NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Just what might this mean for the future of CANADIAN DESIGNERS? Will the Montreal contingent splinter off to do individual shows in Montreal, or will they come to Toronto to show? The latter would be expensive, could the Federal government step in to help? This could be a great thing, one big showcase in one big Canadian city with Federal sponsorship. Take the focus off the city, and put it on the country, CANADIAN FASHION WEEK, one for all etc. There has always been a conflict between the two cities, I understand provincial pride, and yes, it is easy for me to say bring it to Toronto as I am here, however as Mr. Poitras said “Montreal is not a fashion capitol of the world” to which I would add neither is Toronto. Perhaps, dreamer that I am, combined we might have a chance of at least some stronger international recognition. I am going to sidestep the problem of showing pre season to the press and buyers vs. in season to the public. This is a big question internationally. In the traditional manner of aiming fashion week at the press and buyers, a one city focus would make it much easier on any national or international press wanting to cover CANADIAN FASHION. The sad demise of the Montreal shows could be turned into good news which would surely profit CANADIAN FASHION’s future.Fingers crossed on this one…

MONTREAL — It is the end of an era: producers of Montreal Fashion Week have pulled the plug on the February edition of the semi-annual showcase of Quebec designers.

The fall edition had been cancelled in September, so Montreal — for the moment — is left without a traditional fashion week of runway shows targeted to media and buyers.

The reaction is mixed: many see this as a sad moment for Montreal and its fashion industry. Others see a silver lining, a chance for Montreal to reinvent a formula that does not work well in the era of the Internet.

Sensation Mode, producers of the event, will focus instead on the summer street fashion festival — the Festival Mode & Design — rolling designer collections into that massive blowout targeted to the public on McGill College Ave. and the plaza of Place Ville Marie. The designer collections will be shown apart from the outdoor activities, possibly in a tent at Place Ville Marie, to accredited media and buyers.

The next edition is set for Aug. 20-23.

Citing the reality of the market, the designers and the effect of the Internet and e-commerce, Sensation Mode’s Jean-François Daviau and Chantal Durivage said it was time to rethink their business plan and fashion week itself.

“It’s time to rethink the format of the presentation of fashion,” Durivage said, noting that showing clothing six months in advance of the selling season, as traditional fashion weeks do, is being questioned everywhere given the instant information on the web.

“Consumers want what they see; they want to get it now,” she said.

Marie Saint Pierre, president of the Conseil des créateurs de mode du Québec, said she was dismayed that designers had been left out of the equation. Event organizers should have passed the torch to the designers if they didn’t want to proceed with the shows. In fact, the name Montreal Fashion Week is owned by an industry association, Liaison Mode Montréal, which licensed the name to Sensation Mode.

“We are in a twilight zone at the moment,” said Linda Tremblay, who runs the Conseil. “I feel sad that the créateurs won’t have a platform. I don’t know how they will promote their work.”

She said the Conseil has applied for funding to organize a second edition of the Cabinet Éphèmere, which was essentially a group pop-up shop and showcase on Ste-Catherine St. W. held during fashion week last September.

Denis Gagnon, who has won ecstatic standing ovations at his shows, said it was time to rethink fashion week with a new identity distinct to Montreal. He would not have been able to participate in February; it is too early, he said.

But the issue is about more than timing, he added, noting that there are too many fashion weeks and the past few years have held no allure for him. “Ten years ago, what I liked was that it was a happening all over the city,” Gagnon said.

Danielle Martin of Martin Lim says fashion week helped her and her partner husband, Pao Lim, build their business and win a collaboration collection with Reitmans.

“I think for February, we will have to do something more intimate,” she said, adding young designers will have to get creative to get their names out there. “I don’t know if it will have the same impact,” Martin said.

Denis Desro, fashion editor for Elle Québec and Elle Canada, travels to the fashion weeks of the world. With the absence of prominent designers showing at the last two editions of fashion week here, impact is minimal, he said.

But Toronto fashion week will benefit, Desro said. “If you are a Quebec designer and want to present a runway collection, you will go to Toronto. It’s going to make Toronto ‘the’ fashion week in Canada,” he said.

Government funding for Montreal Fashion Week had been halved to $125,000 at last September’s edition, and was entirely cut off for the coming edition, but Durivage said that was not the deciding factor in cancelling the week. Plans and requests for government grants for the summer festival are still in the works.

The government funded only 20 per cent of the week, the couple pointed out. “As producers, we brought 80 per cent of the money,” Daviau said.

The designers want transparency, according to Durivage and Daviau, so a Sensation Mode board of directors has been named. They include board president Jean-Pierre Desrosiers of the law firm Fasken Martineau, lawyer Philippe Turp, Jeannot Painchaud, artistic director at Cirque Éloize, columnist and blogger Debbie Zakaib and veteran designer Jean-Claude Poitras, who last February unleashed a storm of controversy when he stated the obvious: that Montreal is not a fashion capital of the world.

Montreal definitely needs a fashion week for the trade, Poitras said Thursday, but it is a wise decision to try something fresh and innovative in fusing fashion week and the festival.

“We can’t do the same thing again and again,” he said. “Maybe, we have to include not only strictly designers, but a lot of people from the whole industry, with perhaps an international perspective.

“We have to be prove to ourselves that we have to be very creative and not always follow what other cities are doing,” Poitras said.