How They Met: Fashion Art Toronto founder on navigating love in style

Despite being one of the world’s most fashionable cities, Toronto has a rocky relationship with Fashion Week. But from all the commotion around the fall of the original Toronto Fashion Week over the loss of sponsor IMG, a  scrappier, more forward-thinking Fashion Week emerged — Fashion Art Toronto (also known as FAT).

Founded by Vanja Vasic in 2005, it has filled a gap in Toronto’s fashion scene, offering an opportunity for both up-and-coming and established Canadian designers to showcase their work. It’s also a hybrid arts event — visitors can peruse fashion-inspired art installations and film as well as grab a drink at the bar while a DJ plays. And in an industry that is notoriously exclusive, FAT is a true celebration of designers and models with diverse body types, gender identities and backgrounds.

Ahead of FAT’s spring 2023 event this April, we caught up with Vanja to hear how she met her partner, Angel Vilela Gonzalez, and how fashion plays a big role in their relationship.

How they met

Angel: We met at Toronto club El Convento Rico. I saw her dancing from across the room when I first walked in, and I was instantly drawn to her.

Vanja: He offered me his hand to dance, and I was hypnotized by his eyes and his charm. We spent the night dancing and flirting.

The first date

We spent a lot of time texting and getting to know each other before our first date. We went on a date two weeks after we first met. He took me to Barrio Coreano for dinner and drinks. I remember the butterflies I had when I first saw him waiting for me outside of the restaurant before I arrived. He was such a gentleman and very gorgeous. We could hardly eat our food, we were so consumed in each other.

The courtship

We’ve had a very strong chemistry with each other since the beginning, and we’ve had lots of memorable moments since then. In the first months that we met we were doing in-person model castings for Fashion Art Toronto, and I made him try out as a model. He impressed the judges and ended up walking in a few shows that year. When the pandemic hit and Fashion Art Toronto had to go virtual, we would location scout together in some incredible places. We got to go on private tours of the ROM, the Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Union Station when they were completely empty of people and tourists. It was a very bonding experience.

The kids

Vanja: I have a daughter from my previous relationship.

Balancing careers and a relationship

We have a great schedule where we set aside time each week to be with each other and we always make our dates intentional. The rest of our time is spent on our work, his schooling and our families.

Shared hobbies and interests

We both love fashion and dressing up. He loves the big fashion brands, and I’m into local Canadian designers. We love exploring and going on road trips, discovering restaurants and wineries together, dancing and listening to music and, of course, shopping.

Fashion as a couple

We’ll check in with each other about our outfits, especially for big events. Just to get the, “Looks good” or “Maybe try it with this necklace.” But we have our own individual and very distinct style, which is one of the reasons we work so well together. We appreciate that about each other. He’s definitely more sporty in his approach to fashion and I’m more sleek. Sometimes we’ll co-ordinate our outfits to match just for an extra bit of fun and playfulness when we go out.

The secret to success

We have great chemistry and passion, which keeps the romance alive. We support each other in our daily life with work and family. We make time for lots of cuddles and laughter.