Inspired by the original concept presented at the second Madness and Arts World Festival in Munster Germany in 2006, the Mad Couture Catwalk was developed collaboratively by Workman Arts and artist/educator Elena Soní, who designed four original garments in cotton ducking as a “blank canvas” for each participating artist. 10 Workman Arts member artists, working in a range of artistic mediums, were selected through an adjudication of formal proposals, and then took part in six months of professional training workshops facilitated by SonÍ to showcase their practice on the garments and to realize their concepts. The Mad Couture Catwalk challenges norms, shifts boundaries, and engages its audience in dialogue about mental health and addiction issues as audiences experience an experimental installation/performance in the form of a runway fashion show. Humour, heartache, pain, frustration, acceptance, and celebration confront you through these works of art. The collections and individual garments reflect each artist’s practice and communicate their unique insights related to mental illness.

Click To Watch CBC’s Coverage On Mad Couture

Past Shows:

Art Gallery of Ontario’s Weston Family Learning Centre

Fashion Art Toronto Week, Toronto, Ontario
Rideau Hall, Toronto, Ontario

Unmasked, Toronto, Ontario (select pieces)


The Classical notion of the madman as a “Natural,” who lives half-clothed and in the outdoors (harmless if peculiar) poignantly contrasts first-person narratives of being at war with one’s self, as described by people with mental illness. The Bedlam Collection articulates these disparate ideas in counterpoint, through the use of textile sculpting, batik, and natural materials.
“Bedlam boys are bonny,For they all go bare and they live by the air And they want no drink nor money.” – From Bedlam Boys, English folk song circa 1618
Lisa Walter is a multi-faceted artist, educator, and journalist who lives and works in Toronto. Her first full-length play, Difference of Latitude, was published in an anthology by Canadian Playwrights Press in 2005. She has been exhibiting her visual art since 2010, including two works for Nuit Blanche, and participated as a visual and media artist with Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival 2010 and 2011. The Globe and Mail has described her work as “delicate and unsparing.” Lisa is the 2014 Visual Artist in Residence at Workman Arts.

| PASSION |  Peter Mulcair

Inspired by nature, the passion collection combines flora, fauna and fantasy. Whimsical garments composed from dozens of photographs evoke our connection to nature and our environment and invite us to reflect on their impact on our daily lives and moods.

Peter Mulcair is a professional fine art and commercial photographer who is interested in nature and our environment. He seeks to reflect and express his moods through portraits of trees, plants, animals,and urban and rural landscapes. His work has been exhibited at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography and Nuit Blanche festivals as well as the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park in Toronto and is held in private and institutional collections.

| TRAUMA, MEMORY AND BODY| Catherine Jones

These garments utilize digital collage techniques to embody the fragmented nature of memory in trauma survivors. Each piece is embellished with fragments of printed text combined with anatomical drawings and childhood photographs. Embroidery, porcupine quills and rusted barbed wired accentuate each piece.The skirt is a skin made up of recovered childhood memories or secrets, printed and then wrapped in small translucent envelopes. Through the model’s movement the dress seems to “whisper” secrets.
Catherine Jones is a Toronto-based photographer and collage artist committed to both traditional darkroom and digital techniques. Her work explores themes of trauma, memory and the body. Through the use of found text and imagery, anatomical drawings and childhood photographs, she investigates the fragmentation that is a key component of trauma and memory. She has exhibited in Toronto, Ireland and New York City.

| THE UN-TAMING OF THE SHREW |  Susan Berthelot Spagnuolo

Alexander McQueen meets Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a collection of deranged garments. Garments embellished with an abundance of recycled fabrics along with the presence of the ever-protective pussy willow resemble twisted remnants of the forest floor layered with time and tragedy. The urban forest comes alive with the atmosphere of a time revisited through marriage of environmental found objects blended with the passion of resurrected fairies and shrews.
Susan Berthelot Spagnuolo is a Toronto based artist working in photography and mixed media. She enjoys recycling materials, reinventing & challenging norms. Susan has co-curated the Generations exhibit at Harbourfront Centre which engaged with Toronto’s leading public art sculptors to promote sustaining environment, art, history and culture. Her work has been exhibited in Toronto during Scotiabank’s CONTACT Photography Festival and Nuit Blanche as well as at the Propeller Centre for Visual Arts, Hart House, and the Gladstone Hotel.

| MENTAL CHAOS | Annalise Walmer
Mental Chaos represents the conflict and struggles faced by people with Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. The collection illustrates the sense of being imprisoned and restricted by one’s thoughts and perceptions, fractured identity and self-harming behaviours, and wanting to be in control of one’s environment, even if it becomes unmanageable or unlivable.
Annalise Walmer is a multidisciplinary artist, musician and writer who explores themes of identity, isolation, feminism and effects of trauma. Formally trained as a graphic artist, she works mainly with found objects and describes herself as “an urban archeologist”. Her work has been exhibited at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (2009-2011), Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (2003, 2008), Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Hart House and the Gladstone Hotel. Her art works are owned by private Canadian collectors.

