Fashion Mission Montreal: Next Stop, Musee des Beaux Arts

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Musee des Beaux Arts was the raison d’etre for my Montreal visit. After seeing the McQueen exhibit in New York (opening day, no queue!) I was adamant about catching JPG during its short run (through October 2, 2011) so close to home. 

This tribute to the l’enfant terrible of fashion begins with a most impressive display of nearly live mannequins. Faces of real people are projected and animated onto mannequin heads for an effect that is sometimes surprising and mildly disturbing.  (More on the mannequins here.) Aside from Gaultier’s work itself – which includes 130 emsembles, sketches, photographs and films – they are the most riveting part of the exhibition.

I’ve always been a fan of Gaultier’s punk sensibilities, and have closely followed him since his pointy corsets for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour (saw that too!). In today’s world I find his point of view and expression against oppression more than relevant – I find it necessary.

Top hat made of hair
Hat designed from vintage hair dryer

Fashion Mission: Bienvenue a Montreal

Montreal was the first city I ever visited in Canada, and like most people, I instantly fell in love. With a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit as a good excuse to squeeze in an end-of-summer visit, I grabbed a pal and took a morning Via Rail train from Toronto for a weekend fashion excursion. I highly recommend staying Old Montreal, particularly the Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites. Owned and operated by the Antonopoulos Group, the same family behind Le Petit Hotel, Hotel Nelligan and a string of other impressively-run properties. Expect old world charm with all the modern luxuries, from the rooms to the rooftop patio’s legendary mojitos.

Trekking through Old Montreal
Plus you cannot beat the Place d’Armes Hotel’s proximity to everything. Designer Denis Gagnon opened his new boutique just down the street last May, so I popped in for a visit. Tucked downstairs in an old heritage building, the space showcases Gagnon’s personality and his spring 2011 collection – you remember, the one with the stripes and the fringe? (The dressing rooms sport full length ombré fringe curtains.) There are also shoes from his ALDO collaboration and a few pieces from other designers like Montrealer Travis Taddeo.
Just down the street is one of my top shopping stops in Old Montreal – Espace Pepin. The large boutique serves as a workshop and showroom for multidisciplinary artist Lysanne Pepin, but also features apparel, accessories and home decor items by other designers that suit Pepin’s aesthetic. 
Espace Pepin
Espace Pepin
Having worked up an appetite shopping, I stop into Marché de La Villette for a bite. Situated across the street from Espace Pepin, the old world charm extends from the décor to the staff. And unlike the heavily touted Olive & Gourmando (also across the street), you don’t have to queue up for this deliciousness.
With a full belly it’s off to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Musee des Beaux Arts. 
Wearing a Jean Paul Gaultier dress to see Jean Paul Gaultier. C’est bon, no?

Love U, Love Your Heart

Valentine’s Day gets a tough rap, with many declaring it a “commercial holiday.” Yes, to a large degree it’s true. We are inundated with so much tacky, heart-shaped stuff the day has lost any connection to true, undying love or St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers. 
At Style & Conscience, a locally produced and socially responsible clothing line run by Montréal Couture, Valentine’s Day is about a different kind of heart. Last week Style & Conscience presented an exclusive accessory collaboration with Denis Gagnon that benefits the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Québec.
Gagnon has designed the “I Love U” mini-collection that includes a signature leather handbag (named Stéphanie), a silk scarf (named Alexandra) and a keychain (Amélie). Each item was named after 8-year-old triplets of Dr. Nicolas Noisieux, an important volunteer for the Foundation. 
Sold separately or as a trio, the production is locally manufactured on demand only, with 20% of the sales going to finance Heart and Stroke Foundation’s research projects. And that is something we can totally love.

