Halifax: Katrina Tuttle’s latest collection is all frills, but no fuss

KATRINA TUTTLE Fall 2009. Photography by Brent McCombs

Gallery Page and Strange (1869 Granville St., 902-422-8995, pageandstrange.com), located in Halifax’s historic Granville Mall, houses the best walls in the city. Encompassed by the sleek columns, stunning molding and sky-kissing ceilings of a bygone era, the building’s old brick walls have been slathered in a fresh, modern white that would make any artist salivate. These gallery walls, and the contemporary art that hangs from them, created the perfect setting for last Thursday’s unveiling of Katrina Tuttle’s (katrinatuttle.com) Fall 2009 designs—a collection that has painted classic ideas in a coat of modernity.

Much like the soap bottles and track pants that have ignited Tuttle’s inspiration in the past, this collection has a quirky beginning too. The designer was out on a nature shoot (Tuttle has more than a knack for photography) when the bottom halves of trees, the textures of rocks, and the rich natural palette ignited her creativity. Toss in a moment with her front-loading washing machine when the churning garments had folded like a flattened accordion, rinse it all in a desire to fuse trendy with classy and you have the line’s current aesthetic.

KATRINA TUTTLE Fall 2009 Photography by Brent McCombs

Working with gorgeous fabrics (from raw silk to cozy wool) and traditional patterns (from houndstooth to plaid), Tuttle took ownership of classic and retro silhouettes by adding the modern accents we’ve come to expect. Buttons were not only oversized and adorable, but also popped up at the top of those deep, drooped knife pleats, and the lush ruffles that hung from necklines, circled hems and encompassed hips were made casual with raw edges and spines of ribbon. The one element I didn’t quite love was Tuttle’s use of elasticized waists and necklines, which awkwardly cinched crisp, raw silks into a bunchy, bulky band. I’m all for playing with the potential of fabrics, but not when the result is a touch more frump than fierce. Her signature cuts made up for it though, with bubble skirts galore and natural waists a-plenty—two looks that I’m nowhere near over.

Beyond providing the perfect backdrop (the gallery’s brick walls were coincidentally lined with artist Drew Klassen’s rainforest and jungle canvases), Gallery Page and Strange did even more for Tuttle’s show. An intimate space meant guests were seated a mere arm’s length from the floor-level runway, providing an up-close perspective of the intricate design work. A chocolate sweater dress I’ve been pining for since Atlantic Fashion Week doubled in beauty when I could see the plush knit of cashmere and alpaca, a prim little skirt that held its upside-down teacup shape became even more lovely from a few feet away, and the rich print of a stunning backless mini-dress was unveiled as a fine, embroidered silk.

With all those details, Tuttle’s latest collection makes it easy for the girl who’s under the ruffles and pleats—all the accessorizing has been done for you. And from a designer who insists she’s not a girlie girl, it makes for a polished, of-the-moment look without all the fuss.

Torontonians can catch Katrina Tuttle’s Fall 2009 collection at Toronto’s Alternative Arts and Fashion Week (www.alternativefashionweek.com) on April 21, 2009, in the Distillery District’s Fermenting Cellar.

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