All photos courtesy of Mr. KOA and Tweed
Aside from Fashion Week parties, where rappers, models and other glitterati hot box the VIP areas of the world's hottest clubs, cannabis and fashion have always occupied disparate spheres of influence. In America, legality has allowed cannabis to seep into every nook of popular culture, moving away from the shrouded dealings of yesteryear and into the light of the mainstream. Canada, which is getting closer and closer to nationwide legalization, is experiencing a similar canna-aissance, one highlighted by the presence of Canadian cannabis brand Tweed at Toronto's Men's Fashion Week (TOM*).
One of the top cannabis brands in Canada, Tweed was founded with the belief that the utilization of the cannabis' many benefits, from medicinal to creative and beyond, deserves to be recognized, not hidden. From producing top quality flower, to fostering doctor education programs, to their celebrated Artists in Residence program, Tweed goes beyond as a brand, supporting the communities in which it is involved.
Last Friday, March 9th, saw Tweed's first ever runway show, Tweed: The Fabric of Creativity, light up the catwalk of Toronto Men's Fashion Week. Working in collaboration with some of Canada's hottest designers like Zane Barlas, NICO, Xian, Candace Daniela, Tristan Licud, Rhowan James and more, Tweed tasked these rising talents with creating looks that incorporated tweed fabric, as well as interpreted the essence of the high quality cannabis brand into their designs.
"Tweed is an awe-inspiring brand that brings creativity and design to the forefront of fashion," said Hans Koechling, organizer of Toronto Men's Fashion Week via email. "The intrinsic similarities between the DNA of each designer's concepts and the fabric, to creating each garment with individual creative direction, are unparalleled."
38 designs successfully stormed the runway, set against a fitting backdrop of freshly trimmed Tweed buds. Models captured the evolution of stoner-style, one that has moved from the negative stereotypes of sweatpants and baja hoodies to the pages of Vogue, with styles ranging from chic interpretations of athleisure to dapper herringbone ensembles.
We spoke with Amy Wasserman, director of marketing for Tweed, about Canadian cannabis culture, brand evolution in weed's prohibition era, and their successful foray into fashion.
MERRY JANE: Can you explain the current legal landscape of cannabis in Canada?
Tweed: Medical cannabis has been legal for more than a decade in Canada and now we're a few months away from expanding legal access to all consenting adults. The bill to legalize cannabis is called the Cannabis Act. It's being studied by the Senate right now with approval and Royal Assent (yes, the Queen still makes our laws up here...) later this year.
What does Tweed specialize in within the cannabis industry?
We've done a good job at bringing the cannabis industry into the mainstream. We have an open door policy to basically anyone who's curious so we can help break down stigma and let people see the plant for what it is — a way to connect people and grow better together.
How did Tweed come to be?
We were founded in 2013 in a small town called Smiths Falls. Back then, it was hard to find a community that would welcome a cannabis operation to town, but the mayor, Dennis Staples, had a brother who'd medicated with cannabis during his battle with cancer. Since Mayor Staples had seen the benefit of cannabis firsthand, he got it and he was the man who gave us our start. We bought an abandoned chocolate factory in the town and have dropped almost $100 million to transform it into a highly sophisticated grow-op that produces flowers and houses our extraction gear and breeding capabilities.
What exactly is tweed fabric?
The "tweed" textile is a rough, woolen fabric, that has a soft, open, and flexible texture. You can then weave patterns or introduce colour to change it up (take herringbone or houndstooth, for example). It's quite resilient, and durable — much like cannabis!
What spurred Tweed's interest in fashion?
Over the years, Tweed has clearly taken interest in the creative community. Between the Front Yard Shindig music festival we run every year, to the first of it's kind Artist in Residence Program, it was a natural progression for us to move into the fashion space. I started my career in fashion after studying it in university. I've always understood how important a medium this is to a lot of people. It's a form of expressionism and a form of creative freedom, and we value that at Tweed.
Can you talk a little bit about the link between the fashion and cannabis industries in Canada?
We believe that cannabis is more than just a plant, and it has the ability to bring people together to build community, and to move it forward. We know that through the exploration of material culture, fashion also has the ability to do this.
How were the designers chosen for the TOM* event?
We worked with Toronto Men's Fashion Week to identify a list of designers based on their network of Canadian talent. When we initially discussed the opportunity, I was keeping my fingers crossed to secure about 3-5 designers who would be interested in the opportunity. Not because I didn't think that designers would want to participate, but because we are in the thick of the fashion season and developing and curating new looks can be a lot to ask. Lo and behold, we managed to secure 18 incredible designers to participate, with a total of 36 looks at the show. How incredible is that?
What were designers tasked with creating?
Essentially, I established a brief that gave the designers an introduction to who we are and what we believe in, and what we are looking to achieve from this show. From there, we worked closely with the show producer — Hans Koechling from The Image Is — to bring it to life through design. Some designers used tweed fabric as the springboard, while others leaned in with creative expressionism, or drew from hemp derived textiles.
How do you see the relationship between the fashion and cannabis industries evolving in the future?
Tweed, the brand, is inherently tied to fashion by way of its name. With strain names like Argyle, Houndstooth, and Herringbone, it's easy to weave parallels between the two industries. This event marks the first of many creatively disruptive and incredibly fun collaborations for Tweed. It's our way of getting out into communities we admire and supporting the creative class in Canada, while at the same time introducing ourselves to that crowd.
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