For Emanuela Lolli, Fashion Preview is a labour of love.
Lolli, who is Italian, has a background as an accessories designer and, by chance, found her passion in promoting the Montreal scene after she arrived here nine years ago.
As designers and organizers get ready for the sixth edition of the Montreal fashion showcase, running for three days from Monday, Oct. 24, it may be time to ask: Is Fashion Preview the new Montreal Fashion Week?
It’s beginning to look a bit that way.
“It is a fashion week,’’ said Lolli, founder and director of the event.
Sponsors are joining up and there is some government funding from Quebec and Montreal’s Bureau de la mode, says Lolli.
The latest feather in the cap for the event is a collaboration with Fibres Collectives, an e-commerce outlet and community for Quebec designers. This season, with backing from mmode (the Montreal metropolitan cluster or “grappe” charged with reviving the fashion industry), it will offer select items from the spring Fashion Preview collections on pre-sale.
That’s in keeping with the industry wide trend to show and sell immediately, breaking the traditional six-month delay in going to market. Consumers see it now, and want it now after all.
And sponsors have been lined up, notably Givenchy (part of the powerful LVMH family) for makeup, Matrix, Loews Hôtel Vogue, Glaceau Smart Water, and Elle Québec. Quebec and the city of Montreal, as well as Tourisme Montréal and the fashion schools are also on board.
But a few things are lacking – namely, major funding and a critical mass of top designers who might have the clout to lure top buyers.
Denis Gagnon was the most prominent name at the start of the Fashion Preview run, and staged creative and innovative shows. But he hasn’t shown in quite a few seasons, and the event seems to draw from upcoming designers, with a few stalwarts – Helmer, Duy, and the return of Christian Chenail – on the calendar this season.
Drawing the successful, well-known names – Marie Saint Pierre, Philippe Dubuc, Marisa Minicucci, Mackage – has always been an issue, however.
Lolli, with her European connections, has buyers from Brussels, as well as Toronto and Vancouver coming. One or two designers will be chosen to be presented by Le New Black, a European digital platform. And streaming of the shows is under negotiation.
With the demise of Montreal and Toronto’s fashion weeks, there is a gap in the Canadian landscape for designers to showcase their collections at home.
Lolli came to Montreal with husband, son and new baby in tow, after working in fashion in Paris for 15 years, notably as an accessories designer at Eden Park.
She recounts her path in getting involved in the Montreal fashion biz.
A meeting with Marie Saint Pierre led to an introduction to Diane Duhamel, director of the city’s fashion bureau.
“Everything just clicked,’’ Lolli recalled over breakfast in an Outremont café.
With her experience at Eden Park, which included helping out on the marketing end of things, she met with designers and understood their issues with promotion, production, sales and sourcing of materials.
She didn’t want to do a fashion week – she thought a big organization from Toronto, New York or Europe would step in – so organized a one-day event, at the Phi Centre.
The event grew and eventually moved to Ogilvy’s Tudor Hall before settling in at the Agora Hydro-Québec et Chaufferie, part of UQAM, last season: 700 people came on the first day: there were 2,000 entries over the three days in all.
“If for the 7th, 8th edition, I have more budget (there will be) more, more more.
“If I do that, the fashion designers are going to come. I think they are attracted to prestige.”