By  on May 19, 2015

TORONTO — As a teenager in junior high, Matthew Gallagher opened his notebook and wrote, “I will have my own fashion label one day.”Fast-forward to 2015 and Maison Matthew Gallagher, the label helmed by the 28-year-old designer from Amherst, Nova Scotia, has fulfilled that dream and more by winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels contest.The win, which included a 25,000 Canadian dollar, or $20,450, cash prize, was revealed earlier this month after a runway show before 300 buyers and other industry figures at Toronto’s downtown event space, One King Street West.“When my name was announced I couldn’t hear a thing. My heart was pounding,” Gallagher said. “For someone from a small town, where fashion wasn’t on everyone’s radar, this victory was a validation. But above all else, it was my first big chance to showcase my passion for bringing old Hollywood glamour back to modern dressing. That’s my great ambition,” said Gallagher, whose winning fall presentation opened with a well-tailored, all-cream ensemble set to a remix of Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera.”Gallagher, along with 30 other emerging Canadian designers, entered the annual competition in December 2014. Four finalists were selected by a judging panel that included designer David Dixon and Suzanne Timmins, the senior vice president and fashion director at the Hudson’s Bay Co.Other finalists included former Vivienne Westwood trainee Valérie Tolila of Vaiken; Jennifer Torosian and Raed Ali for Jennifer Torosian, and Benji WZW designer Benji Wong Zhen Wang.The Milan-trained Gallagher's collection showcased his mix of daytime and evening fabrics and embellishments, such as flannel with feathers and trains of flowing chiffon, and used that textural eclecticism to create a modern Hollywood siren.“Everybody showed so well this year, but Matthew displayed a level of sophistication and maturity in his fabric pairings that was slightly above his peers,” said Susan Langdon, the executive director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator.Gallagher’s super-lean pants, cut-out skirts and feather trimmed capes also earned Langdon’s praises. “Matthew gets what women want,” said Langdon. “No one can underestimate how important that is in today’s tough retail landscape.”Langdon’s non-profit organization was created in 1987 by the City of Toronto to boost the fashion industry and offer support and mentorship to budding Canadian designers and entrepreneurs. Since then, the Incubator has been replicated internationally, spawning similar organizations in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Dublin, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Milan.The organization introduced its New Labels competition in 1992 and has since launched the careers of Canadian design stars Joeffer Caoc, David Dixon and Todd Lynn, as well as top models Daria Werbowy and Shalom Harlow.“This contest shows you just how hard you have to work to make it as a designer,” said Gallagher, who launched his label in 2013 at World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto. His custom designs range in price from 250 Canadian dollars to 1,500 Canadian dollars, or $204 to $1,225.After graduating from high school in 2004, Gallagher enrolled in a pre-college course at The New School’s Parsons School of Design.He wrote to Bloomingdale’s famed fashion director Kal Ruttenstein requesting an interview. Impressed by Gallagher’s passion, Ruttenstein helped to arrange an internship for him with American designer Tracy Reese. But Gallagher’s funds ran out and forced him to return home. However, a family vacation to Europe in 2007 gave him new direction. Smitten by the city of Milan, Gallagher returned in 2008 and enrolled in the Istituto Marangoni, a private school of fashion and design. He later transferred to Milan’s Istituto Europeo di Design and graduated from that program in 2012.When landing a “design house” job proved difficult, Gallagher created costumes for Ubisoft Milan, a video game development firm. He later found work at Ports 1961 as a freelance illustrator. Those efforts soon captured the interest of The Connection, a design management firm that offered to represent him. That partnership led Gallagher to his first runway show in Toronto in 2013.

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