I love what I am doing here at “CLOTHINGCANADAFASHION”. I get to promote Canadians and Canada! I get to do a lot of interesting research to do so, and, I get to write about my findings. On occasion I get to write about someone or something I know firsthand. Bonus!
BERNARD MCGEE AND SHELLEY WICKABROD / CLOTHESLINES.
I was in first-year-fashion at Ryerson (then Polytechnic) in the fall-of-1979. There were tickets available for a show. I had no idea who “CLOTHESLINES” was, but I said yes to the ticket and went. A pair-of-my-professors was present, big room, big crowd, big catwalk; yeah, yeah, the lights dimmed and the music started (so young, so jaded!).
The runway was stormed by the most amazing Canadian models, 3 to 5 at a time, larger than life, in clothes that had me fully hang-jawed through their complete ramping. I was so overcome, I was actually in tears. I had never witnessed such a spectacle. This was The-Paris-London-France-High-Fashion-World right here in Toronto. As a student I thought I would have to leave Canada to be a part of such a world, and now I discovered it was right here in Canada as well, and it was amazing. Broad-shouldered-sportswear, cut with geometric-and-uniform-precision. Gala-gowns, not-fussy-but-fantastic, they filled the runway with a certain glamour and an attitude. It turned out my-in-class-giveaway was a winning ticket and the prize was heart-pounding-inspiration.
I was hooked. I was excited by their ads in the-then-new-and-only-seasonal Toronto Life Fashion magazine. I ventured past my comfort-zone and into their very shiny and new second-floor-50-Bloor-Street-West boutique. BERNARD MCGEE AND SHELLEY WICKABROD were celebrities.
In my-early-designer-days I would encounter Shelley on Queen Street, enough times that we, although I-knew-she-did-not-know-me-but-I-her-way, always nodded a happy hello. Wow. Their charismatic take on fashion boomed throughout the 1980’s, their shows gained in notoriety, their spectacle at the 1988 Festival of Canadian Fashion was one of the very few in a-throng-that-were-lost on an overly-ambitious-catwalk, to not only stand up, but out. Their ads, in a Toronto-Life-Fashion-that-became-more-frequent were always spot-on, always laid out in a precise grid, always with The-Iconic-Donna-Demarco, and the new fashion offerings always had their-very-signature-look. Their politics made headlines, when they decided to shutter-the-shop over the newly imposed GST. Thankfully they reopened it. They “colleagued” with the smart-set of Toronto glamour. They holidayed at “The Breakers” in Newport.
I saw and knew people in “The-Clotheslines-Trench”, a Toronto-legend-in-its-own-time, a perfect coat, so perfect that people owned it in multiple. It looked good. It felt good. It was practical. It was massively-shouldered and dramatically-long. The Clotheslines Trench, one-of-those-GREAT-CANADIAN-COATS, had form and fashion and functionality.
At that time I had never actually-met Shelley, and I never saw Bernard, “live”, or alive, he passed-away in 1991. “Clotheslines” was shut.
Gone, but not forgotten. The famous trench was recreated-with-permission by CANADIAN DESIGNER, LINDA LUNDSTROM, who was at the time being widely recognised for her LAPARKA (see blog post) and her take-on-the-trench, and the cherished originals were worn until they were worn out. Fade.
1996, I was the-Chair-of-Fashion-Design-at-the-International-Academy-of-Design-and-Technology. I received a complete resume from Shelley, and a letter of her intention to become an instructor. I couldn’t believe she had thought someone-in-fashion-in-this-city would not have known her by name and reputation, although I would come to know that Ms. Wickabrod never “put-on-airs, nor assumed she was-for-any-reason-beyond-following-protocol, as some in her position might. It was a delight to finally meet her. I without-question took her on as an instructor. She regaled the students with stories of fashion, her dogs, her career, and her Bernard, and in doing so taught them much more than the pattern drafting that was at hand. I don’t think they knew just how lucky they were at the time, although I have heard some recount with a different perspective since. She and I shared time and I too got to hear her tales, and she mine. We seemed to have worked the same mine at some point! I also got to meet, through her most vivid memories, Bernard McGee.
2005, we both left the International Academy at about the same time, I haven’t seen her in several years, but memory is a great thing. Shelley, has since, among other things, written her memoir “Love Affair: Before and After Death”, and I have gone on to write this blog and made a part-time return to teaching. As I said at the beginning, “On occasion I don’t have to do research as I know the people or the product firsthand. Bonus” In this instance it has been, as well, an honour.
My heartfelt “Thank You” to Shelley and Bernard, Canadian Fashion Stars who continue to shine in my night sky.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Friday, March 29, 2013