He's known as the bad boy of Canadian fashion but Evan Biddell prefers the term outlaw.
The Toronto-based designer exploded onto the fashion scene in 2007 after winning the first season of Project Runway Canada.
It was a win that gave the outspoken, Saskatoon-raised creative a place amid the upper echelon of Canadian fashion, a scene into which he "dipped (his) toe" and decided it wasn't for him.
"When you're young and you're kind of famous and people are pulling you in and then you're in there for a minute and then you're like, 'Wait a minute?'" Biddell told the Star in a phone conversation from his Queen St. W. studio-slash-apartment. "I don't, like, live, breathe fashion all the time ... I just prefer to stay on the outskirts."
On Thursday, the 31-year-old will be in his element, partaking in the fun side of fashion as he debuts his fantasy-inspired "More Than Human" collection at the Fashion Art Toronto (FAT) festival.
"The concept is lizard people among us," he said. "It's very intergalactic."
Biddell created the 12-piece collection - his smallest - over just two weeks in collaboration with artist Jennifer Walton. Biddell designed, cut and sewed the creations and Walton painted the clothing with invisible UV ink, creating the appearance of reptile skin.
"Every day that we do a new piece, we're, like, blowing our minds," he said of working with Walton, whom he met at Burning Man in 2013.
Biddell said he's excited about the tricks the two have under their sleeves for the debut.
He let one surprise slip - at first glance, the audience will watch models walk the runway wearing the "ultrasexy" collection under normal light. But then they'll re-emerge, their lizardlike skins glowing in all their glory under blacklight.
It's that type of whacky creativity FAT embraces - to Biddell's delight.
"Everybody there is having the time of their life," he said, adding that singer Jully Black will model in his show. "Backstage is not stressful. Backstage is like, 'Oh my God, this looks amazing, high-five!'"
Eight years on, Biddell's work has evolved since the Project Runway Canada win but his gregarious personality and self-assured nature remain firmly intact.
"When I went on that show, I'd never even opened a fashion magazine," he said. "In my head I was already like the best designer ever, because there weren't any others around me."
Biddell said he's learned to stick to his guns, only making work he likes and creating memorable, unpredictable collections, but admits the Canadian fashion industry is a difficult one to be in.
The payout is not always equivalent to the work designers put in and good relationships with editors, buyers and socialites are integral to success, he said.
As for the bad boy reputation he's been pegged with? "I'm not actually that bad. I play really loud, rockin' techno music at my shows. I don't know ... I feel like more of an outlaw than a bad boy."
Credit: Katrina Clarke Toronto Star
Caption: Fashion designer Evan Biddell shows off a piece of his collection with the help of model Erica Krauter. Vince Talotta/Toronto Star
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