The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) announced this week that, for the first time in more two decades, its top fundraiser will be taking a year off.
Calling 2009 "a bridge year" Fashion Cares chair Michael King says ACT will be "well positioned to make Fashion Cares 2010 spectacular and the most memorable yet."
Still "the postponement is very sad says longtime fan and fashion buff Ryan G Hinds. "For so many years, Fashion Cares has been the gold standard for benefits in the city... always a coveted ticket."
Since its creation in 1987 the event's mix of style, music, philanthropy and activism had made it one of Toronto's top events, until an attempt to reinvent the fundraiser at the Distillery District in 2007 proved disastrous.
At the time former ACT board cochair John Lavis told fab magazine that Fashion Cares is, "a really important event that will make or break our subsequent progress through the year.... If you average it over the last few years we get about 25 percent of our operating revenue from Fashion Cares."
Promo material for the 2005 event boasted that "Fashion Cares supplies 57 percent of ACT's private fundraising revenue," but it's estimated that last year's fundraiser accounted for 16 percent of ACT's total revenue.
With that kind of money at stake can ACT even afford to go without its mega-event in 2009? Yes, says communications coordinator Andrew Brett, noting the decision to push the 2008 event back to Halloween, creating a Hitchcock-inspired Fashion Scares night that was a critical and financial success.
"That event was more successful," says Brett, "because we had a lot more time to gather great volunteers and sponsors.
"It takes a lot of money to put on the best event possible," says Brett, so the decision to push the event back one more time, especially in the current economic downturn, is a sound one. Having restored the event to its former glory last year King will have a similar timeframe to gather the right people.
"Fashion Cares has always been dependent on a great team of volunteers," he says, already planning to work with veteran artistic director Philip Ing again.
In the meantime Brett says ACT will continue with other smaller fundraisers like the AIDS Walk, the photography exhibit Snap and a series of "satellite" Fashion Cares fundraisers as yet to be determined.
Whatever form it next takes the event must carry on, says Hinds, "not just because of the money it raises for people living with AIDS but also because of how it showcases the talents of Toronto designers, models, performers, and volunteers."
Brett reports that Ing and King "are already dreaming of 2010."
"I really hope and expect to see a spectacular rising from the ashes," says Hinds.
Expect to hear the word "phoenix" being tossed around a lot this time next year.