Sarah Stevenson is a relatively new addition to the Toronto fashion scene. Her debut collection was featured in last season’s make-shift studio for all the random style-interested to see. The collection received rave reviews from local media, earning a not-too-shabby spot on “Best of Fashion Week” lists all over town, despite the lack of a tres formal showing.  The turnout for her sophomore collection, met with much anticipation, was out the door at this year’s official Studio.

What’s so great about this new space is that seating is re-arrangeable to a designer’s desire, allowing for presentation-style installations for more than the usual two-second glance. This can either work to a designers’ advantage, allowing reviewers to see any intricate detailing, but also makes flaws blatantly obvious. But hey, that’s what Fashion Week is  about, right? Putting your soul on the runway for all of us to pick to pieces?

Well, Stevenson definitely put all of herself into her presentation, re-visiting the hand-dyed fabrics which earned her accolades last season; this time in deep shades of blue, purple, and green. Bold, and vibrant floral chiffon patterns added a much needed pizzazz to the otherwise, somewhat basic, shirts and skirts. No, this collection wasn’t particularly innovative, but in a retail-saturated Toronto fashion industry, it can be hard to break away without alienating customers. Yes, we’ve seen many floating chiffon skirts, and the beautifully tailored tie-dye shift dresses brought to mind previous collections by Canadian darlings Ashley Rowe and fashion heavy-weights like Proenza Schouler, but I have to respect Stevenson for her obvious understanding of form and her fearless choices of graphic patterns.

The styling of the show was seriously spot on, with a teased out, flapper hairstyle, glossed-up smokey eyes, and a deep maroon lip tint, adding just enough edge to keep the collection from looking a  bit too much like something you’d find hanging on the rack at tween-friendly Aritzia.

A simple, tie-dyed shift dress was cinched by an Erin Wasson-esque body chain, and leather chain cuffs, while a strapless floral number, was paired with a loosely hanging black necklace made of the same materials. The finale piece, a long gown in the same tie-dye material, featured deep-cut slits on either side, and played off the shape of the hip with slightly architectural draping. Though the execution of the garment was slightly lack-lustre, it hints that, with some more time to develop, Stevenson has the potential for a long career dressing the fashion-savvy Toronto set. In the words of my favourite Bill Murray character, “baby steps.” It just takes baby steps.

SARAH STEVENSON FW 2011 photography by Irina Luca