Cadillac Fairview Partners to Launch Design Incubator at CF Toronto Eaton Centre [Interviews/Photos]

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Shopping centre owner Cadillac Fairview has partnered with DESIGNwith and OCAD University to launch a new design incubator at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, bringing together a diverse range of designers, students and community members.

Jason Anderson

The incubator will serve as a dedicated learning lab to explore the circular economy for creating lasting, social good, said Cadillac Fairview. 

“We’re proud to open the DESIGNwith studio alongside our passionate partners, showcasing the powerful social impact we can achieve together,” said Jason Anderson, Senior Vice President, Brand & Marketing, Cadillac Fairview. “This is a first-of-its kind experience for Cadillac Fairview and as long-standing city builders, we’re excited that one of our largest retail properties in the world can purposely serve our community as the common ground for thoughtful design, research and knowledge sharing.”

DESIGNwith at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Katya Koroscil/DESIGNwith)
DESIGNwith at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Caleigh Silmser, Senior Brand Manager for Cadillac Fairview, said when the idea came to CF of creating this design incubator space the company was so excited to partner with OCAD on the project. 

Caleigh Silmser

“This is such an important thing for CF in being able to deliver our purpose in transforming communities for a vibrant tomorrow,” she said. “And it further helps us deliver on our focus of sustainability and creating a circular economy which is the focus of the space. It really is a perfect match to be able to bring up an industry with academia and the community together in such a vibrant property like CF Toronto Eaton Centre.”

Ranee Lee

“As an OCAD University instructor, it’s always a delight to see my students get out into the community and do work for the social good,” said Ranee Lee, founder of DESIGNwith. “The DESIGNwith studio is also an opportunity to level the playing field for learning and design, which are often inaccessible for many within our own city. We’re grateful to Cadillac Fairview for opening up this significant community space to us, as it is truly only by approaching community differently that we can expect to achieve different results.

“The space at Cadillac Fairview really allows us to have an actual physical space to democratize learning and teaching and sort of taking that learning and teaching from my perspective, as associate professor at OCAD University. So taking that, I come out of the ivory tower of university and into a place with community through a mall. And so together we’ve built this space in order to have a hub for OCAD students, designers, residencies and also community members to learn and work together through different workshops and exhibitions.”

DESIGNwith at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Katya Koroscil/DESIGNwith)

Ana Serrano, OCAD University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, said the university is thrilled to extend its collaboration with Cadillac Fairview following the success of last year’s CF Art Corridor Project on Yonge Street, located above CF Toronto Eaton Centre, which made public art more accessible to the community.

“With this new initiative, we’re excited to create a place where the public can learn more about the impact design has on everyday items through hands-on learning and workshops.”

Ana Serrano

The incubator is located on Level 2 between the Dundas Street station entrance and Canadian Tire and the studio will function daily as an incubator space for OCAD University students, a student resident, designers and community members who will use the space to research, learn, and share their exploration of the circular economy through classes, research and hands-on design. 

“The reason we chose that particular location really comes down to classic leasing. It was available and it hadn’t been leased out by anyone yet and it actually was a vacant space that was formerly used for storage,” said Silmser. “So we thought, why not create this beautiful, dynamic community space in a place that was previously unoccupied. That’s why we chose that location. And it actually works out really well because it’s a high traffic zone . . .  and there will be students and faculty coming through the Toronto Metropolitan University. So lots of people will be able to pass by and see and be inspired by the space.”

When asked if the concept could be replicated in other CF properties, Silmser said: “Right now this is a unique partnership between DESIGNwith and the Toronto Eaton Centre . . . It is the perfect middle point between DESIGNwith and OCAD University. There’s no immediate plans to expand this project to other properties but we’re always exploring new ways to innovate and if this is a success we will absolutely look at ways to integrate the learnings from this into our other CF locations. We’re pretty excited. There’s nothing else like this in the market right now. It feels like an opportunity for CF to be a thought leader and really innovate in this space.”

Throughout the year, DESIGNwith will open to the public for ticketed events, starting with a sneaker-making workshop, a circular design student exhibition and natural-dyeing classes.

“The vision for creating a space that minimizes ecological impact also helped influence its design. The 635-square-foot studio was built with 40 per cent repurposed materials thanks to the thoughtful design from partners Design Workshop Architects. These elements were salvaged from other CF locations and previously used store fixtures, including the front doors and windows as well as the track lighting inside,” said Cadillac Fairview.

DESIGNwith at CF Toronto Eaton Centre featuring mural by Daria Joyce (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
DESIGNwith at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“Among the makers and designers who are part of the DESIGNwith studio are Katya Koroscil, DESIGNwith intern, and Ernesto Ramirez, a furniture design intern from Durango, Mexico; both students are in their third year of industrial design at OCAD University. Both students co-designed a furniture collection for use in the incubator space with Industrial Design Professor Ranee Lee and Lee Fletcher, the founding partner at Fig40 and principal at Fletcher Scott Studio. The studio furniture pieces are designed with sustainability, flexibility and affordance in mind, and are made with easy-to-use dimensional lumber and readily available fasteners. This achieves the goal of sharing designs that are producible for anyone, by anyone.

“Also joining the space is DESIGNwith’s student resident, Deanna Badi – an industrial designer with a focus on environmental sustainability. Badi is working on grant-funded research to produce a biodegradable, water-repellent solution for natural fibre outerwear jackets she designs and sews herself.”

The company said one of the first workshops to be hosted at the DESIGNwith studio will be led by footwear designer Nelson Silva, who has more than 20 years of professional experience in the field and focuses on sustainability and innovation in footwear. His five-week sneaker workshop will use upcycled fabrics for shoe-making, as part of DESIGNwith’s goal of democratizing design and knowledge through teaching and making. These workshops are open to the public, but half of the seats will be offered to marginalized community members and students ensuring equity and inclusion, said Cadillac Fairview.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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