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Mass Exodus 2023 is bringing “Sonder” to TMU 

By Danielle Reid

As the semester comes to a close and we begin to usher in the spring, students across The Creative School are preparing for the 35th annual Mass Exodus fashion show on April 15. At the annual event, graduating students from Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) fashion communication and design program will showcase their final collections and designs through a runway show and exhibition. 

Mass Exodus is the final product of the two-part Live Event Supercourse (FCD 817 I & II) offered at TMU exclusively to students in The Creative School. In the fall semester, students worked in groups to develop different themes and voted on the idea they wished to collectively produce in the winter semester. Drawing inspiration from each group, the concept of ‘Sonder’ was established. 

Defined in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows created by John Keoning, sonder is a neologism—a made-up word to describe an emotion that does not have an existing word. 

It refers to the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. 

“It’s the profound feeling that everyone is complex and shaped by our individual experiences and ambitions,” says Madeleine Sweenie, exhibition line producer and sponsorship coordinator. 

Sweenie explains that this overarching idea allows for students to explore their own interpretation. “People are doing things from across the board,” she said. “‘Sonder’ is the umbrella that covers all of these interweaving things.”  

The concept is one that Sweenie believes is relevant to the times students are currently living in. “Especially coming out of quarantine,” she says. “Right now it’s special for everyone to have empathy toward others and know everyone has different experiences.”

“It’s the profound feeling that everyone is complex and shaped by our individual experiences and ambitions”

The gallery-style format of the exhibition will allow guests to view capstone projects that aren’t in a fashion collection format. This will include an array of 2D and 3D pieces such as installations, fashion films, video games, virtual reality simulations, illustrations, publications and sculptures. 

Sweenie says the assortment of works that will be displayed in the exhibition serve as an example of “what fashion can achieve beyond a physical garment.”

The runway shows will take place in two parts and models will strut down the catwalk dawning thoughtfully hand-crafted pieces from the collections of various student designers. 

In order to be included in the show, collections must have been worked on for a minimum of four years. Daniel Cha, show producer and fourth-year fashion communications student, says each student has a different personal background, aesthetic and storyline which they bring to their individual collections. 

“The most exciting thing, after the collections, is seeing the huge diversity of works,” says Cha. “It’s a very stimulating show and you’ll get to see a lot of different styles.”

This year, executives want to be sure to highlight the exhibition portion of the event that will be running throughout the entire day. 

Tunes for the shows will be provided by Toronto-based DJ Baby Q, who will set the atmosphere with a curated setlist, says budget coordinator, show co-director and third-year creative industries student, Grant Shivers.

Not only is this an opportunity for fashion design students to show the TMU community the fruits of their labour this year, it is also a chance for students within the faculty to get a taste of event coordination, Shivers says. 

Shivers says this has been the best part of the show production experience so far. 

“Securing the funding was the most rewarding. We’re treating [the show] in a very professional manner and gaining that foundational experience within the fashion industry with this type of show,” says Shivers.

“‘Sonder’ is the umbrella that covers all of these interweaving things” 

Through their unique designs and creations, graduating fashion students are exploring themes ranging from fashion activism to augmented reality. 

After examining feedback from last year’s event, sustainability is one of the top priorities for the students planning and producing Mass Exodus 2023. According to the Fashion Research Collective’s (FRC) website, the School of Fashion at TMU aims to inspire action by way of sustainability in the fashion industry.

Sustainability coordinator and second-year creative industries student Gwynneth Tansey says it’s her role to ensure the event is both accessible and environmentally conscious.  

Tansey says the ethos of sustainability also fits in with this year’s theme of ‘Sonder.’ 

“It helps people to consider that they exist in a community that has a lot of different people…and considering what the impact of their actions might be,” says Tansey.

She encourages people to consider what impact they will leave behind after the event. “Will that [impact] be positive or negative on the people who continue to exist in the space afterwards?”

A few ways Tansey says they are promoting sustainability is by minimizing new materials, sourcing food and drinks locally and making sure items such as lanyards can be reused in future events. 

She explains how for their team, sustainability is not only about being mindful of the environment.

“Sustainability is about the community and making sure everyone feels accepted and comfortable…someone feeling like they could be part of a space, that would not be a sustainable event.”

“Sustainability is about the community and making sure everyone feels accepted”

Mass Exodus will take place in wheelchair accessible locations and attendees will have access to gender neutral bathrooms.

In an effort to make the day of the event more environmentally conscious, Mass Exodus is also urging attendees to consider opting for public transit when travelling to the venue. 

Sweenie says being able to work on the back-end of the project and see the amount of work The Creative School students have put in to run the event and create the collections has made her excited for the community to come see the show. 

“Students have gone above and beyond with the amount of creativity and innovation,” she says.

This year’s Mass Exodus runway shows will take place at the court in the Mattamy Athletic Centre, located on the second floor of the building. The first show will start at 4 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. 

“Students have gone above and beyond with the amount of creativity and innovation”

The exhibition will be free to attend and will be held throughout the entire day from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rogers Communications Centre at The Creative School Catalyst on the second floor. 

Tickets to access one runway show will be $15 plus tax and $25 plus tax for a two-show pass that will grant access to both. Community members can purchase tickets through general ticket sales through the link in Mass Exodus’ Instagram bio beginning on April 3 at 9 a.m. 

A link to a livestream will also be available on the Mass Exodus website.

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