“In my opinion, clothes are what we wear and fashion is about ideas.” These are the words of Todd Lynn, acclaimed London fashion designer, dresser of rock legends and curator of next month’s Mass Exodus, Ryerson’s annual student-run fashion show.
The hit, end-of-year event is no stranger to big name curators, from Liz Cabral to Jeanne Beker, but Lynn will be the first Ryerson alumnus to return for the role who works internationally.
“Up until this stage, we’ve worked with curators that are based in Canada and we felt that at this time we wanted to reach outside of those boundaries while remaining connected with Canada,” said Robert Ott, chair of Ryerson’s fashion school. “We felt bringing him back to revisit his own journey as a designer and where he started from might be really relevant in letting our students know where they fit into fashion internationally.”
Lynn is no stranger to the competition within the fashion industry, but said he’s excited to see “great things” from Ryerson’s fashion students.
Because the fashion school prides itself on a reputation of innovation, having a London-based curator for this year’s Mass Exodus was strategic, according to Ott.
“The British fashion market is highly competitive and it’s also arguably the congregation point for new fashion designers to get started in,” Ott said. He said he hopes that Lynn will be able to show students what the world has to offer once they finish this part of their careers.
A worldly view is exactly what Lynn searched for after graduating from Ryerson. Asked about the differences between working as a designer in Toronto versus London, he said, “I don’t think you can compare them.”
After Lynn graduated from Ryerson in 1991, Sue Barnwell, one of his former professors, said that Toronto didn’t have the right market for his garments. Though Lynn actively showed his work around the city, the right people weren’t seeing it.
This, she said, was a shame and not a true testament to his abilities. “You knew he was going to achieve things. He was just so talented,” Barnwell said. “He had both the design and technical skill and that was unusual.”
The creative process is exactly what made Lynn choose fashion for a career.
“I like that you can start with an idea and have a completed project almost single-handedly,” Lynn said.
Flipping through slides of Lynn’s work as a student, Barnwell showed off structured body suits, almost erotic in nature, made of spandex and leather. Pointing out that the construction included over 100 individual pattern pieces, she said, “you can see beautiful tailoring, great lines and proportions; he just understood it.” According to Barnwell, this is a trait that very few students come by naturally.
This talent got Lynn recognized quickly after graduation. In 1991, he won the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards and in 1992 he presented his Red Like a Butcher Shop label at the Toronto Ready-to-Wear collections.
But London was calling. Lynn interviewed with Central Saint Martins, one of the most famous fashion programs in the world, and obtained his master’s degree in 2000. He said it was an obvious choice to him. “Studying there made it possible to work in Europe and build an international name,” Lynn said.
You won’t catch him gloating about it, but his already-recognizable talent expanded even more once it hit London’s platform. In 2000, Lynn happened upon the stylist for U2 and has been designing for the group ever since. He also began working with Roland Mouret, someone who would have a huge impact on Lynn’s career.
He said Mouret is one of those people “that you come across that change your path in life.” The first time they worked together, it was just Lynn and Mouret in a one-room studio. Here, Lynn said, he learned the speed of the fashion industry but was also given the confidence to do what he wanted to do with his career.
Seven years later, in 2006, Lynn launched his label at London Fashion Week. In one hard-hitting phrase, Lynn described his esthetic as “rock ‘n’ roll, razor-sharp tailoring.” Picture slim cigarette pants, second-skin leather, sharp-shouldered jackets and edgy metallics, created for clients including Bono, Mick Jagger, Janet Jackson and Beyoncé.
Other than bringing a truly impressive resumé, Lynn’s approach and theories behind his work will make for unique curation of this year’s Mass Exodus. For one, androgyny is something the designer has always played around with, loving how rock ‘n’ roll demonstrated that girls could look tough, boys could be flamboyant and vice versa.
Lynn’s website described his 2016 spring-summer collection as dressed in white, a hue that “offers nowhere to hide,” where the sexes marched “in equilibrium” sporting kimono-sleeved jackets, sheer tunics and tailored trousers.
“I don’t think about gender at all when I’m designing now,” Lynn said. “I just think of character and image.”
His persona is very much centred on the link between fashion and music. A lover of the raw emotion behind music, Lynn said that it’s his “salvation.” In the same way musicians convey emotions through melody, Lynn pours his heart into every seam he draws and stitches.
“It’s not just about style and design aesthetic, it’s about how we approach everything we do,” Lynn said. “Youth, rebellion and creative expression is a lot of what I strive to achieve with my work.”