First thing's first: Denis Gagnon is a Canadian fashion design genius.
The Montrealer's catwalk presentation at LG Fashion Week beauty by L'Oreal on Friday night was for many in the capacity crowd inside Heritage Court where the show took place the undisputed highlight of the week long event which concluded soon after with the Dare to Wear AIDS fashion fundraiser.
"He's such a genius," said Susan Langdon, president of the Toronto Fashion Incubator.
"For a designer to sustain your interest at the very end of Fashion Week is no small accomplishment," observed Laurie Belzak Toronto's fashion industry voice at City Hall. "I was mesmerized, start to finish."
Gagnon's allure was instantly apparent.
The focus of an exhibition of 20 works that opened last week at Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts, Denis Gagnon S'Expose, the first such national museum show dedicated to a Canadian fashion designer, Gagnon is a draping virtuoso who sculpts the body with layers of fabric that dramatize the curves and movement of the female shape.
In the past, the Quebec-born designer with a background in theatre design has tended to work with strips of leather to create deluxe clothing with a punk princess sensibility.
For the spring/summer 2011 collection he presented in Toronto last week, his main material consisted of stringed fringe attached in undulating layers to transparent lace micro-mini dresses with zips up the front and back.
The fringe sexily shimmered as bodies moved down the runway, an effect augmented by the presence of fine metal chains attached to translucent lacey tops paired with pinstripe trousers.
But the showstopper had to be the white fringe dress with silver chains that formed the finale: a wedding dress for the woman who dares.
Deliberate or not, the look recalled Josephine Baker, the Paris-based Jazz Age American dancer whose swiveling hips inside a fringed dress once sparked a sexual revolution.
Gagnon's own revolutionary approach to fashion also extended to bum-skimming shorts made of leather and slit provocatively on the thigh, much like a runner's short, and macramé dresses with netting and knotting that revealed the flesh beneath.
Elsewhere, Gagnon chose to highlight the inherent power of the body with cling-on dresses with bold black and white chevron striping that seemed to roar visually on the retina as they motored down the runway.
While the show included garments showing copper and moss green, black and white was a dominant theme.
Gagnon created his colour palette through dip-dying, a painstaking technique producing gradations of colour that added to the air of seductiveness that permeated the entire collection.
Topping it all off was a new line of accessories Gagnon has created with Fullum & Holt, including stiff leather handbags with gnarled straps and protruding silver clasps that looked as they could wound. As if anyone would care:
Gagnon's fashions having already pierced the soul.