Montreal is taking a stand. By hosting a brand-new Fashion Week, the city is attempting to reclaim its status as Canada's fashion capital. It lost the title in the 1970s when an exodus of talent bled the industry. This season's show, organized by the Montreal Fashion Network, showcased 15 designers over the past week.
This wasn't the first time Montreal's style set has banded together. Egos and turf wars along the catwalk collapsed all previous initiatives, including Sessions Mode, the last event held annually from 1994 to 1998 by the now-defunct Quebec Professional Fashion Designers Association.
But according to Alan Herscovici, president of Montreal Fashion Network, this is anything but a sunset industry. "Without a lot of hype, the clothing industry has adapted to competition from countries with lower labour costs and survived free trade. There may have been more Quebec-based companies 15 years ago, but the ones that made it are very strong."
But why will it work this time?
"Because we aren't having one big show, where the designers have to agree on one date, then share the same models, makeup, hair, set and lighting. That caused the old conflicts," explained Lynda Brault, one of the co-ordinators at Fashion Network Montreal. "This time, the designers are mounting their own separate shows, often at the same location but in different rooms with their own sets and crews."
The location was Aria, a chic nightclub on St. Denis Street. Kamkyl, LK, Marisa Minicucci, Michel Desjardins, The Bodybag line from Jude, C'est pas grave, Yves-Jean Lacasse for Envers, Grand'Heur 5'8", Rush and Yso participated, along with five emerging designers.
Things got off to a shaky start on Tuesday, when the Designers Debut show underwhelmed the crowd of mostly media people. Maia showed her retro bathing suits, followed by Catherine Brûlé's peacock blue halter dresses and GG Creations's classy eveningwear, which included a long white knit tunic.
"It's early days for Montreal's Fashion Week, but it isn't really early days, is it?" said Marilyn Morley, senior fashion and news writer at Style magazine. "It's a restart. It should be more polished."
Criticism, however, was silenced later that night at Marisa Minicucci's show. There was no mistaking Minicucci's elegant day and dinner wear collections as anything but world-class. Perforated suede belts and skirts were matched with stretch-cotton shirts and trenches in camel and navy.
Back at Aria, Envers ended the night with an upbeat show of innovative men's "skirts" and four-legged pants. His layered, asymmetrical shirts were daring and polished.
But where are the other high-profile labels in town, like Lino Catalano, Marie Saint-Pierre and Jean Airoldi?
"The first Montreal Fashion Week is not representative of the city's talent," noted Claude Laframboise, editor of Fashion Montreal. "Although the first attempt is a well-intentioned initiative, it is unfortunate that there is no selection committee and a wider spectrum of participants."
"The solution is to merge this show with the Toronto show," suggested Suzanne buyers and press a more dense show, and more reason to make the trip." Boyd, editor of Flare magazine. "We'd take turns hosting it, and it would give