Fashion expert Jay Manuel constantly juggles dozens of projects, from TV appearances to philanthropic endeavours to his fledgling career as a novelist. The former creative director of America’s Next Top Model and host of Canada’s Next Top Model also dabbles in lines of clothing and cosmetics.
Despite how busy Manuel is, when the folks behind the Cashmere Collection 2022 phoned, he didn’t hesitate. “When I received the call that they wanted me to step on board as curator this year, there wasn’t a decision for me,” he says. “It was an absolute yes.”
This is the 19th year that Cashmere has sponsored the charitable event, which raises both funds and awareness around breast cancer. It’s a cause that hits close to home for Manuel, who has a family member undergoing treatment right now.
Each year, Cashmere invites a small roster of Canadian designers to create couture pieces using bathroom tissue. “Sometimes people think, ‘Are they working with those individual little sheets?’” Manuel says with a laugh. “They are not.” He adds, “This is the first time the designers are working with the new-and-improved Cashmere UltraLuxe Bathroom Tissue, so it’s the softest ever.”
The large bolts of raw material may be easier to manipulate than tiny squares, but the luxurious material is still fragile, requiring enormous ingenuity on the part of the “young creative visionaries,” as Manuel refers to the 12 designers. “What they have to do and create is truly extraordinary,” he says. “I think people will be jaw-droppingly impressed during the reveal.”
That big reveal takes place on September 22 at a runway show in Toronto. At the by-invitation-only event, the VIP audience will see how the designers have interpreted this year’s theme, “Celestial Awakening: A Celebration of Strength, Hope and Compassion.”
Manuel explains that the theme allowed the designers to explore the sun, moon and stars, with nods to astrology and all of the challenges that everyone has experienced globally over the past couple of years. “I think it all spawned off of this collective emotion that we’re all going through,” he says. “We had to find strength and hope and compassion for each other.”
Over the past 18 years, more than 230 designers have been invited to dream up original couture for the Cashmere Collection. This year’s creatives hail from several provinces, with one each from British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia; two from Quebec; and the remaining seven from Ontario. “We have 12 very diverse, unique individual designers from across Canada coming together,” says Manuel. “They’re very talented and we’re really excited to feature them.”
But he resists choosing a favourite among the dozen. “They all took their own vision to create this out-of-the-world couture piece,” he says. “They went full-on for the drama, which I’m here for.” To Manuel, the Cashmere Collection is, ultimately, the perfect blend of raising awareness around breast cancer and highlighting brilliant young Canadian designers. “It’s just truly my pleasure to be a part of this.”
When asked what garment he would design using bathroom tissue if given the opportunity, Manuel has to think about it for a moment. “Since we’re featuring women’s couture, I would probably try and create something that a man could wear, like a really cool jacket,” he says. “I could wear it to the collection reveal.”
Canadians can get involved by voting for their favourite of the 12 couture creations at the collection website, which goes live on September 23. For every vote, Cashmere will donate $1 (to a maximum of $15,000) to the Canadian Cancer Society and Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation in the winning designer’s name. Plus, specially marked packages of Cashmere UltraLuxe Bathroom Tissue will be available throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For each package sold, a 25-cent donation (to a maximum of $65,000) will go to the two charities. —Sheri Radford