Video: The highlights from Montreal fashion week fall 2011

Montreal fashion week is strutting an eager new February time slot (sayonara March!) that puts the city’s Semaine de la mode literally at the forefront of fashion ⎯ starting the 2011 fashion cycle ahead of New York. From a packed schedule of shows, presentations and parties, I’ve distilled my top moments. Here are the highlights.

Day One: I started the four-day event with a left and right brain workout at the Post-Vernissage show created by the firm Trusst. Designers Karl Latraverse and Ying Gao, presented their second collection in a Hussein Chalayan-esque realm. While two models made their way down the runway in choreographed instalments involving the exchange of a web-like fabric mesh, chairs along either side of the runway became the focus of a somewhat robotic game of musical chairs.

Earlier that day, Ralph Leroy debuted a women’s collection to compliment his already existing men’s line. Meanwhile, Evik Asatoorian, retail visionary behind Rudsak, introduced the younger, edgier collection Rud (pronounced rude).

Day Two: Rachel Fortin and her business partner/beau Mathieu Mudie previewed the latest Rachel F. collection in an informal presentation at new, trendy hotspot in the Old Montreal, Bar Philémon. The accessory collection mixes recycled furs with unexpected fabrics and silkscreens.

Back at the MFW home base of Marché Bonsecours, other shows to note included the constantly evolving jewellery collection by Micalla (I wore a lovely chain and crystal pair of earrings a few days later) and Bodybag by Jude whose chic separates are perfect for nine-to-five gals in artsy office environments.

Day Three: Mulcair, a finely tailored collection by Juliana Bennett, gets a big star in my book. This season, she took her tomboy look and gave it a ballet twist, presenting the models with a dancer’s bar as a backdrop. Soia & Kyo also showed off their signature jackets and coats always popular with trend-conscious Montreal ladies, and now gents as well.

Day Four: Finishing the week off with a bang, my Aldo stilettos got a real workout on the last⎯and in my opinion best⎯day of shows. Denis Gagnon started his show with a good dose of avant-garde black that surely made his cult following giddy. Boot wedges were lined with fur, and elbow-length latex gloves were adorned with oversized, semi-precious stones in bracelet and ring formats by Toronto-based jewellery designer Dandi Maestre. Then, in a quirky part two segment, the Cinnabon-coifed models emerged in vivid candy-coloured layers with zippered extension pleats and crocheted mesh dresses.

The Télio Student Design Competition had young designers from across Canada creating under the theme of The Great Canadian North. First prize winner of the scholarship went to Earl Mabaquiao from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. I had the pleasure of chatting with the friendly westcoaster the day before, as well as meeting Jason Matlo, one of the judges, and my favourite Vancouver fashion designer, as well as host Nico Archambault (winner of So You Think You Can Dance Canada in 2008), an avid promoter of local talent.

At Barilà, the runway was transported back to the seventies. Long skirts, capes, jersey wrap dresses, faux suede suits and wide-brimmed felt hats in teals, baby blue, aubergine, persimmon and burnt orange plaid evoked a ladylike Russian Princess theme, styled by Cary Tauben.

Montreal fashion veteran Marie Saint-Pierre closed the week on a high note with clean, architectural lines in a mainly black and charcoal palette. Hints of bright orange and hot pink flashed by way of contrasting neck embellishments and gloves. Almost blinded by the rakishness of their fedoras, flat-shoed models seemed to glide toward the hot lights of the photo pit. La piece de resistance, which earned Saint-Pierre a mid-show applause, was a full, floor-skimming skirt that billowed with sheer silk up and down the runway – poetic pleats in motion. It was more than enough to keep me satiated until next season.