By Rhea Singh
Ryerson’s School of Fashion has cancelled both Intro Exhibition and Runway (Intro) and Mass Exodus in light of the COVID-19 crisis, according to executive members of both teams.
In a statement made on March 13, classes were shifted online due to the recent COVID-19 virus. This also included the cancellation of events on and off-campus.
Intro is a student-run show that focuses on exhibiting the work of first, second and third-year students in the fashion design and fashion communication programs, while Mass Exodus highlights the curated work of fourth-year students that took the fashion promotion class, which was set to be held from April 3-5, this semester.
Danica Hooper, artistic director and co-producer of Intro, said she and the executive team found out about the cancellation six to seven hours before their event at 3 Madison Ave. was about to commence.
“It was just so sudden, we didn’t have too much time to process it on the day of because everything happened really quickly,” said Hooper.
Hooper, who is also a third-year fashion communications student, said after six months of planning, the team was disappointed in the sudden cancellation since the staging lead had been setting up since 10 a.m. that day. Hooper understands the caution with the current crisis but said the team has yet to decide a way to showcase their works as they are still recovering from the news.
“When I heard the news I was kind of angry, because we worked so hard and had so many people involved,” said Hooper. “The executive team—it was also the models, designers, the communication students, the contributing artists, the volunteers—they were all involved in making Intro happen.”
Hooper said after the executive team had received the email from Ben Barry, chair and associate professor of equity, diversity and inclusion, they contacted the department to see if they could continue with the show. However, they were advised not to proceed.
Unlike previous years, Intro has recently taken a new path—last year’s display showcased not only the work of first-year students like the show had done in the previous years.
“We wanted to include both fashion design and fashion communications from years one to three, just to showcase the work we have done in our university career,” said Hooper.
“Last year…we decided to make it more inclusive to all of the School of Fashion because before that it was only showcasing first-year daywear dress projects,” she added.
For Jenna Jiang, the cancelling of Mass Exodus 2020 was something she and her team saw coming as soon as post-secondary schools around the province began to announce their closures.
“Because of Thursday and our conversation, we already came to terms with the fact that it would be cancelled, but we also had a little bit of hope.”
As the producer of Mass Exodus, Jiang said that because it’s part of the fashion promotion class, waiting until Ryerson re-opens wasn’t the best option to save the show.
“Once [the] semester ends, this class ends. I don’t know how it will happen after May,” said Jiang. “If the School of Fashion decides to do something it would be with their own resources…they could reach out to us but by that point we are under no obligation.”
Jiang and her team were also informed about the cancellation on Friday by Barry through an email which Jiang described as validating and heartfelt.
For Jiang, she would personally love to create something for the fourth-year fashion students who weren’t able to showcase their work. Jiang and her team had created concepts they were proud of and excited to see in April, such as integrating feminist ideals, sustainability, inclusivity and diversity into the show.
However, since Mass Exodus’ cancellation, the response from students has been rather positive with many reaching out to share their thoughts, according to Jiang.
“One student reached out thanking us for all our hard work…[also] on Instagram, fashion students were supportive and thanks for all the hard work,” said Jiang. “My heart goes out to the fourth-year students—they poured hours and so much money into this project.”
“It’s all so fresh, and we’re all still processing what it means that an event we’ve worked so hard on won’t happen,” said Daniel Drak, a contract lecturer who teaches the fashion promotion course.
“I know that some students are upset, and that is entirely understandable,” said Drak. “But the general consensus is that these are unprecedented times, and the health, safety and well-being of our communities are paramount.”
Drak emphasized the importance of acknowledging the “invisible labour” that goes behind the scenes of Mass Exodus.
“We’ve given the students some space and time to process the situation but will reconvene soon to explore next steps and celebrate all of the hard work that has been put in up until this point,” said Drak.
For Intro, the future isn’t certain, as Hooper said she and the team are still recovering from the cancellation of this year’s event. However, there will be an Intro 2021.
In regards to Mass Exodus’ future, Drak said there will most likely be some form of a online solution, where the works of graduating student could be showcased virtually.