in a tasteful and respectful way.”

“It’s really just going for that whole idea of powerful women. I love Julianne Moore, Solange Knowles and Meryl Streep.”

“Tonight means having the opportunity to showcase among all these other fabulous designers. Having that recognition alone is an honour as well as just being able to share my vision and my grandparents’ story that if you follow your dreams and have the family and support group around you, you can truly make those dreams possible. TFI is definitely part of my support group.”

To view Zoffranieri’s winning looks, click through the gallery at the top of the page.