News & Runway

Allistyle: Toronto Fashion Week’s First Plus-Size Runway Show

Sometimes it feels as though the seasonal fashion week shindigs are all about cold, hard trends and clothing. Not so for Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week Spring 2013, which left many attendees feeling warm and fuzzy after Friday night's show.

The event played host to Allistyle, the first plus-size clothing line to ever be paraded under the limelight of the fashion tents. But notwithstanding the boundary breaking achievement, Allistyle also tugged on the heartstring of hard-nosed fashionistas because of the touching story behind its creation.

The label's creative head and founder, Pam Shainhouse, developed the plus-size line last year as a tribute to her daughter Alli, who died of Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2006 at age 26. Like many twenty-something year olds, Alli was a dedicated fashion lover but, after cancer treatment caused dramatic weight gain, her clothing options became limited. This is when she decided her clothing line should be plus-sized.

Two years later and Shainhouse chanced upon a meeting with America’s Next Top Model winner Whitney Thompson. Thompson was touched by Alli's story and became the face of Allistyle, thus opening the brand to a wider audience.

The Spring 2013 collection is simple, consisting of black ready-to-wear pieces that are splashed with bright accents of pink and blue. Much of it can be found exclusively for sale at plus-size clothing boutique Gussied Up (located at 1090 Bathurst Street, Toronto), with a percentage of net proceeds from sales going to a charity supporting young adults with cancer.

I caught up with Pam Shainhouse after Friday's show for a quick Q&A:

The Fashion Spot: What was your past experience with designing and what made you take on the challenge?

Pam Shainhouse: None. None whatsoever. But I was always pretty fashion forward and I always had tremendous difficulty finding clothes.

tFS: So the inspiration just came easy to you?

PS: Well, I'm a businesswoman and I was always very creative in my passion so it really just "came to me." Though it definitely wasn't easy.

tFS: You're known for eschewing polyester and man-made materials, is that for sustainability reasons?

PS: My daughter used to call polyester "poly-ann-ester" and because she was allergic to it, she'd break out in welts. The other thing is that polyester does not breathe and its all made in the Orient. I wanted something that was natural and made in Canada, which was really important to me.

tFS: Following your show, I noticed there were very few dry eyes left in the house, how do you feel now that it's over?

PS: I was watching it and I just didn't feel as though I was in my own skin. It just does not feel real. It felt out of body. And it felt out of body from the beginning, but I've always been somebody who's able to take a dream and be able to move it forward, though it was very, very hard without Alli who was every part of me. She was zipped up together with me, but she's still present and beside me.

tFS: So are you planning to come back for winter?

PS: Ummmm, no. I don't think so. I can't really say now because [this show] was really difficult as we didn't get sponsorship. It was really hard to be able to put it all together the way we did. But IMG and Erika Larva from Monarch Entertainment were incredibly supportive, as were all the models, who all said, "We want to do this," and banded together to make it happen. Which it did.

Pictured:Whitney Thompson and Pam Shainhouse embrace.

Images via World MasterCard Fashion Week