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By Truc Ngyuen

Attending Ryerson’s 56th annual showcase for graduating fashion designers was like a mini-reunion for me.

It filled me with a heady sense of d?j? vu — crowded around me were former classmates, industry-oriented alumni and familiar professors. As a relative outsider, I could look at the collections with fresh eyes, unclouded by personal opinions of any designer. My own work wasn’t on display this time, and since I only saw the garments in their finished state and not ever as muslins or illustrations, I was able to revel in the joys of surprise and aesthetic engagement unfettered by thoughts of contractors and patternmaking.

Each year, Mass Exodus is presented four times, including two matinees and a gala performance targeted at the fashion industry and members of the press. Each performance began with an energetic routine performed by Ryerson dance students uniformed in black, serving to heighten anticipation of the upcoming show.

The music was well-chosen, the lighting cast shadows and ethereal glows to the collections. At the Thursday night gala, talented recent grad Jeremy Laing delivered a thoughtful keynote speech, advising young designers to look beyond Canada’s borders to larger markets, and “cultivate your point of view.”

It was clear at Open Concept, however, that many of the design students already have a strong sense of style, as well as a coherent aesthetic vision. I couldn’t help but notice a few loose threads, poorly-fit garments and wrinkled gowns, but the collections were impressively professional in design and presentation.

Clear trends for Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 emerged too, ranging from floating layers of silk and tulle on both skirts and dresses to tapered skinny jeans and sexy but tailored corset bodices for day and evening wear.

The most appealing palettes featured toned-down natural shades of browns and greys, black and whites together, and vibrant reds and golden yellows. I’m interested to see where these capsule collections will lead to for this year’s graduates.

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