Fashion Week Montreal

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The 18th annual Montreal Fashion Week kicked off in style at the Marché Bonsecours last week. The festival was full of innovative fashion shows, glamorous parties, and the fifth edition of Le Showroom, in which leading designers play host to buyers from around the world. MFW also continued its campaign to encourage the use of appropriately aged, healthy models in support of the Quebec Charter for a Healthy and Diverse Body Image, launched in 2009. Meanwhile, the unspoken rules of fashion shows did not seem to apply here; the all-black rule was broken with aplomb by stylish young fashionistas in a variety of berry-coloured tights. In Canada’s unofficial fashion capital, the atmosphere was celebratory, and the breathless enthusiasm of many of the young designers was enough to warm the hearts of even the most jaded industry insider.

So’a & Kyo

After the high-art style of the TÉLIO competition, and the glitz and glamour of Barilà, the So’a & Kyo show presented an elegant practicality with its men’s and women’s outerwear collection. Since its debut in 2004, the brand has risen among the ranks of the fashion outerwear industry, and this collection was no exception. Highlights included down coats with asymmetrically structured collars, belted pea coats in a variety of jewel tones, and black wool motorcycle jackets with oversized buttons. Ever mindful of his clientele, designer Ilan Elfassy provided polished ways to combat the Montreal cold. One standout piece was a playful blue plaid mid-length coat with a high-buttoned collar. Despite the warmth of the room, the bundled-up models bounded down the runway in distressed boyfriend jeans topped with large bow headbands or soft knit berets. The models were also doing something not often seen at fashion shows: smiling. Continuing with the playful atmosphere, attendees at the show were given gift bags containing heart-shaped keychains, So’a & Kyo bike bells, and a shiny mint-green mouse pad.

The Future of Canadian Fashion: Concours TÉLIO 2010

For the second time at Montreal Fashion Week, the TÉLIO Design Competition recognized some of Canada’s best and brightest fashion students in a runway show of their own. The 25 finalists were selected from 20 participating fashion-design schools across Canada. Each finalist showcased one design on the runway in the hope of receiving one of five scholarships totalling $10,000. Sponsored by TÉLIO, one of North America’s leading textile import/export and distribution companies, the Concours TÉLIO offers aspiring Canadian fashion designers a platform to help jumpstart their careers and prepare them for the commercial realities of the fashion industry.

For the 2010 competition, students were asked to design “a uniquely modern, timeless, and authentic creation that would identify their garment as art-à-porter; the new must-have for women at a high-end retail company.” The finalists showcased their creations to the raucous applause of the audience.

In the end, the first prize of a $3,500 scholarship was awarded to Andy Hoan Nguyen of College Lasalle in Montreal. His artfully tailored, broad-shouldered black jacket evoked a Mildred Pierce-meets-Lady Gaga aesthetic. Andre Télio, President of TÉLIO, was impressed by this year’s contenders. “[They] surpassed expectations,” he said.

Dimitri Chris

The Dimitri Chris Fall/Winter 2011 collection, aptly titled “Master of the Foxhounds,” calls itself “the perfect symbiosis between the art of hunting and the art of tailoring.” The collection exuded patrician sophistication with an undeniably modern flair; herringbone hunting caps were paired with sumptuous leather gloves and chunky knit scarves, pointing the Dimitri Chris aesthetic firmly towards the future. The richly varied texture present in the collection continued with tailored wool jackets juxtaposed against knit capes and crisp white shirts worn with patent leather equestrian boots. Bow ties, sixties-inspired sunglasses, and slick, side-parted hair were reminiscent of Tom Ford’s A Single Man. It was the attention to detail that made “Master of the Foxhounds” truly special – hidden buttons, integrated scarves, reversible coats, and an abundance of knitwear married polished old-world elegance with young, urban sophistication in a collection that was truly a feast for the senses.

Denis Gagnon

Fashion Week concluded in a cascade of fringe on Thursday night as Denis Gagnon showcased his highly anticipated new collection. The show opened with a clip from the new documentary film about the designer, Je M’Appelle Denis Gagnon. Gagnon’s brilliance was woven through every piece as crochet, mesh, leather, fur, and fringe came together in his thoughtful and artistic designs. There was a Princess Leia/tribal feel to his collection, joining blacks, browns, slate, and midnight blue in his designs.

In an act of appreciation to his devoted following in this city, Gagnon ran his show twice back-to-back; his second show was the only one open to the public during Montreal Fashion Week. As line-ups of ticket-holders formed outside Marché Bonsecours, the first show concluded with a standing ovation (a rarity at Montreal Fashion Week). Yes, the dresses were at times revealing, but that’s quite alright on the catwalk – especially if your name is Denis Gagnon.

Barilà

Barilà‘s Fall/Winter 2010 collection reworked the recent pleather leggings trend in a variety of ways, including ruching, lacing, and ribbing. It appears that the legging is here to stay, albeit with more attention to design. A standout was a black, busty pleather catsuit which elicited hoots and hollers from a normally quiet audience. In addition to the pleather leggings was a curious faux-leather quilted short that embodied Barilà‘s glam-rock aesthetic.

The rock star vibe continued throughout the collection in the form of fitted blazers, cowl necks, and jumpsuits, returning trends from last year’s collections. As designer Sabrina Barilà explained, the philosophy of this collection came from staying “true to Barilà‘s essence, which encourages us to play with our wardrobe.”

Barilà‘s inspiration for the fun-loving spirit of the collection was drawn mainly from indie rock groups and the video game Rock Band. Models strutted haughtily down the runway to The Hives; one or two carried a set of drumsticks or had a flying-V guitar slung casually across her back. The show concluded in an explosion of silver confetti and lively applause as the clearly elated Barilà sisters took the runway.