MONTREAL — The 10th edition of Montreal Fashion Week, held March 20-24 in a huge tent, managed to attract a number of top local designers among the 23 who showed, led by Simon Chang, Parasuco, Rudsak and Mackage, and got a boost with the announcement that Procter & Gamble was continuing its sponsorship through 2008.
It’s good news for MFW, which has struggled for credibility over the years, but now seems to have found some stability. And with more financial backing from three different levels of government, the organization also managed to entice a handful of American buyers, one from the U.K. and two representatives from MAGIC to attend.
Foreign visitors said the event offered some smaller, interesting resources.
“I’ve been to shows in New York and Paris and this show is pretty small by comparison,” said buyer Nadine Purdy of Purdy Girl, which has three stores in New York. “It’s obvious the designers have limited budgets, based on their presentations.
“But Canadians do the best outerwear and I really liked Mackage. They make great coats. I was also impressed with Andy Thê-Anh. His stuff is very well done, creative and romantic, and he pays close attention to detail.”
Created six years ago, Mackage announced it is going global with the opening of offices in New York and Paris this spring, following the purchase of a 25,000-square-foot building here to house its international headquarters and manufacturing facilities. The brand’s leather and wool coats and jackets are sold around the world.
Vietnamese-born Andy Thê-Anh introduced his first fall collection at MFW, inspired by androgynous Seventies and Eighties looks for his women’s and men’s lines. Printed mousseline, velvet panné, stretch silks, Calais lace as well as Lurex metallics and embroidered jacquards dominated his women’s line.
Another Thê-Anh fan was Sheila McNamara, owner of The Dressing Room boutique in Newton, Mass., who spent much of MFW visiting local manufacturers, including Christian Chenail and Tribal Sportswear.
“Chenail is practical and wearable as is Tribal for suits and pants. The fashion shows were good, but most were too haute couture for my mid-priced store, which has an eclectic clientele from 20 to 70 years old.”
The mother-son duo of Patricia Straight and Ryan Gonzales was also in town to check out manufacturers and take in some shows for their two Peaches en Regalia California stores, in Del Mar and Carlsbad.
The shows that caught their eye were Andy Thê-Anh; Hida Fashion eveningwear and wedding dresses; Dinh Bá Design inspired by the Roaring Twenties with pleats, cloth ribbons and layers of opaque and translucent fabrics; Rudsak wool coats for men and women, and Envers par Yves Jean Lacasse, whose creative styles reflect his penchant for the Victorian era.
The Californians also checked out Musi Furs, which they carry, and Dino Gispari Furs, which alone paid for their time, according to Gonzales.
“We also looked at Louben, a young contemporary women’s line, where we placed an order for spring jackets and where we intend to buy for fall. We’ll probably place orders for sports jackets with Empire Clothing as well. But coming here within days of MAGIC, we’ve already placed most of our orders.”
As for the fashion shows, the “fashion direction was different and exciting,” according to Straight.
Suzanne McLean of U.K. agent J.S. Levy liked several collections.
“We already have a lot of labels, so we’re limited in what we can carry, but we’re interested in Andy Thê-Anh and M. Siamo. We do a lot of labels from Italy and Germany that have over 200 pieces in their collections. Mackage does lovely coats, but their collection is not big enough for us.”
Ginch Gonch of Vancouver shook up the MFW tent with seating for 300 with a rousing country-and-western-style show for its colorful cotton briefs and longs for men and women, complete with male and female models doing flips down the catwalk.
In an effort to promote sales of local designers in the U.S., the Quebec government invited two representatives from MAGIC to MFW and to tour local manufacturing facilities. The objective was to have the reps assess whether the designers had the ability to sell in the U.S. and to have a section of MAGIC dedicated to Quebec designers.
“We were looking at brands that have complete collections and we were also checking out top retailers around the city to see what they were selling,” said Karen Johnston, attendee relations director at MAGIC, who is in charge of buyers.
Among the lines that Johnston cited were Harricana fur accessories, Rudsak, M. Siamo, Andy Thê-Anh, Renata Morales, Tavan & Mitto, Denis Gagnon, M0851 leathers and handbags and Kamkyl men’s wear.
“We want a real cohesive event for fall ’07, although there’s a possibility some will exhibit before that,” she said.
Designer Marie St. Pierre has managed to carve out a small business for herself in the U.S., which accounts for 10 to 15 percent of her sales, by working with a few stores where her collections are the main focus. Those retailers include the Capri boutique at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Only She in Chicago and Essentia in Wellesley, Mass. She also sells online.
“In the past, I had a few items here and there, but it doesn’t work,” explained St. Pierre during a fall preview in her Montreal boutique. “We’re not about fashion, really. We have a lot of construction with classic colors like black and white and classic materials like boiled wool, gabardine, silks and crepes that don’t go out of style. When someone discovers us, they usually stick with us.”
For fall, fabrics in neutral tones are sewn to feminine ultralight crepes and chiffons and are worked on the bias to enhance femininity and create movement. The waistline is elevated for an elongated silhouette, while the shoulders, often padded, give sporty structure to the garments.
Like Mackage, Parasuco is also looking south with the opening of several stores in key U.S. cities, starting with a New York flagship in May in SoHo. Stores in San Francisco and Miami will follow by yearend.
The New York store will be housed in the former East River Savings Bank on Spring Street at the corner of Lafayette and occupy close to 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Parasuco’s fall collection is inspired by prep, jock, rebel and artist styles, as well as the “girl next door.” It features lush cotton-cashmere blends and rich fall colors, as well as cut-and-sew hoodies in wool blends.