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By Glynnis Mapp

In a flurry of fabric and loose thread, fourth-year fashion design students frantically place the final touches on their design pieces, hoping to impress their peers and, more importantly, their haute couture audience.

While it’s more than a month away, the 56th annual Mass Exodus fashion show is already in full production mode ?– with model auditions taking place this Friday — and gearing up to feature the designs of graduating fashion students.

Many students applied to the program just to be a part of the show, which will showcase an ensemble of 56 collections and 60 designers. Professors Jonathan Aiken and Peter Duck supervise production while giving seamless guidance to the team.

The two have the show tailored with several international sponsors, including Lancome and Curves, helping to make the show a success. Lancome in particular will provide $10,000 in service and products. Although the show typically receives rave reviews, Mass Exodus will be getting its own alterations next year. The press and industry show, where fashion and media moguls gather to view the annual fashion extravaganza, will be cut down to less than 20 designers.

“Every designer will be featured in the other three shows, but in the interest of keeping people’s attention and making the show a big bang for the fashion industry audience, this show will just be showing the cream of the crop,”says Randi Bergman, the show’s publicity director. Jessica Biffi, a fourth-year fashion design student, is happy that her collection will have a chance to be showcased. “Some students won’t be picked if they don’t meet the standards next year,” Biffi says.

“The show is great because people can show their stuff to professionals, but it won’t be that way forever.”

An industrial-themed stage will welcome guests this year, with erect metal sidings and a rugged concrete backdrop designed to act as the runway. “It’s a simple and blank slate for the student designs to be showcased,” says art director Lauren Harris. “We’re going for a look that plays with the fine lines and beauty of simplicity. “Our class and the designers have been working really hard. We learn a lot from this program, and it’s a lot of in-depth event planning, graphic design, and fashion design,” Harris says.

Industry names and faces will be personally invited to the April 6 evening show. Fashion Television’s Jeanne Becker, Holt Renfrew’s Caryn Lerner and Flare’s Lisa Tant have all graced the Mass Exodus podium in previous years. Toronto media will also be capturing every second of the show, with the Toronto StarToronto Sun and CityTV covering the event. In the past, the show has provided extraordinary opportunities.

Both the Hudson’s Bay Company and Zellers acknowledged a number of fashion students for the DeZigners Awards, and Jenn Mason, last year’s production co-ordinator, received job offers from Fashion Cares and the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

One student designer to watch for is Joanna Song, winner of this year’s Lancome Colour Design awards. After Song showcases her Greek Centaur-inspired collection called Prescient, she’ll be off to Paris with Lancome exclusively sponsoring her collection. Biffi, who just finished stitching and sewing her flower-inspired showpiece, is also looking forward to showing off her talent. “We spend a lot of time researching our designs before we make the clothes.

We need to see if they can work in the real world,” says Biffi. Even though the show doesn’t start until April 5, tickets are already selling quickly online. For more information on Mass Exodus go to

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