Thanks to Canadian-Fashion.ca for allowing me to have a great experience at SMM2012! Here’s what I encountered during my short and ever so sweet visit!
By Melissa Schilz
Upon arriving in Montreal Wednesday morning, I felt a sudden rush of excitement. This would be a whole new world in comparison to my experiences at Ottawa Fashion Week. I was a lamb making my way into a wolf’s territory. The images and memories of OFW came trickling back into my mind but were soon replaced with something more.
The architecture and the cobblestone streets make all the difference. We made our way down Rue Saint Pierre searching for Centre PHI, where Travis Taddeo’s newest collection for Spring/Summer 2013 would make it’s debut. The building is concrete and glass, with stainless steel fixtures and a modern vibe, though it sits between streets that may have remained the same for well over 100 years.
We sat in the lobby downstairs fervently, the seats filling up rather quickly with people holding cameras and wearing mostly black ensembles. Everyone rushes to the elevator when the three girls holding clipboards finally say it’s ready. We’re excited to see what Travis Taddeo has in store for us; after all, he is the first Canadian designer to partner with Aldo Rise.
We are greeted with champagne in a large and bright room with tall, fantastic windows, but before anyone accepts a glass, the cameras come out in full force and we soak in the array of shoes, all set upon grey tables like decadent desserts. What makes this collection interesting is the fact that he was able to create and design an image in his mind with the help of Aldo Rise. In doing so, Taddeo’s menswear line can include shoes that complete the look he had in mind.
The colours are simple shades of black and white, a running theme across his entire collection. Despite this, I still found the designs to be interesting and even something I would consider purchasing for a male friend. I especially enjoyed a leather pair of lace-ups with a thin rubber sole, they caught my eye as soon as I walked in the door.
A popular design worn by a few of Travis Taddeo’s team were a combination of Velcro and leather with an almost sandal-like appearance – definitely a summer shoe for men that looked comfortable and airy. However, it would take me some time to accept the rather odd design.
After spending some time contemplating over the shoes, it was time to take our seats. What came down the runway minutes later was sometimes average, but also made sure to pique our interest. An overarching fabric theme of jersey, leather, and linen was presented to the small audience, and just as we saw with the shoes, a palette of neutral shades were used. Bright whites, jet blacks, and shades of grey were prominent, however a pop of blue also made a welcomed appearance. One trend that will be continuing into 2013 is the men’s tank – Taddeo presented several different variations, which all had some sex appeal and simplicity.
What truly made the collection interesting was the use of leather accessories, including chokers and strappy chest pieces, but the line still felt casual enough for every day wear. Well, maybe not the leather underwear – but I would be lying if I said that didn’t catch anyone’s attention. There was a slight air of kink, I think we all felt it, but also enjoyed it. There were no restrictions here.
Taddeo clearly has extensive experience in design, and I was impressed by the cut of the fabric as well as the quality. Some of the lighter pieces flowed beautifully down the runway, but it was good to see more structured designs, such as leather shorts and vests. For his first complete menswear collection, Taddeo scored some serious points in the Montreal fashion scene.
When we finally arrived at Arsenal, where the rest of the evening would be spent ogling the latest spring trends on the runway, I couldn’t help but notice the ultra hip feel that was surrounding eager yet cool patrons. What caught my gaze immediately was the chandelier constructed of mannequins glowing red and floating above the VIP area. High industrial ceilings and oddly shaped furniture alongside portraits adorned on walls encircle us as we sit patiently waiting for the evening to get started. There was no shortage of rather loud dance music playing to get the audience pumped up before making our way to the show.
Betina Lou kicked off the night on the upper floor on a small runway with limited seating. The lighting was low and music with a classical vibe began to pour from the speakers as models made their appearance very slowly. The collection had a bouncy schoolgirl feel with a twist of sailor, which was quickly eaten up by those watching. The clothes seemed to glide down the runway easily, and the historic inspirations and timeless looks definitely popped.
