TORONTO — The Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards has revealed its host and special honorees for its 10th anniversary gala here on Oct. 14.
“The world has changed so much in the last 10 years, let alone in Canada’s arts and fashion industries. But CAFA has advanced alongside important and timely discussions,” said CAFA president Vicky Milner, whose organization has championed Canadian talent, including by embracing issues like sustainability, fashion innovation, the global impact of technology and the need for more diversity and representation in the industry.
Taking place at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel, CAFA’s host for 2023 will be drag artist and TV personality Brooke Lynn Hytes — the first Canadian to appear on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Hytes made history by becoming the first queen from that TV franchise to host and judge their own spin-off show, “Canada’s Drag Race,” and is known for hosting and executive-producing the award-winning series “1 Queen 5 Queers.”
Special honorees for 2023 will include Vanguard Award winner Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies and the 15 Percent Pledge, while the Changemaker Award winners are Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, the fashion show program director for the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, who has played a pivotal role in the representation of Indigenous designers on a national platform, and Joanna Griffiths, founder and president of the intimate apparel brand Knix.
“It’s great to be recognized. But Knix views success in terms of impact, not credit,” said Griffiths, whose company introduced its revolutionary leakproof underwear in 2013. Knix became one of the first brands to use real women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds on their website in 2016, and emerged in 2019 as the first brand to release a lingerie campaign exclusively featuring women from ages 50 to 81.
“You can have all the money in the world behind a brand. But money can’t buy authenticity,” said Griffiths, whose company operates eight stores across Canada and the U.S, including three in California, three in Ontario, two in Vancouver and one in Calgary — with more Canadian locations to launch this fall.
In the next few weeks Knix will launch shapewear that incorporates its core leakproof technology — a move the brand hopes will help double its business over the next three to four years.
CAFA is also bestowing its Outstanding Achievement Award to Dani Reiss, chairman and chief executive officer of Canada Goose.
“As someone who’s been at the helm of a brand that’s committed to being made in Canada, has Canada in its name and is built on the idea of bringing more Canada to the world, it’s an honor to be recognized by CAFA,” Reiss told WWD. His company has launched a fall campaign with Annie Leibovitz and has collaborations coming up with partners such as Rokh and Matt McCormick, Bape, OVO and more.
”When I started working here in 1997, we had $3 million in revenue. Today, we have over $1 billion. I couldn’t be more proud of the growth we’ve experienced and the global brand we’ve become. But our success is because of our authenticity. The best way to be authentic is to stay true to who you are,” said Reiss, whose company will open 16 stores around the world this year, bringing its total to more than 60 locations.
The International Canadian Designer of the Year Award this year will go to Justin R. Saunders, the designer, creative director and founder of JJJJound.
Launched in 2006 as a digital mood board that examined recurring patterns in timeless design, Montreal’s JJJJound has evolved into a full-fledged, direct-to-consumer design studio. Its products span sneaker collaborations with New Balance, Reebok, Asics and Vans to apparel, tote bags, bikes, coffee mugs and more.
“I wish I knew why we’ve hit such a chord with consumers. It would make things much easier for us. But to be recognized in Canada makes our day to day feel even more real,” said Saunders, whose company will soon launch what he described as new materials and new contexts for leisure and rest, along with new categories for the home.
As for his advice to future industry stars, Saunders said, “Just start where you are. Use what you can and do what you can.”