Montreal Fashion Week highlights

A look from Denis Gagnon's Spring 2010 collection on the runway at Montreal Fashion Week. Photography by Jimmy Hamelin

The Marché Bonsecours overflowed with Montreal’s fashion crowd who teetered in high-heels over St-Paul Street’s cobblestones to take in three days of Montreal Fashion Week.

On day one, Andy Thê-Anh’s “cocktail” presentation unraveled more like a schmoozy happy hour social than a spring and summer preview. Latecomers tiptoed to catch glimpses of the central stage that doubled as a mini-runway while P&G Beauty reps (in coral mini-togas) served skincare samples on trays like canapés. Known for his sophistication and architectural details, Thê-Anh’s show sparkled (even from a distance) with various shades and intensities of blue paired with neutral white and black.

Later that evening, hockey fans applauded Alexei Kovalev, the ex-Montreal Canadien who took time off from his new team in Ottawa to make a comeback appearance at Envers by Yves Jean Lacasse and Tatyana Parfionova in a white gangster-striped suit with an XL black lapel and silk scarf. Proceeds from their collaboration will benefit the Kovalev and Friends Foundation for Kids.

The next day at Eve Gravel, the fashion vet of 15 years started her show somewhat backwards, opening (instead of ending) the show, with a perky bride in a mini-dress. The collection proceeded with a fresh hippie-meets-Hamptons look then, suddenly, took a 180-degree turn back to urbanite Manhattan with ’80s-inspired black boleros over leather pencil skirts, floral patchwork skirts and flat Doc Martin-ish boots.

Actress Karine Vanasse (who recently produced and starred in the controversial film Polytechnique) added some star power at Soia & Kyo, bouncing her petite frame up and down the runway to France Gall’s “Laisse tomber les filles”–and looking good in short shorts, we might add. An exuberant collection of sporty separates with lots of the jackets Montreal girls adore, including fitted biker jackets, short trench coats and grey leather crops accented with nerdy glasses, preppy Keds runners and white Bobby socks paired with four-inch platforms.

Patrice Soku, winner of last year’s La Collection on TVA (Quebec’s version of Project Runway) presented his satiny, strap-happy collection under the eponymous name of Sokü. A slick and focused first collection, albeit one that seemed less than summery due to his heavy-on-the-black palette, was mixed with metallic silver and gold and striking shots of red, purple and royal blue.

Bravo to the models at Barilà’s first showing at fashion week. The bed of synthetic petals on the catwalk caused many arm-waving fallmosts (almost falls) and a handful of derrière landings (Coincidentally the song “Shoes” by Tiga played in the background, singing, “Just take off your shoes.”) After one too many tumbles, the girls paraded barefoot. Gymnastics aside, Barilà’s provocative collection made for “the woman who lives the life she loves” featured chic, glam jetsetter separates like a high-waisted harem pant, Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress and loose tanks cut dangerously high in the front. The team behind the brand is designer Sabrina Barilà and her sister/partner Claudia, a former model famously attached to Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté (yes, the Guy who just returned from the space station). A quick video presented the One Drop Foundation that he founded, toward which a portion of Barilà profits will benefit.

Lasalle College alumnus, Helmer Joseph’s sent the crowd to church, setting the tone with Gregorian chants to present his Helmer line. Depicting the seven wives of Bluebeard, Joseph’s slightly macabre eveningwear was inspired by his fascination with funeral processions, which he loved to watch as a child: “They were dignified and demonstrated a rare elegance.” Models in fairy tale gowns displayed Joseph’s talents in textile and couture, showing theatrical ornamentation with a feast of ribbons, feathers and beads. Dramatic hats and veils balanced sequined, sheer bodices over voluptuous bottoms in generous organza, raffia and taffeta. Spotted in the front row (it’s hard to miss his 6’2” physique) was Canadian fashion icon Philippe Dubuc for whom Joseph worked after his experience abroad.

The week ended on a high note with Barbara Atkins-approved Denis Gagnon. Lots of local celebs came for a sneak preview, like the lovely Virginie Coosa who came in Gladiator sandals and green cargo/harem pants. Gagnon’s retro-futuristic show, superbly orchestrated by Siphay Southidara, was influenced by the 1920s science fiction film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Gorgeous on the models (but maybe less so on the real woman) were high-cut bodysuits (yes, we saw them at Eve Gravel, too) paired with low-rise outer space pants belted by an unusual Victorian collar. Zippers in heavy metal or thin plastic played a decorative focus, stringing (or zipping?) together a theme of industrial necklines, cuffs and seams. And of course there were the trademark butter-soft leathers, this year’s coveted piece: a leather bodice jacket with knit hoodie. Gagnon’s mainly sober palette, incorporating grey and black with dabbles of sherbet orange and mint green, was matched with purses by Fullum & Holt and shoes (embellished with more zippers à la Gagnon) by Aldo. Never seen before in the history of MFW, a last-minute second show was added due to the unexpected over-attendance of devoted Denis Gagnon fans, proving once again that Montrealers are passionate about their fashion and dedicated to their own.

Click the image below for photos from Montreal Fashion Week.

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