TORONTO — Last July, Montreal designer Marie-Ève Lecavalier had a very important meeting to keep — the kind one might rightly call a date with destiny.
The destination that day was La Maison Simons, where the newly crowned winner of the 2018 Chloé Prize at the 33rd edition of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography had been eagerly summoned by the company’s co-owners, Peter and Richard Simons.
A strategic collaboration was on the brothers’ minds, specifically to create the 179-year-old luxury department store’s first private-label designer collection.
Intrigued as they were by the favorable international press that her colorful, Frank Zappa-esque “Come Get Trippy With Us” collection had just received, Simons’ co-owners recognized that Lecavalier was the partner they needed to breathe life into their project.
“Simons had done collaborations before, but this was the first time they stepped in to create really good quality, well-made clothing at a mid-level price point,” said Lecavalier, who launched her career two-and-a-half years ago after completing a master’s degree at Geneva’s School of Art and Design in Switzerland and then interning with Raf Simons.
Launching in store and on Simons.ca on March 15, the Lecavalier + Edito collection features a mix of dresses, skirts, wide-leg pants, pantsuits and jackets in a psychedelic palette of orange-y golds, pinks, turquoise blues and wavy striped prints.
The flamboyant nod to the late Sixties and Seventies also includes footwear and jewelry, such as brightly colored acrylic chains that can be worn as belts, as well as a feminine, Quebec-made cross between a cowboy-styled and short-cut vintage boot offered in white and black.
“We brought back that slinky jersey from the 2000s and mixed leather and different cottons into all these prints and shapes. But a lot of our fitting began with men’s wear,” Lecavalier said. “On a woman, a shirt will look like a dress. On a man it’s something else. But everything here is easy to wear and adaptable to any lifestyle so that it can reach a bigger market.”
That was one of the key mandates for the launch.
Richard Simons, vice president of merchandising, said, “Supporting Canadian talent is part of our DNA and Edito is a good representation of that. But the challenge here was to take this young designer’s aesthetic and deliver it to a different market.”
Ranging from 30 Canadian dollars to 595 Canadian dollars, or $22 to $450, Lecavalier + Edito is priced slightly higher than Simons’ mid-level private label. But as Simons explained, “We used the best yarns and best fabrics to bring this collection to life.”
Moreover, Simons’ willingness to share its resources with up-and-coming talent drove this project from the beginning.
“At Simons we have 50 technological designers and the know-how to produce anything. That is unique to us and gives our company a tremendous advantage,” Simons said.
In the last six years, the retailer has ventured beyond Quebec to launch 15 stores across Canada, including locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Mississauga, Ontario’s Square One Shopping Center, and Ottawa. The company will also open a store in Montreal in 2022 after it debuts its automated fulfillment center in Quebec City in 2020, which is projected to cost 215 million Canadian dollars and is hoped will position Simons as an e-commerce force for the future.
“We have been through a massive expansion over the last six to seven years, and we are looking at opening online in the U.S.,” Simons said. “But for us it’s not about being the biggest. It’s about doing what we do better.”