I’ve taken a bit of a break recently. Call it writer’s block, call it indolence, call it a holiday – the empty screen has been haunting me to the point that it’s become a thing. Like not thinking elephant.

I wanted to write my traditional year in fashion wrap – how Canada actually made it to No. 5 on the New York Times list of fashion stories of the year, much to its surprise. That’s the Sophie Grégoire Trudeau effect, of course. So that’s what it takes to get noticed – not Canada Goose or Mackage, not Aldo or Lululemon or Aritzia, not our notable ex-pats like Erdem or Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared. Not LVMH wunderkinds Thomas Tait (a Montrealer in London) nor Vejas Kruszewski of Toronto (Who? He won a special LVMH prize of 150,000 euros this year.)

So be it. We’re still looking for stars and muses. SGT has made better choices of late, choosing (with Jessica Mulroney) labels like Judith & Charles, Sentaler, Éditions de Robes, Iris Setlakwe – which is right and proper and let’s hope Canadians and beyond are paying attention and buying.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.42.06 AM

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is making a fashion name for Canada.

I wanted to write about the Vetements phenom, in which oversized sweats with the DHL logo or the brand’s own name emblazoned on garments became cult fashion items, catapulting the collective’s head designer, Demna Gvasalia, to fame and fortune, as well as the creative directorship of Balenciaga. The Vetements spring show, at Galeries Lafayette and kicking off couture week, featured 18 collaborations, from Manolo Blahnik to Juicy Couture and Canada Goose.

Meanwhile, Alber Elbaz, late of Lanvin, remains out of a job.

More fashion disruption came as some designers opted out of the circus schedule of shows, choosing see-now, buy now formats, and nixing pre-collections. In Canada, though, there’s is hardly a circus: Toronto Fashion Week was cancelled when IMG pulled out as a sponsor, and in Montreal, Fashion Preview chugged along for a sixth season, with a modest showing of local designers while the Festival Mode & Design celebrated fashion on the street for a 16th season. In 2017, however, we might get another contender for a showcase week, with Melanie Trevett’s planned Digital Fashion Week.

From Duy.

Duy at Fashion Preview

I wanted to write about some of the top Montreal and Canadian stories: Frank + Oak launched women’s wear; Marie Saint Pierre launched a men’s collection. Parachute – the iconic (and I don’t use that word lightly) Montreal ’80s brand – reappeared in a collaboration with White Walls Worldwide, a design and manufacturing collective.

The retail scene is much on my mind, from a business and personal perspective.

 Maria Balla closed her Les Créateurs boutique, a Montreal landmark for the fashion forward, while Buzz Jeans closed its original location on St. Viateur St. in hipster Mile End.

balla collage 2

All Saints and Pinko came to Montreal, the latter at Les Cours Mont Royal, which devoted 5,000 square feet of prime retail space to a Barbie museum, which opened in February. Harry Rosen upsized, while Birks will downsize to make room for a hotel in the historic flagship onPhillips Square. M0851 is on a roll, opening locations in Montreal and beyond. Ditto Rudsak.

Reitmans and Le Château, meanwhile, ramped up their online sales dramatically – and presumably helpfully.

The M0851 HH58, which broke the internet when Julie Snyder wore one.

The M0851 HH58, which broke the internet when Julie Snyder wore one.

Meanwhile Uniqlo, Nordstrom and Saks landed – variously – in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. Saks and its discount offshoot, Off Fifth, are due in Anjou and Montreal in 2017 and  2018, but there have been no announcements about Nordstrom or Uniqlo here.

Ogilvy

Ogilvy’s is more than the bagpiper and tartan, says marketing VP Steeve Lapierre. It is a part of the canvas of Montreal. La Maison OGILVY

Ogilvy marks its 150th anniversary.

Ogilvy marks its 150th anniversary.

