The Canadian Disruptors You Need to Know Now

They’re being celebrated at this year’s CAF Awards

By Pahull Bains

Date April 19, 2018

The fifth annual Canadian Arts and Awards (CAFA) are just around the corner and to commemorate the five-year milestone, the organization is hosting a one-of-a-kind photography exhibition celebrating the most unique, disruptive forces in the Canadian creative industry. Titled XPOSED, the series has been conceived and executed by all-Canadian talent—from the subjects of the exhibit to the photographers to the creative director—and is chaired by global fashion icon (and Toronto native) Ladyfag.

Even better, select photographs will be available for purchase on April 20 at the CAF Awards ceremony at Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, with proceeds going toward The 519, an LGBTQ-focused community centre. Scroll through the slideshow for a closer look at the influencers featured in the series, and read on for our chat with the creative director of the project, George Antonopoulos.

Toronto-based creative entrepreneur @BabbuThePainter is beloved by the South Asian diaspora for her modern desi pop-art.

According to Vice, DJ @Bam_bii (born Kirsten Azan), “seamlessly unites electronica, hip-hop, house, dancehall and everything in between.”

Performing under the alter ego of @MarilynMansion, Lee is a Toronto-based artist, curator, and DJ.

@ClaireXGray, a 19-year-old fashion design student from Vancouver is currently making waves at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

This Iran-born, Toronto-based designer/stylist’s surrealist aesthetic has earned her a large social media following over at @Dorian.Who.

Founded in Montreal, @MatieresFecales—a multidisciplinary brand by Steven Raj and Hannah Rose—pushes the envelope on all things fashion and beauty.

@Ladyfag, a New York-based event producer and party promoter has been dubbed a “nightlife sorceress” by the New York Times.

Originally from Nova Scotia, model/makeup artist @MylesSexton has worked with Grace Jones, Maye Musk and Winnie Harlow.

@4.nie, a young photographer/model from London, ON is now enrolled at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

Fashion enthusiast Nima (@Silky.Stash) and freelance stylist/curator Martin (@Trop.Bleu) are drawn to rebellious, nonconformist fashion.

Scotty Sussman, aka @ThatGirlSussi, is a visual artist, costume archivist and stylist, all rolled into one.

How did you go about creating a different mood for each of the people featured in the exhibit while still keeping it cohesive as a series?
I zeroed in on these 12 because I thought they played off each other really well. They all have a unique approach to their artistry, and their personality and their style, but as I began to visualize the exhibit and how it would unfold, I just knew they would play off each other really well, but at the same time show off their characteristics and lend themselves differently to each portrait. The fact that they’re all Canadian is a huge bonus. We really wanted to highlight them and promote the fact that they’re changing Canadian culture through their artistry, be it fashion design, makeup, nightlife, music. They’re all approaching it with a different perspective, which makes it really interesting.

What drew you to these people in particular?
Most people when they look at them will go ‘I don’t get it’ and I want that. I want people to not understand at first. But then when they read up about them and they look at their Instagram, they’ll hopefully understand that these guys are artists. They truly are artists, and they’re pushing boundaries.

As we were shooting Matieres Fecales, Vogue featured them. They did a whole article about them. And I’m like ‘okay this just solidifies the fact that we’re focusing on the right people.’ And you know, Sussi [Sussman] did a Pat McGrath collaboration with MAC. So there’s substance there. They’re crazy but there’s substance there.

Tell us a bit about the creative styling and direction.
I didn’t really want to change them too much from what they are because the whole reason I chose them is because of their personal style so we just kind of enhanced that. With Sussi for example, he has such a strong fashion sense that you didn’t really need to do much. Half of the things he brought, half we brought. I also wanted to infuse some Canadian designers into the series so a lot of the clothes you see are Canadian. I wanted to cross-promote Canadian photographers, Canadian artists, Canadian clothes, Canadian teams, the whole nine yards. But not in a way that shoves it down people’s throats! If they ask about it though, it’s all there.

Proceeds from the sale of these photographs will go to The 519. Tell us why you chose this charity in particular.
When we first brought on Ladyfag as our honorary chair, we knew she was the quintessential person to spearhead and represent this grouping. When we went to New York a few months ago we asked her what charity she feels closest to and she said The 519 would be great. Specifically The 519 in honour of the late Will Munro. He was her mentor, and a huge LGBTQ activist and team builder who helped a lot of youth coming out. It really made sense that the money go to his honour.

This is the first time CAFA is doing an exhibit like this. How did you get involved?
Brittney Kuczynski, who’s the co-founder of CAFA, asked me almost a year ago if I’d like to do some sort of editorial or something to commemorate the five-year anniversary. And I was like ‘I’ll do it as long as it’s next level crazy.’ As long as I can do whatever I want, zero in on the people I want. I didn’t want to shoot just pretty pictures. And I knew this was a missing category of people that we never really feature, be it in a magazine or at awards. We need to recognize them. They are art. They are changing things up.

Photography via Peter Tamlin

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