Why "Protesters" Filled the Design Exchange Gala

With a "Rise Up" theme, this year's DX Intersection gala saw mock protests and plenty of political statements.

Dancers from New York and Toronto competed in a 'Vogue-off,' which saw them recreating the underground dance that Madonna made famous.
Dancers from New York and Toronto competed in a "Vogue-off," which saw them recreating the underground dance that Madonna made famous.
Photo: Ryan Emberley

The Design Exchange museum hosted its perennially edgy "DX Intersection" gala on November 7. Taking a cue from the current fall exhibition, "Politics of Fashion | Fashion of Politics,” the event had a "Rise Up” theme. Accordingly, an antiestablishment, punk-inspired vibe came to life in design, art, and entertainment on all three floors of the Design Exchange.

As guests arrived, they encountered large "Stay Out" signs hanging above chain-link fences. Performance artists strolled throughout the venue holding protest signs with slogans such as "Pop Art Not War" and, fittingly, "Rise Up." The signs were hand-painted by in-house graphic designer Jessica Leong. According to Gillian Hoff, vice president of special events at the Design Exchange, employing Leong’s services ramped up the evening’s creative edge and cut back considerably on printing costs.

More arty touches showed up in installations by Jeremy Jansen and Jesse Harris, and there was also a “White Room” conceived by Toronto firm Castor Design. Within that space, the furniture, walls, and decorative touches such as vases were shrink-wrapped in white plastic. There was also white carpeting and white floral arrangements. "Castor Design wanted an experience free of visual noise,” Hoff said. For a V.I.P. reception held in the pristine room, Parts and Labour catering offset the white surroundings with an all-red menu that included beet soup and elk tartare.

Each year, the DX also recognizes one creative Canadian who's brought an innovative vision to life. This year's honoree was Frank Toskan, co-founder of M.A.C. Cosmetics. As part of the ceremony honoring Toskan, dancers from New York and Toronto took to the stage for a high-octane "Vogue-off" dance competition, which was projected onto screens around the venue. “Afterwards, several of our guests really got into character [and began] dancing on the runway themselves," Hoff said.

The Design Exchange hit record highs for the third annual fund-raiser, according to organizers, and exceeded all goals on ticket sales and sponsorship.  With 900 guests in attendance, this year's event saw a 50 percent increase in ticket sales from the previous year's iteration. The organization did not disclose exact fund-raising figures.

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