FGI Fashion Visionary Award – Robin Kay

Written by Megan Fuda

INFUSE had the honour to attend yet another FGI event, in recognition of a special icon in Canadian fashion. Previously in September, members of the team had the opportunity to attend an event where the Fashion Visionary Award was presented to Mr. Harry Rosen. This time, we had the pleasure of honouring Robin Kay, an extremely influential woman in the country’s fashion business. Robin began her career as a designer with the creation of her own brand and boutique. As she progressed further in her career, Robin founded Toronto Fashion Week. This was revolutionary, as it provided many careers and opportunities for fashion lovers in Toronto.

Guests arrived to Shopify’s downtown Toronto location, before the start of the event to engage in some networking opportunities. When the guest of honour arrived, everyone gathered to sit for a discussion hosted by Canadian fashion mogul, Jeanne Beker.

As the discussion begun, Robin was asked about the beginnings of her career, and how she came to realize her passion for the industry. She began to explain that she began working in retail at Eaton’s and Hudson’s Bay. She eventually grew out of these roles and quickly realized that she wanted to be her own boss. With no formal training, she wanted to be self supporting (even though she regrets not having that till a few years ago). She notes that now, the ability to turn creativity into a commercial aspect is more vibrant and doable now than it was back when she started her career. Despite any difficulties, Robin was driven and worked hard for her success. When asked if her fearlessness was the key to her success, she responded saying “I don’t think fearlessness is the key to success it is more to believe in yourself… I knew I believed in what was right”.

 

“Challenge and misfortune are a great driver…. and I was fearless”

 

Looking at her career, Robin discussed how when she left her brand in 1999, Fashion Television and Much Music were big parts of the Canadian pop culture and there was a big influence of fashion through these channels. She looked closely at the business and noted that there were only four major fashion weeks in the world; London, New York, Paris and Milan. She wanted to create something in Toronto and dedicated her time to push for the start of Toronto Fashion Week. Her first meeting, she came directly from the hospital during her battle with breast cancer. She noted that her work really carried her through this difficult time in her life. When asked about the difficulties of breaking into the industry, Robin stated that she “believe(s) that people do not share a central message” while stressing that “creativity has ownership and people want to keep things separate”. While she expressed that it is not hard to build a brand, it is a very specific task, and stressed the importance of understanding that it deserves time and dedication.

Closing the discussion, Jeanne asked Robin about her optimism for the future of fashion in Canada. She replied back stating that there is not enough marketing for Canadian fashion, but it was not until after Toronto Fashion Week changed ownership, that she realized the foundation was rocky and needed more promotion. Now that she has retired from the event’s production, she is able to meet with designers, get involved and help guide them. Looking at Robin as a mentor, she advises young people in the industry not to be afraid to approach people who they respect, ask them questions and listen to what they have to say. Robin mentioned how intense the business certainly is, nevertheless, which is what makes it most exciting. Individuals who had worked for her and shown their dedication to the passion, have had very successful careers. “I know I wasn’t easy to work for but I know it was good”.

“It doesn’t happen quickly, there is no such thing as overnight success so I say GO!”

 

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