TORONTO - When Jim Searle and Chris Tyrell of Toronto design label Hoax Couture were seated by chance next to Ilana Landsberg-Lewis at a dinner, what started out as suppertime chatter eventually evolved into a call to action.
Landsberg-Lewis, executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and daughter of longtime activists Stephen Lewis and Michele Landberg, talked to the duo about the foundation's work, specifically efforts centred around their Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.
The initiative raises funds to support grandmothers in Africa often left to live with the repercussions of the HIV-AIDS pandemic that has ravaged the continent, by assisting with items like food, housing grants and school fees for their grandchildren.
Searle said the program struck a particular chord with Tyrell, who was raised by his grandmother because he was orphaned at a young age, and the pair thought the initiative was something they could throw their support behind.
Not surprisingly, Searle and Tyrell invoked their fashion expertise while recruiting the talents of other notable names in the design world.
The culmination of their collaboration will be revealed on the catwalk Friday night as Toronto's LG Fashion Week cedes its prime closing night spot to "Dare To Wear Love" produced by Hoax Couture.
An all-star roster of 25 Canadian designers, including Lida Baday, Brian Bailey, David Dixon, Evan Biddell and Greta Constantine, have crafted designs from fabrics sourced from Africa and purchased by the foundation.
"Virtually everybody we spoke to thought it was a brilliant idea and climbed aboard," said Searle of the designers.
While designers were provided with the colourful African prints, they were given free reign when it came to their creation.
"We let them do something that's appropriate to their own image of what fashion should be and what their company mission statement is all about," Searle said.
The event also recruited some familiar faces to model the creations. Hoax Couture's design will be worn by "eTalk" reporter Traci Melchor, while singer Jully Black will wear a design crafted by Izzy Camilleri.
Searle said they plan to auction the designs later, and are in negotiations with another event in the spring where they may be able to show them again.
"We want to use the garments to build awareness for the need in Africa for funds to help fight HIV and AIDS."
All proceeds will go toward the foundation, and Searle said they're hoping to raise $100,000. Both Landsberg-Lewis and Stephen Lewis are slated to attend Friday's highly anticipated show.
"It's a great event for a great cause and we're pretty excited," said Searle.