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The Globe and Mail

Montreal Fashion Week attracting more international attention

Designer Marie Saint Pierre joins models on the runway at Montreal Fashion Week in this undated handout photo. The latest edition of Montreal Fashion Week begins on Monday, Feb. 6 where the semi-annual event will feature fall-winter collections.

Sebastien Roy/ The Canadian Press/Sebastien Roy/ The Canadian Press

Opting to be fashionably early appears to be paying off for Montreal's semi-annual style showcase.

Montreal Fashion Week organizers say the decision to shift the event date within the global style calendar gives them the chance to attract international buyers just ahead of fall-winter presentations in New York.

Waiting until March or April to stage the showcase may be too late to capitalize on buyers who might have already maxed out their budgets, noted Sensation Mode co-president Jean-Francois Daviau, whose firm organizes Montreal Fashion Week.

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While they typically have between 18 and 25 buyers from other countries, Mr. Daviau said the latest edition, which begins on Monday, will see an expected 40 attending – not including the dozens more anticipated from outside of Quebec.

"If you can put out your collection early in the season it shows that your business is a serious one that can compete with others," Mr. Daviau said in an interview. "The credibility aspect is so important here in Canada. I think that's where we still have a lot of work to do – but it's growing. And the sales are getting better and better also."

Mr. Daviau said since Canadian designers aren't the strongest in mass production, they have to be able to generate a number of repeats for buyers. As such, an earlier slot on the calendar affords them more time to create items that they hope translate into a significant sales bump.

"Let's say buyers buy 10 pairs of jeans. They can come back if it's early in the season and in three weeks say, 'I want 10 more,'" he said. "It's really to offer products that are adapted to the designer's reality."

Fall-winter collections from emerging and established talents will be front and centre during the four-day event. In addition to off-site presentations, the bulk of runway shows will be staged at Bonsecours Market, the event's central hub in the heart of Old Montreal.

Long-time designer Christian Chenail is set to launch the 22nd season with the latest from his Muse label.

Marie Saint Pierre, Martin Lim, Melissa Nepton, Annie 50, Eve Gravel, Tavan & Mitto and Rud from leather goods retailer Rudsak are among the designers and labels also taking to the runway.

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Montreal Fashion Week will cede the stage to a crop of homegrown fashion newcomers with the annual "Canada's Breakthrough Designers" event presented by Quebec-based textile company Telio on Feb. 9.

The week is set to conclude with presentations from Anastasia Lomonova, LYN by Jocelyn Picard and UNTTLD.

While principally geared toward industry and media, everyday style fans will have their chance to participate in Fashion Week festivities with advance and last-minute tickets available for select shows. The event has carved out a digital presence with live web content scheduled to be featured each evening on Sensation Mode's Facebook page. Meanwhile, guest experts from Elle Quebec and the fashion community will offer their views on some of the collections in the evening on Twitter.

But the consumer engagement doesn't end there. Mr. Daviau said there is a consistent effort during the week to promote the event within the city in a bid to better familiarize potential shoppers with designers.

"It's the right timing for us to talk to them and try to bring them in the designer's boutique," said Mr. Daviau. This, in turn, has an influence on retailers who may see interest piqued in particular designers and potentially seek them out for a partnership, he noted.

A trio of Quebec-based designers who have had a presence at Montreal Fashion Week have embarked on style collaborations with homegrown retailers in recent years.

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Saint Pierre created a capsule dress collection for Reitmans and has another line slated for spring. Denis Gagnon teamed with Bedo, while Phillipe Dubuc has designed collections for department store Simons.

"The more Fashion Week has become strong, the more we see those associations," said Mr. Daviau. "The more we build the awareness of the designer, the more they are (of interest) for the association with retailers."

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