A look at 50 years of Toronto’s most influential fashion pioneers

A look at 50 years of Toronto’s most influential fashion pioneers

It took the good taste (and daring wardrobes) of the stylish citizens we list here to kick-start Toronto’s evolution from humdrum to haute couture

Toronto wasn’t always the stylish city it is today. In 1967, one year after Toronto Life made its debut, the magazine ranked Kitty Eaton among the city’s best dressed. Her clothing, we wrote at the time, was “stark” and “plain”—and we meant that as a compliment. Off-white was the predominant colour scheme: in fashion, decor and complexion.

Over the next five decades, the stylish trailblazers we’ve pictured here broke Toronto out of its beige period. And with an ever-growing roster of budding designers and a slate of fashion-forward homegrown celebs making headlines (we’re looking at you, Drake), the city has since become a target for international style leaders and luxury retailers alike.

We chose these tastemakers as Toronto’s most stylish not just because they dressed well (though they did), but because of the influence they had over the city’s development as a global style capital. They set the groundwork for another 50 years of fashionable upward momentum.


The Fashion King: Alfred Sung
His first boutique, Moon, opened in 1977, but Alfred Sung’s star rose in the 1980s thanks to the sharp silhouettes he created for the modern working woman. Sung joined the Monaco Group along with Joe and Saul Mimran, and in 1982, he opened the first Alfred Sung store, in Yorkville. Maclean’s crowned him “Canada’s Fashion King” in 1983. Since then, the Alfred Sung name has been stamped on housewares, fragrances, eyewear and a bridal collection. Photograph courtesy Alfred Sung


The Shoe Fetishist: Sonja Bata
There are certain people who just have it. Sonja Bata, the business woman and philanthropist, is one of them. Whether she’s chairing the National Design Council or visiting her eponymous shoe museum, Bata is perennially put together and, of course, always fabulously shod. Photograph by Roloff Beny


The Royals: Hilary and Galen Weston


Hilary and Galen Weston come by their style savvy honestly: among other interests, he owns the high-end Selfridges Group of retailers, which includes Holt Renfrew; she’s a former model and one-time deputy chair of Holt’s. Together, they’re a suave and elegant power couple, whether they’re walking the red carpet at the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party or taking Prince Charles to dinner in the Distillery District. Photograph by Ronny Jaquessir


The Glitter Girl: Cathie Bratty
In her heyday, Cathie Bratty was one of a glamorous group of high-society party-throwers that included Liz Tory, Anna Maria de Souza and Catherine Nugent. They were Toronto’s original Glitter Girls, and they were as well known for their dos as their dresses. But Bratty, who is the wife of billionaire developer Rudy Bratty, rose above the rest—literally: you could often spot her across the dance floor because of her choice of hat. Photograph by Getty Images


The Enthusiast: Jeanne Beker
Jeanne Beker brought the runway to Canadian living rooms in 1985 with Fashion Television, the weekly half-hour program she hosted for an unbelievable 27 years. Her almost militant curiosity and candour in interviews during FT’s run made her one of the country’s top fashion insiders—and turned her signature ear-to-ear grin into a Canadian icon. Photograph courtesy Jeanne Beker


The Maximalist: Suzanne Boyd
Suzanne Boyd doesn’t do dressed down. The East Coast–born, West Indies–raised “maximalist” knows how to make an entrance—in a pink satin suit at a Justin Trudeau–hosted dinner, for instance, or a floor-length ruffled gown accessorized with a bow tie at a TIFF party this year. The EIC of Zoomer magazine has a taste for haute couture that keeps her fashion-world contemporaries on their toes. Photograph courtesy Suzanne Boyd


The Class Couple: Joe Mimran and Kimberley Newport-Mimran
Club Monaco and fast-fashion brand Joe Fresh made Joe Mimran a household name. Kimberley Newport-Mimran’s Pink Tartan is carried at Holt Renfrew, Ogilvy and Nordstrom. The two are ubiquitous on the party circuit and always impeccably styled. Photograph by George Pimentel


The Design Whiz: Karim Rashid
Karim Rashid’s ideas—aerodynamic water bottles from Bobble, Umbra’s Sleek trash cans—reflect his personal style: spare, functional and a bit futuristic. The Cairo-born industrial designer is seldom seen in public wearing anything that isn’t stark white (perhaps with a splash of pink). Photograph by Nigel Hamid


The Femme Fatale: Barbara Amiel
When Barbara Amiel graced the cover of Toronto Life’s first issue, she was 25 years old and wearing a see-through white gown (it was the ’60s, after all). The editors called her a “stunning brunette with a matching IQ”—as if beauty and brains were oxymoronic. Whatever the controversies that dogged her (and her current husband, Conrad Black), Amiel remained the picture of sharp-tongued decorum. And she knows the impact an outfit can have: in a 2012 essay about Black’s release from prison, she wrote that she hoped to meet him in a dress “in one of the colours the prison rules had never allowed.”


The Original Hipster: Sandy Stagg
Dundas Westers owe Sandy Stagg a debt of gratitude. She was a co-owner of Peter Pan restaurant at Queen and Peter, back when it was a hot spot for raucous parties and art-scene debauchery, and ran a vintage clothing boutique—Amelia Earhart Originals in Yorkville—decades before Kensington Market shoppers declared second-hand cool. The model and Queen West queen was a muse for art collective General Idea and ran in the same circles as art-world icons like Charlie Pachter—she was a hipster before anyone knew what to call them. Photograph by Isobel Harry

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