The Festival Mode & Design, the annual celebration of fashion on the street for the people, came to a close Saturday night. There was something for everybody in this 16th edition – 20 conferences from lofty names like Hervé (Leger) Leroux, Scott Schuman and Charlie Le Mindu, catwalk shows from our high street brands – Le Château, La Vie en Rose, Dynamite, Ardène – and local designs, both by emerging talents and blasts from the past.
In addition, there were 30 popup shops, carny-like acts, ateliers, cocktails …..
It was all too much for any one person to take in.
Nevertheless, I tried my best and lived to tell the tale – just barely. Kudos to the ace P&G Beauté makeup and hair teams, stylists, dressers and others who toiled behind the scenes in sweltering heat to create magical Montreal moments.
Here, then, are some highlights of the week.
Monday: Leger-Leroux: beyond the bandage dress
I interviewed Hervé Leger-Leroux, the legendary creator behind the bandage dress, before the shows. The interview is here. What I learned from his conference: he’s a very funny man, and obviously more at ease in his own language. (We spoke in English.)
Some bon mots from the master designer:
Fashion came naturally to him, he told the packed crowd on opening night: “I’m like Scarlett. I take down the curtains and there you go,’’ he joked, referring, of course, to the scene in Gone With the Wind, in which Scarlett O’Hara fashions a dress from green velvet drapes. Monsieur Hervé O’Hara, perhaps, as his next incarnation?
Of the loss of his name, he said, frankly: “It’s a disaster, but business is business.”
His current work is a cross between his bandage technique and draping, to glorious effect. Slides revealed the stunning work of photographer Desirée Mattson, capturing the lush luxury and movement of Leroux’s creations.
Tuesday: In praise of P.K.
RW & Co., the Reitmans division, slipped into the schedule with a private show featuring its fall collections and its collaboration with Montreal’s departing hockey and philanthropic hero, P.K. Subban.
On a night of torrential rains, guests were treated to an indoor (thankfully!) slick presentation of RW’s mod fall wares, while waiting for P.K. (and munching on lobster rolls and sushi, yum). Naturally, the crowd went wild. Everything about the man is praiseworthy – his singular style, his humour, his humility, his generosity. By the way, he said he owed his sense of style to his mom, who was there in the crowd, along with brothers, sister and dad.
Earlier, Jean-Michel Othoniel gave a talk at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, before a tour of the soon to be opened Pavilion For Peace with its centrepiece Othoniel sculpture titled Peony Knot.
Wednesday: My runway debut for Reluxe
It was for a good cause – Reluxe, the resale shop to benefit women’s shelter Le Chaînon, so I said sure.
A gaggle of us, festival co-producer Chantal Durivage, Isabelle Maréchal, Lolitta Dandoy, Cathy Samson, Isabelle Ethier, Ody Giroux and others, were asked to dress in the spirit of Reluxe for a walk down the Passerelle Casino de Montréal – the big stage at the Quartier des spectacles.
I knew right away I would wear my Norwegian Wood fringed kimono, a dramatic piece designed by Angie Johnson after she and a few other Etsy artisans were given access to the Rijksmuseum archive. The back is printed in silk with The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, circa 1650. Furniture panels from the same era on the front. I wrote about the kimono in 2014 for the Montreal Gazette, and several months later, broke down and bought it.
(Angie has since moved to California, and we miss her.)
Stylist-journalist-fashion all-round fab guy Andrew McNally asked if I would walk the catwalk with him. YES! I replied. And then I asked him to help style me. He pretty much agreed with my choices, but had me change my pearly platform Chie Miharas for classic black Repetto tango heels. It’s so nice to have a second opinion.
The catwalk, I must say, was a cakewalk. People asked if I was nervous. No, I was not. Having witnessed hundreds upon hundreds of fashion shows, indulged in a pre-show glass of Prosecco and having Andrew by my side must have done the trick.
So here’s what I wore: Angie Johnson‘s Norwegian Wood kimono, Le Château choker, rubber necklace from Dutch artist Annemieke Broenink, Alexis Bittar earrings and bracelets, plus crystal bracelets from Bleu Comme le Ciel, Tara Jarmon peg leg pants and an Eileen Fisher shell. Shoes were my fave Repetto Bayas.
Well, after the runway walk, I was exhausted – four hours of waiting around in the heat was part of it. I stayed on site for the Cabinet Éphémère – the Ogilvy local design popup – and Rockland, but my usual attention to detail was a bit blurry.
Thursday: a marathon of talks
It began at 10 a.m. with landscape architect Claude Cormier and ended after 10 p.m. with Sartorialist Scott Schuman. On the catwalk, Ardène, Dynamite La Vie en Rose and many more. I did not make it to everything – not nearly.
Trouble Andrew, the artist who appropriated the Gucci logo, spoke of his skate and snowboard days, his obsession with Gucci – a Gucci watch was his first luxury buy, at age 17 – and designer Alessandro Michele’s free rein for him. Andrew, from Nova Scotia but now based in New York, earned his Gucci Ghost name after making a Halloween costume out of Gucci sheets. Now, his scrawlings adorn the luxury brand’s fall collection.
“I think Gucci is the hottest shit right now because Alessandro takes risks,’’ he said. “They flipped it and hijacked me.”
Fast forward to Sartorialist photographer Scott Schuman, whose observations on fashion, beauty and photography kept an audience captivated for well past the 45 minutes scheduled.
“You all look so great,’’ he opened. “Where’s my camera?”
Among his observations:
*Instagram images are small so you have to think of something interesting to say.
* I’m not one of those snarky people who pretends to know everything.
* Social media is all about the interaction, the engagement.
* Italians would be fine with a king – They would be okay with Miuccia Prada being queen.
* On Carine Roitfeld – she’s got great style and is sexy. “She wasn’t Tom Ford’s muse for nothing.
* Clothes give clues about who the person might be, but don’t call him a photojournalist. “I don’t really want to know the truth.
* We’re capturing moments like never before and seem to be going back to hieroglyphics with our use of emojis.
For more on Schuman, read my interview here.
Friday: blast from the Parachute past
Back in the 1980s, fashion designer Nicola Pelly and architect Harry Parnass launched Parachute, and fly it did.
The Montreal brand made it to the backs of Mick Jagger, Madonna Peter Gabriel,, Michael Jackson, Prince and David Bowie, among others.
It appears Parachute is not forgotten, as an enthusiastic crowd came out to cheer a retrospective of the line in collaboration with WhiteWalls Worldwide. It was curated by The Fine Print.
What was amazing was how contemporary the Parachute looks were – leather blouson jackets (I had the same one back in the day), colour blocks, anoraks, painter prints, jumpsuits, and utility details.
I’m told a Parachute retrospective exhibition is in the works: watch this space.
Saturday: Château, Alton Gray, Guess
Le Château de Montréal kicked off with a Métro video, featuring red heels and its signature fall windowpane check. Cute. Also on trend for the ladies: vests and a fetching floral print.