Launched in 2009, Betina Lou (by Marie-Eve Emond) is one of the younger designers on display this evening, but she certainly made a splash with her lightweight knits and classic cuts with a modern edge. Everything was wearable and practical without being too simple or boring. The neutral colours and feminine, delicate details kept our interest, and a certain sex appeal emanated from the clothes but innocence still prevailed. I especially enjoyed a blue and white checkered dress with a big blue bow and a navy cardigan – a Lolita like ensemble that was a running theme for Betina Lou. It certainly turned a few heads and got Marie-Eve Emond the attention she deserves.
Iris Setlakwe opened in the main room with upbeat electronic music alongside elegant and refined pieces that held a more mature look for the workplace or an evening on the town. Many of the pieces contained a neutral palette, but the designer also managed to squeeze in bursts of bright orange, pink, red and blue. Although I felt some of the fabrics were not the best quality, as some seemingly had splotches almost invisible from the sidelines, overall there was a glamorous and stylish charm to the designs. Sheer fabrics and silk were a popular choice for many of the pieces, a perfect selection for spring and summer wear.
I found the choice in models very refreshing as well. Instead of the usual stick thin girls, the models were your average girls next door, enthusiastic and full of energy, making the clothes all the more appealing to the buyers. Two words come to mind when I think or Iris Setlakwe: fun and fresh.
Although not particularly enthralling or memorable in comparison to others designers of the day, I have to give Iris Setlakwe some credit. The cuts were meticulous and the designs were flattering, despite my dislike of some of the pieces, including a white, rumpled tank with bejeweled shoulders. Depending on what you’re looking for, this collection could very well improve your summer wardrobe.
Next up in the limelight was DUY, who brought a little more edge to the evening. Originally from Vietnam and raised in Montreal, Duy Nguyen is known for his sharp tailoring and innovative craftsmanship. Spectators were not disappointed, and being a huge fan of denim, I found myself swooning over some of his designs, in particular, a long denim jacket that flowed gracefully down the runway paired with a simple white jersey dress.
The collection is hip and unique with a wide range of colour, from deep reds to mint greens, and even flashy golds. DUY stayed away from patterns, opting for solid colours and creative details, which gets a thumbs up from me. Patterns can be tiring, and using splashes of colour in just the right way makes all the difference. DUY managed to do just that, giving us a funky yet feminine line with impressive construction and a cool, collected vibe.
When it was time for the last show, the audience was abuzz. We were about to witness something a little more experimental and mysterious. UNTTLD is a collective project made up of José Manuel St-Jacques and Simon Bélanger – both who have clearly been inspired by all kinds of art forms including music and literature. One thing is for sure; they certainly know how to put on a show.
It started with a short film that played on the huge screen at the top of the runway. The spectators was enthralled by the images, full of colour and passion, but also a little on the dark side. The eerie feeling was enhanced with old Japanese music, a foggy runway, and strange crashing noises emanating from the speakers.
The models emerged in all black pieces, adding to the almost funeral-esque atmosphere. There was definitely some Japanese inspiration here, and even though the show was compelling, not all of the clothes were. Some of the dresses seemed shapeless and poorly cut, and a few awkwardly placed zippers didn’t seem to be sewn in just right. Despite a few setbacks, there were some pieces I enjoyed, including a deep green pair of pants paired with a silk halter-top.
Even just a single day at Montreal Fashion Week can bring joy to any lover of Canadian fashion. Yes, there were a few misses, but overall, Montreal designers bring us great ideas of what to expect this coming spring and summer. Sheer fabrics and solid colours are a popular trend that we will be seeing more of in this upcoming season, and I am already longing for the warmer weather to return. I sign off with one final impression I brought home to Ottawa with me – less is more. One day at MFW brought more inspiration to my wardrobe than several days at OFW. I have high expectations for Ottawa after sinking my teeth into a few new designers, and hope to see more designers like these in the future.