The 7th annual Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards took place virtually on May 19, 2021, for the first time ever. The event was hosted by Canadian actress Amanda Brugel, the ceremony included visits to the homes of presenters, guests, winners, and nominees all in real-time, in an effort to make the fashion community feel more connected than they have since before the pandemic. The CAFA Awards are meant to shine a light on both the established and emerging talent found within Canada’s fashion landscape.

Due to the virtual nature of this year’s awards, and the number of fashion events that have been cancelled since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, it was a nice change of pace for fashion lovers and industry members to attend a 2-weekend outdoor fashion show series on the shores of Lake Simcoe at the Friday Harbour Resort in Innisfil, ON. The resort’s pier was transformed into a fashion runway, where collections by long-standing and brand-new designers were showcased.

Launching on Saturday, August 14th, followed by the second weekend of events on August 21st, the Friday Harbour Fashion Collective series featured 2 live, in-person shows on each date, at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, highlighting a series of designers and retailers, carefully curated by CAFA. The fashion shows included collections by Steven Lejambe, Narces, RVNG Couture, Kaela Kay, Christopher Bates, Noize, Bikini Haus, and several other Canadian brands.

Additionally, programming included a live pop-up retail market that ran for both weekends and included apparel, accessories, and lifestyle products offered by a number of local vendors such as ai, Anavi Designs, Bloom Beauty, Cyntia Miglio Design, Lilliput Hats, Lisa Gozlan Jewellery, Preloved, Rock N’ Karma, Van Der Hout Jewelry, and more.

The events were hosted by Toronto news personality Nicole Servinis, and were open to the public. The free events were aimed at showcasing the beautiful Friday Harbour Resort and giving visitors and residents the opportunity to enjoy the fashion shows and pop-up market, in addition to the resort’s other attractions such as their boardwalk, marina, beach club, golfing, along with a number of restaurants and bars.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the August 14th show, I made an evening trip to Friday Harbour on August 21st to attend the events. The 2 shows that I watched, each about half an hour-long, were filled with beautiful clothing, accessories, and models, who all looked thrilled to be working in person again. While the event seemed to run like clockwork, with the shows starting and ending on time, and each model coming out looking perfect and without a hair out of place – there was a major element the event organizers seemed unprepared for. Unfortunately, the 1 major aspect of the event that was not properly planned, pertained to COVID-19 safety. With approximately 100 members of the press sitting in chairs lining either side of the runway, physical distancing was definitely not being practiced, and there were no requirements in place for masks or for any form of verification for vaccination/ a negative COVID-19 test.

This wasn’t only a problem for the press sitting in the seats along the runway, but also for the large number of visitors who crammed together outside the fence, in order to catch a glimpse at the show. Very few, if any of these individuals were wearing masks. Moving forward, both the Friday Harbour Resort and CAFA should establish some requirements and policies relating to COVID-19 safety.

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