The veteran Canadian designer talks to us about his time in the fashion industry, his collaboration with Picadilly, his latest collection for Toronto Fashion Week and more.
As one of the most respected designers in Canada, David Dixon has spent the last two decades enhancing the Canadian womenswear fashion landscape. This year he played double duty at Toronto Fashion Week, showcasing not only his own philanthropy-inspired personal collection, but also collaborating with fellow Canadian designers, Franciska Veress and Joeffer Caoc on the Canadian brand Picadilly’s 40th anniversary collection. We caught up with Dixon to hear about the experiences that led him here.
What do you love about the Canadian fashion industry? What could use some work?
David Dixon: The advantages of being Canadian in the fashion industry are that we are highly respected internationally. Once people get to know us, and once they find us out, then they like us, so that’s always been a great asset. The only problem we have is that we don’t have the best marketing so we have to work a little bit harder in terms of promoting and getting our products to market. We have to work that much harder to be seen, but once we’ve been noticed we’re accepted and welcomed.
Having been in the Canadian fashion industry for over 20 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen over time?
DD: Over the past 20 years a significant amount has changed in the fashion industry simply by the introduction of the Internet and social media. The Internet is changing the landscape in terms of how people are starting to show their collections now and how they capture those audiences. Before it was expected that you’d show twice a year. You marketed yourself, you hopefully found yourself some new buyers and that became the routine. Once this technology was introduced it sort of infused into our presentations and we had to be even more on top of stuff.
Does that add more pressure to your work?
DD: It does add a little bit more pressure, but at the same time that’s what keeps us going. Making sure that we’re the best that we can be and being at the top of our game.
Canadian designers Joeffer Caoc, Franciska Veress and David Dixon showcase their collection for Picadilly at the brand's show at Toronto Fashion Week. Photo by George Pimentel.
How did you become one of the designers for Picadilly this year?
Picadilly approached me, along with Canadian designers Franciska Veress and Joeffer Caoc , to add to the designs for their existing client base and give a different vibe to the collection. What’s so great about them for me is that they are Canadian—Canadian made and Canadian produced—and their distribution channel is huge, so it was a really great opportunity to work with Picadilly and learn how that side of the business works. It was a great learning experience.
A model walks the runway at the Picadilly show at Toronto Fashion Week wearing one of the designs from the fall/winter Picadilly collection. Photo by George Pimentel.
You collaborated with the Ovarian Cancer Canada charity for your personal show at Toronto Fashion Week this year. How did that come about?
DD: The Ovarian Cancer of Canada approached me for my personal collection. After my sister passed away last May I sort of took a sabbatical of my own design work because I wasn’t quite sure exactly where I was going and what I was going to do. And then when Ovarian Cancer Canada approached me, around the same time as Picadilly, I just thought this is my sister saying get back to the drawing board and do your thing. And it just so happened that it was a great messaging opportunity. It wasn’t just about making a collection, it was about encouraging a conversation and that’s what made it even more special for me for doing the show.
How has working on two collections for Toronto Fashion Week been?
DD: It’s been good. Picadilly works very far in advance. I mean inspiration-wise we worked at the same pace, but in terms of developing, I did their collection long before mine. So it was kind of an interesting juxtaposition with me being so old school and them being so on top of production and distribution at a much larger scale. I think it was a nice tie-in.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
DD: My advice for up-and-coming and aspiring designers, or even kids who are sketching in their rooms at the age of 10 like I was, is to tell them to just keep drawing. Keep sketching. Surround yourself with people who support what you do because this is an environment of a lot of no’s. You have to really believe in what you’re doing. So surround yourself with people that really encourage you to keep doing what you need to do.