David Dixon is one of the most recognized fashion designers in Canada, with a career that spans decades. Known for creating sophisticated, timeless and elegant evening wear, David is one of Canada’s fashion elite, a champion of “Made in Canada” design and manufacturing, has achieved international recognition, and is a mentor to new designers starting their career in the fashion industry. David has long been a favourite designer of mine and it’s been a great privilege to see his collections on the runway over the last several seasons during fashion week in Toronto. David Dixon is one of the most established names in Canadian fashion, and is also one of the most humble and kind people I’ve met in this industry. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with David for this feature, and an honour to share what I learned about him, his fashion background, and his latest collection in collaboration with Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.
David grew up in a large family and was the youngest of six children. He describes himself as a shy child, quiet and introverted, and would often be doing activities by himself. On Friday nights when his parents would go out, David was allowed to watch Loveboat, where he saw designers Geoffrey Beene, Halston, Bob Mackie and Gloria Vanderbilt appearing as themselves on the show and putting on a fashion show, and that was David’s “aha” moment when he realized that fashion design was a profession and that it was exactly what he wanted. Quite an incredible epiphany for someone who was only nine years old at the time! David had a talent for fashion drawing that his parents encouraged, and he enjoyed learning to sew in his home economics course. David was determined to pursue fashion and, after high school, David graduated from Ryerson University’s fashion program, where he currently lectures as a design instructor to fourth year students, mentoring the next generation of designers and supporting emerging talent. (Fun fact: when David was a student at Ryerson, his work was judged by another influential Canadian designer - Stephan Caras!)
David Dixon’s body of work is classic, elegant, and he often gravitates towards black, but his latest collection, designed in collaboration with Dr. John Semple of Women’s College Hospital, is an experiment of colour that evolved from a watercolour that the doctor painted. David had attended a luncheon in support of mental health put on by the Women’s College Hospital’s Women for Women’s foundation and became fascinated by the work they were doing. He met with the foundation’s organizers who toured him through the Women’s College Hospital, completely engaging David, inspiring him to get involved. The foundation wanted to introduce art to the conversation around women’s cancer, and wanted to translate Dr. Semple’s art into something bigger. The doctor and the designer were put in touch to collaborate and together they decided to create a scarf with proceeds going to the foundation, allowing people to give back while also getting something back. Dr. Semple painted the watercolour that formed the basis of David’s scarf design, which further inspired them to create a collection of charitable pieces that were shown on the runway during Toronto Women’s Fashion Week in March 2018, with proceeds again supporting the foundation. Especially important to David is using his fashion shows as a conduit for conversation, engaging with the audience by sparking dialogue around important issues. David has always believed that fashion is a language, that what we choose to wear speaks for us before we speak ourselves, and has therefore always approached his collections as a narrative, and he realizes how much power there is in communicating on a runway that far outreaches trends. It’s an impactful way of looking at fashion, and inspires me to look at fashion differently, too.
David is an icon of Canadian fashion, extremely articulate and knowledgeable in his field, and the work he does to cultivate new talent is inspiring. I’m a fan of David’s work for the beautiful and graceful designs he creates, and also for the way he uses his platform to give back. For more about David Dixon, visit the designer online at DavidDixon.ca.
Want more? Here’s what #WeWantToKnow about David:
I can't start my morning withoutwaking up :)... Minimum 3 cups of tea.
I have a weakness for…spicy hot wings and good champagne.
Most people don't know that I…was an uncle at 7. (I am the youngest of six).
I am currently reading… "Call me by your Name."
An important lesson I learned from a challenge I faced…was to see the big picture, and work towards that step by step to achieve it.
I want...to live full and with joy.
Thank you David, for participating in #WeWantToKnow! It was a pleasure getting to know you and I look forward to seeing your next collection on the runway.
All runway photos: Che Rosales c/o Toronto Women's Fashion Week
*** Many thanks to Distillery District Magazine for re-publishing this article in your May 2018 issue! Distillery District Magazine is a digital magazine highlighting art, design, culture and technology. ***