As Ogilvy marks its 150th anniversary and Holt Renfrew prepares to move down the street to merge with with it in an expanded luxury superstore  – with adjacent shopping concourse and Four Seasons Hotel – de la Montagne St. is having a mini-Renaissance. Christofle just opened a freestanding boutique next to Montblanc, Suitsupply and Abe & Mary’s have hoardings announcing their imminent arrival, and pop-up Montagne is snugly ensconced. A Montreal retailer is said to be moving into the space vacated by the La Marque pop-up.

Inside Montagne, the cool new popup on de la Montagne.

Inside Montagne, the cool new popup on de la Montagne.

img_6336

Suitsupply is slated to open in February.

Saks Off Fifth is skedded to open in a newly expanded Eaton Centre (taking in Complexe Les Ailes), while the full price Saks is slated for frontage on the de Maisonneuve Blvd. side of The Bay, both in 2018. The first Off Fifth opening was announced this week, at Galeries d’Anjou in summer 2017, while a Premium Outlets location in Mirabel is coming at an unnamed date.

Old Montreal may be thriving – SSENSE, the great online success story – is there, after all. But don’t get me started. For most of the year, the city was impossibly impassable, so I have not gone to investigate, and more to the point, to shop.

img_5259

Detours galore AND spelling errors.

But shopping I did, mainly in downtown Montreal, but also at Rockland (do read on to learn about my “influencer” debut.)

img_5120

Plastered all over Rockland.

At Aritzia, which went public this year, I bought a wonderful wool scarf with a smokey grey-dusty rose print – even though I hate to buy on a no-returns policy.

After hunting incessantly for years, I finally found my “Happy” bag, a Lanvin. Now I am obsessed with acquiring a Balenciaga City – I did find the Velo model marked down dramatically at Holt Renfrew, then decided it was too big, returned it and discovered the markdown was an error. Oh well, but it was too big.

img_6131

New bag, new dress, older scarves.

I picked up a few classic Norma Kamali pieces – a perfect long-sleeved T and the convertible five-in-one dress – all black and frustratingly lost in my closet most of the time. (Which makes me go out and shop more black dresses.) But I have resurrected my silver Kamali sleeping bag coat, and just wear it in the cold freezing rain even if I look like a stylish moonwalker.

At Simons, I fell in love with an oversize gold velvet frock from Nehera, a Czech-Slovak line.It’s definitely a designer garment, not just a sack, in the way it falls and drapes and goes with anything from jeans for casual wear to an over-kimono for a funky fancy look.

Which brings me to my usual fashion resolution – to buy less and buy better, which I mostly did this year. A shiny rose gold sequin cami may be the big exception. But heck, it was the holidays and I love glitter.

I even acquired an Hermès scarf, which, I am sad to say, I save for special occasions – special being times when I am unlikely to lose it.

Me and Andrew McNally on the catwalk for Reluxe. Photo Eva Blue

Me and Andrew McNally on the catwalk for Reluxe. Photo Eva Blue

And I managed a few firsts this year – a runway debut for Le Chaînon at the Festival Mode & Design, walking – in a Norwegian Wood kimono – with the charming Andrew McNally. Then, I was plastered all over Rockland Centre and the internet as part of its fall campaign. Funny to be on the other side of the camera. Little by little I am buying up the items I wore – a black Judith and Charles slip dress, and from Stuart Weitzman, I await delivery of the Cleveland boot, a tall, dressy non-winter affair that I believe will complete my wardrobe.

The Cleveland boot, photographed as part of the Rockland fall campaign.

The Cleveland boot, photographed as part of the Rockland fall campaign.

img_0425

From Helmer at Fashion Preview. Pink appears to be the colour of spring 2017. But don’t look for me in bloomers or panniers.

And yet. A quick perusal of the fashion magazines got me lusting for fresh fashion. For spring look for shocking and soft pinks – been there, done that, and will do it again – yellows (not my thing), khakis, more sleeve and shoulder play, more volume and more stripes and sportiness.

And look for Comme des Garçons fever, as the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute exhibition will celebrate visionary Rei Kawakubo this spring.

Happy new year!