When in crisis, nature can provide solace with its beauty and mystery. The gigantic world outside of human experience can be a reminder of where my personal struggle fits into the pattern of many other lives, including that of animals and plants. Nature can be harsh, as well as beautiful, so the garments have a sense of the sombre or aggression. The Night Tree dress, with its gauzy cape and black branched bodice, conveys the mystery and magic of the forest in twilight- the best time to mourn.

HMS Skycastle is a self-taught artist who has been mentored by the artists Ronald Satok and Fiona Smyth. His work tends to the fantastical and mysterious, revealing a menagerie of creatures, landscapes to be explored and stories to be told. He works in papier maché, super sculpey and drawing mediums. He has won the Youthline and the Identify N’ Impact awards for contribution to community arts.

| SO YOU WANNA BE MY DRESS, HUH? | Barbara Greene Mann
These three garments are rendered in a stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling, and watercolour illustrations. The collection includes an out of control Toga Party Jacket complete with Purple Haze hallucinations and a vest which tells a tale of over-shopping where ladies have lost their heads, birthing women who are known as “the purse heads”. An eccentric dress presents outlandish scenarios which interweave fantasy and reality, blurring the line between memory and imagination gone haywire.

Barbara Greene Mann is an MFA graduate in printmaking from Wayne State University (1973) and a founding member of the Tribes of the Cass Corridor, Detroit. She is a prolific artist who paints from memory and imagination. Barbara seeks inspiration from current global issues to portray her personal inventions to solve world problems. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, United States and Europe.

| CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE STRanger | (Sheri Ranger)
Controlled Substance presents a tongue- in-cheek look at the glamorization of substance abuse using hypnotic, glamorous patterns that are bold and inviting yet mask the pain, declining health and image of a user. Garments are patterned with bright, brilliant colours, embroidery and assemblage created by the tools of the trade: syringes, bottle caps and pills. These elements draw the viewer into the mind-altering and euphoric state of the user.

STRanger (Sheri Ranger) is a self-taught, Toronto artist who works paint, mixed media, printmaking, clay sculpture, video and most recently, textiles. Exploring themes of addiction, mental health and community, her works are thought-provoking, emotionally charged and beg to entice the viewer. Sheri has participated in numerouscommunity arts projects with the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and YWCA. Her work is part of many private and commercial collections and has been exhibited around the Greater Toronto Area at Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario events, Gardiner Museum ofCeramic Arts, Workman Arts events and local galleries.

| (WITH)DRAWN |  Jace Traz
Social anxieties sometimes lead us into our own world to find solace. (With)Drawn is an homage to the private safety found in the act of drawing. Not only the illustration but the surface itself is inferred to be of heightened importance and a substitute for human interaction- the images being the conversation and the substrate being the listener.
Jace Traz makes visible art with pens, digits, and petroleum. He makes audible art with strings, sticks, and Sara. His works are held private and institutional collections. Most recently his work appeared on prime time television show Risky Business. He is also currently writing and performing with his band All Dressed.

| ICE COLLECTION | Annette Seip

ICE collection brings light and dimension to the darkness of depression. Highlights include Frozen Waterfall dress created by combining photography with digital manipulation, printed onto fabric. The Toronto Star celebrated this piece as one of the top ten designs at the 2013 Fashion Art Toronto week. Snow Dress is intended to represent snow on a sunny day, with various elements being added: feathers, foil and sections of tulle. Mylar and CDs embellish Bright Reflections vest and hot-pants to create a reflective, icy surface. The collection is designed to leave the viewer feeling refreshed, cool and very much alive!

Annette Seip graduated with an MSc from McMaster and turned her talents to photography and digital art after many years in science. Her award-winning photography studies the relationship between order/chaos, isolation/connectedness, and light/darkness. She has exhibited in juried and solo shows including Britain Street Gallery, Queen Gallery, Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Visual Arts Mississauga, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, CONTACT Photography Festival, Royal Ontario Museum, and Cooper’s Fine Art Gallery for Touched by Fire. R.M. Vaughan of Globe & Mail described Annette’s “Ice Diamond” as a “photograph so dappled with liquid light, it could be mistaken for a Mary Pratt painting.”