Curator Marie O’Mahony On Design Exchange’s New Sportswear and Art Exhibition


With the 2015 Pan Am Games officially starting in Toronto on July 11, the city’s Panamania arts and culture festival is already in full force. As part of the 35-day celebration, Toronto’s design museum, Design Exchange, is hosting an off-site exhibition that honours sportswear, technology and art. The exhibition, Smarter.Faster.Tougher, debuts today and runs until October 12 in the Distillery District. Real Style chatted with curator Marie O’Mahony about the inspiration behind the new exhibition and the link between athletic fashion and art.


Photo: Arash Moallemi

Real Style: What can you tell us about the new Smarter.Faster.Tougher exhibition?

Marie: It’s the second satellite exhibition that the Design Exchange has launched. The idea with that is to take design to a wider audience. We’re here at 39 Parliament Street in the Distillery District, right in the heart of the Pan Am Games. It’s really looking to make the exhibition more accessible to a broader audience that might not necessarily get down to Bay Street.

Real Style: What was the inspiration behind the exhibition?

Marie: The exhibition is bringing the importance of sportswear to society, culture, design and wellness. It just goes across so many different aspects of how we live today. I really wanted to put together an exhibition that could explore that and would look at how that happens, all those inter-relationships in art.

Real Style: As the curator, how did you decide which pieces would be featured in Smarter.Faster.Tougher?

Marie: In deciding which pieces to leave out and which pieces to keep in, it’s really difficult to decide what to include in an exhibit like this. There were some hard choices, and what I was really looking to do was to tell as many stories as possible, to give as broad a perspective of what was going on as I possibly could, and also reference as many types of designers and different ways of working. Geographically, we’ve got exhibits here that are from Canada and the Americas of course, but also from Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It’s really showing that global effect on sportswear that’s very much about local design, as well the globalization of the industry.


Photo: Arash Moallemi

Real Style: What would you describe as your favourite piece and why?

Marie: One of the pieces which I like a lot is Ann-Sofie Back. She’s a young, exciting, emerging Swedish designer who is not very well known here in Canada. It’s great to be able to bring along some of the designers that are perhaps not familiar names, and introduce them to an audience here. Her work is inspired by gym clothes, and how we wear them. For example, how we wear our sweaters, around our waists. That’s inspired high end fashion. She’s producing silk dresses, beautifully knitted asymmetrical dresses that are taking sportswear as an aesthetic inspiration, and doing something very unique. It’s very special.

Real Style: How is sportswear and athletic apparel used in fashion and art?

Marie: I think the sportswear in fashion is coming from two different angles. On the one side, you’ve got the fashion designers who are getting sportswear and sports fabrics. They are also using the aesthetic of sports. They’re using some of the seaming technology, ways of combining fabrics together in garments and also pattern cutting, which is quite different from a lot of the sportswear garments, in terms of articulation (how the body moves with the clothing). I think that’s having a lot of impact on fashion. It’s much more about movement when you’re wearing the clothing, rather than standing still and just moving up and down on the catwalk.

Real Style: In terms of art, who are your favourite Canadian sportswear designers?

Marie: I’m a big fan of Canada Goose given the last two winters we’ve had here! I like their way of working. They’ve got the Canada Goose garments that we’re very familiar with in the stores and then they initiate special collaborations with people like (digital artist) Eric Chan, a.k.a eepmon, and Drake. We’re really pleased to have examples of both of those in the exhibition.


Free to join! Get the hottest fashion, beauty and celebrity news, enter exclusive subscriber giveaways and be the first to receive the full digital version of REAL STYLE magazine.