Sunday, September 25, 2016

#elitehotseat: JEFF RUSTIA


What inspired you to create Toronto Men’s Fashion Week? 
-- TOM* came out of a dream… a dream that Toronto was ready for its very own men-focused fashion week. Being a lover of men’s fashion, and seeing an obvious lack of representation of menswear in the Canadian fashion scene, I was deeply inspired to take that leap of faith and start TOM*. And the timing was perfect. Toronto, like many fashion capitals, was going through a Menaissance, joining other millennial men around the world in a cultural movement that promoted dressing sharp, looking good and loving fashion because it was intrinsically linked to success.

What was the initial reaction when you started to spread the word about this new undertaking? 
-- From the moment we announced it, you could sense there was an excitement around TOM*. The city and the nation were very excited about it. News spread like wildfire and we received a lot of media attention. After the first season of Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, the reaction was tremendous and we haven’t looked back since. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds in the past 5 seasons, now moving into Maple Leaf Gardens and having recently launched the first men’s fashion nights in different cities across Canada.

Who is TOM*? How would you describe the TOM* man? 
-- We were very lucky that the acronym for Toronto Men’s Fashion Week is conveniently a man’s name, TOM*, and the most common man’s name at that. Immediately, it became a living and breathing brand. TOM* lives here. TOM* eats here. It was a marketers dream. TOM* is sexy, irreverent and unashamed about loving fashion because he knows it is linked to success. He loves to travel, is a proud digerati and enjoys the finer things is life.

What do you do when you’re not working? 
-- I love to travel and see the world. Nothing beats experiencing different cultures, food, sights and sounds, and most of all meeting incredible people and making new friends from around the world. It’s a serious hobby for me. So far, I have visited 122 cities and 40 countries. Right after TOM*, I’m off to Berlin for some R&R.

Who is your inspiration? 
-- People inspire me. My family inspires me. My late son Kol is pure inspiration. They give me strength and are a driving force for my personal creativity.

TOM* is now going into its 5th season. How does that feel? 
-- We’ve definitely come a long way. But we are continuing to evolve and strive to be better every season. I’m so proud of our city Toronto for supporting this initiative I always say it takes an entire village to create an epic event like this, and for TOM*, it is truly the Village of Toronto that has banded together through our staff, volunteers, partners, sponsors and patrons that have made it the roaring success it is. Our teams at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week have done tremendous work to bring TOM* to where it is today, and they are a big reason why we are able to keep TOM* up and going twice a year. I am proud of our executive team members and all 350 volunteers who participate every season and passionately provide their skills and expertise. I am also proud of the winning culture that we’ve created for our team members, whose experience has now reached a new level of education and mentorship. And of course, we believe in our partnerships. We work and partner with some of the world’s leading brands like Samsung, American Crew (Revlon), Town Shoes and Lab Series for Men (Estee Lauder). And, as the men’s scene continues to grow, we believe we will continue to attract big brands that are looking to market to men.

Men’s Fashion4Hope is highly anticipated every season at TOM*. How important is it to have a charitable initiative at TOM*? 
-- It is very important to me and the organization. As Founder and Executive Director, I have been extremely proud of our work to establish the company’s values, namely, creativity, diversity, authenticity, mentorship, respect and generosity. Our Values includes our commitment to generosity that serves as a common thread that connects each initiative we support. We believe in giving back to the community through our charitable initiative, MensFashion4Hope, the only male celebrity charity fashion show in Canada, in support of Kol Hope Fund at SickKids helping children with disabilities. Last season, we raised $27,500, making the cumulative total now at $135,000. Also, Our deep commitment to generosity manifests itself through our support of the fashion industry, specifically, to help the emerging menswear community through the EMDA - Emerging Menswear Designer Awards. EMDA has also played a fundamental role in kick starting the careers of emerging designers with a $10,000 cash bursary. Since its inception, we have already produced two menswear designer stars namely, Joao Paolo Guedes and 3.Paradis. And, we recently awarded Curtis Oland with the coveted title of EMDA Winner SS17.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
-- Of course, being a part of an initiative that has now become Canada’s most influential and important platform for menswear is very rewarding in itself. But for me, MensFashion4Hope, our charity fashion show has been one of the most rewarding parts of TOM*. Being able to raise $27,500 for the Kol Hope Fund at SickKids last season is extremely moving. As you may know, I have dedicated this fund to help children with disabilities to my late son Kol. It gives much credence that my son’s short life truly had great purpose and reason.

Where would you like to see TOM* in the next 5 years? 
-- We believe in our partnerships. We work and partner with some of the world’s leading brands like Samsung, Revlon (American Crew), Town Shoes and Estee Lauder (Lab Series for Men). And, as the men’s scene continues to grow, we believe we will continue to attract big brands who are looking for a one stop destination to market to men. As men’s fashion industry advances, I believe TOM* has the ability to provide a platform to help the business of men’s fashion, men products and services. I am proud that TOM* is now recognized as the most important and influential platform for menswear in Canada.

Congratulations on your launch of Toronto Women’s Fashion Week FW17 coming in February 2017! Why did you decide to take on Toronto Women's Fashion Week? 
-- Like the rest of Toronto, I was surprised and disappointed when I heard the news of IMG’s cancellation of Toronto Fashion Week. At the time of the announcement, I was working on the next season of TOM*, but the more I heard about it, and the more I spoke with members of the fashion community, I knew that we just couldn’t stand by and let that happen. Our heart and commitment has always been for the fashion designers and for the Canadian fashion industry as a whole. We strongly believe in providing Canadian designers an international platform and showcasing the incredible creative talent we have here from coast to coast.

How will you differentiate the approach from its previous seasons? 
-- We are launching Toronto Women's Fashion Week, with the same fervor and passion that TOM* was founded on. We are proud to be Canadian. We are intrinsically Torontonian, and diverse in our approach. Our heart is first and foremost with the Canadian designer. We strongly believe in providing Canadian women’s wear designers an international platform and to help nurture the incredible creative talent from coast to coast. Our vision is to nurture and support the business of Canadian fashion. We will be injecting the same winning TOM* formula into Toronto Women’s Fashion Week by providing the industry and consumers with events such as designer showrooms and lecture series. The good news is that Toronto Women’s Fashion Week will finally be held at the right time, (February and August) at the right place, and delivering the right content to truly represent the current fashion landscape in Canada. We will launch showrooms, buyers’ days and lectures, and industry panel discussions all aimed at helping the business of fashion.

#runway Amber walks Jil Sander SS17 at MFW!