Written by Andrew Seale

In the fashion world, twelve minutes is a long time.

“We create this illusion as though it’s easy and it’s not an easy business,” says Gail McInnes, co-founder of Stylist Box, an exclusive fashion showroom for stylists and celebrities. “The impact that one twelve-minute fashion show has on every single person involved is huge – it’s essentially been about eight months of work to get to that point.”

Those twelve minutes of promoting and telling their brand’s story through their designs can launch an entire career. In a sense, a designer’s career can be built on that glimpse, that momentary exposure to the world.

Expanding those opportunities for exposure is the ethos behind Stylist Box (and its earlier incarnation The Style Box), a concept McInnes came up with around 2008 while watching celebrities traipse the red carpet at TIFF. While working at the Toronto Fashion Incubator (and had been since 2000) with models, designers and stylists, she noticed a missed opportunity for Canadian talent.

“I found there was a disconnect,” says McInnes. “The actors walking the red carpet and attending the events – they weren’t wearing Canadian and yet there’s so much talent here.”

So she launched The Style Box, a rental showroom where celebrities could get Canadian designed outfits for their various events and professional appearances, giving local talent some much-needed exposure. The showroom lasted less than a year before McInnes and her business partner went their separate ways but the concept lingered in the back of her mind.

“I started my own PR company, Magnet Creative Management, with the hopes I would have the showroom again and do it (in a way) that would be of most benefit to the designers,” says McInnes. A few years later, she teamed up with Christian Dare to revive the concept under the Stylist Box moniker.

“We represent various designers mostly Canadians,” she says. “They’re all small businesses entrepreneurs as well and we do a lot of consulting with them… help them with their operations.”

In addition to the year-round exclusive showroom where stylists can come and pull products from predominantly Canadian designers for celebrity television appearances or red carpet events, they also host a celebrity styling, gifting lounge pop-up during TIFF. Stylist Box has worked with tons of international celebrities over the past five years including Susan Sarandon and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen as well Canadian celebrities like Nelly Furtado and Jeanne Beker. 

“TIFF is the busiest time of the year… we have about 100 celebrities come through,” she says.

The film festival has done a lot to elevate Toronto on the world stage and Stylist Box continues to use it as a way to get Canadian designers exposure. But as to whether or not Toronto has a specific brand when it comes to fashion, McInnes argues it’s more about what’s going on with the unique perspectives of the individual designers within the industry.

“When you think London or Paris or New York (a type of) fashion instantly comes to mind,” she says. “Whereas if you say Toronto fashion, there’s no single branding because compared to other cities it still is a very young environment.”

But does it even need to be branded?

“I don’t think so… in Toronto we’re made up of so many different backgrounds and different cultural influences and aesthetics,” says McInnes. “(That) is essentially the future of fashion – we’re not following trends, we’re not trying to be any other city and we’re not trying to be anybody else except ourselves.”

Photos: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)