Ready for Ready-to-Wear

photo by Peter Lytwyniuk
The Superbowl may be over, but as far as I’m concerned the real games are just beginning. It’s the start of Ready-to-Wear season when designers will be fiercely competing on runways around the world for international attention and investment. Of course, runway shows are a different kind of spectator sport than football or hockey.  Let’s be honest, they’re usually viewed while the boss is out to lunch or late at night, just you and your laptop. But in the vein of “more is better” I encourage you to do your hair, don a great pair of shoes and pour yourself a glass of bubbly while indulging in a live stream (where available) or a photo slideshow.
February 7 – 10, Montreal
Montreal’s calendar includes many of the usual suspects – Barila, Bodybag by Jude, Nadya Toto – plus a peak at Rudsak’s new label RUD. Denis Gagnon, along with Marie Saint Pierre, tops this list of must-see shows. As well, the young Montreal-raised, London-based Thomas Tait will debut with Christian l’Enfant Roi and Samule Mercure in a group show presented by Trusst. Live streaming available.
Montreal Fashion Week
February 10 – 17, New York
Plenty to heart about New York’s calendar. The pro set of Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Betsy Johnson ground the week. Mix in the glamour of Badgley Mischka, hipster chic of Charlotte Ronson and celebrity shows like L.A.M.B and you have something uniquely New York. Live streaming available for some shows.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

February 13 – 15, London
With an eye on emerging talent and international designers (including Mackage) Scoop appears to be modeled after New York’s Coterie or Copenhagen’s Gallery.  This new show is based at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Check back for live streaming details.
Scoop International Fashion Show 
February 18 – 23, London
London jam packs their week with designer shows…too many to count. Some highlights will no doubt include Christopher Kane, Erdem, Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Mark Fast. Check back for live streaming details.
London Fashion Week

February 23 – March 1, Milan
Gucci, Pucci, Prada and Jil Sander are just the tip of the Milano iceberg. For insider reports from the Milan shows, follow Flare Magazine’s @LisaTant on Twitter. Check back for live streaming details.
Milan Fashion Week
March 1 – 9, Paris
There is no other city who can compete with Paris on fashion: Dior, Balmain, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons, YSL, Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano, McQueen and of course Chanel. (In case you missed it, check out Jeanne Beker’s interview with Jean Paul Gaultier in the Globe and Mail here.) Check back for live streaming details.
Paris Fashion Week (Mode à Paris)
And let’s not forget our Canadian shows. Check back for designers and live streaming information. More to come!
March 24 – 31, Edmonton
March 28 – April 1, Toronto
LG Fashion Week
April 12 – 15, Vancouver

Longing for the Long Weekend

Last week of July.  High season for vacation.  My favourite summer escapes rarely include the tropics – save that trip for my snow-filled February.  I adore summers in the city. I thrive on a city’s buzz.  (Of course, I prefer when it’s the room service I just ordered.)  When traveling I always try to check out a local art museum.  

Unfortunately I’m not traveling far from home any time too soon, but you – you are free to roam.  And if you find yourself in one of these fair cities, do check out these current exhibitions.

In Montreal you must hit Musee des Beaux-Arts or the Museum of Fine Arts.  Guy Laliberte, founder of the Cirque du Soleil has hooked up with Boucheron, one of the most distinguished firms in the Place Vendôme, Paris, to create a “jewelry fantasy” of 20 masterpiece necklaces set with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other gemstones. (Pourquoi? Because he can.)  Each piece is obviously inspired by the acrobatic grace and elegance of Cirque’s performers.  You’ll watch Alegria with new eyes. (Through August 29)
This evening cape from 1910 – 1915 would
fit into my wardrobe perfectly today.
Off to the Big Apple?  There’s little time left to catch New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute finishes up American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity.  This exhibit explores through dress the evolution of the American woman from 1890 to 1940 and how they affected the way women are seen today.   Through examples of the American female archtype including “Gibson Girls,” “Bohemians,” and “Screen Sirens,” among others, you’ll get a sense of how her style revolutions mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation throughout the last 100+ years.  And that familiar voice on the audio guide?  None other than Sarah Jessica Parker. (Through August 15)
Heading west? Be sure to hit LA’s Musuem of Contemporary Art.  MOCA pays tribute to the late Dennis Hopper with Dennis Hopper Double Standard, including over 200 of his works. Hopper explored nearly every style and medium over his 60-year career. Julian Schnabel curated the exhibit where film and art collide in paintings, photographs, sculpture, graffiti-inspired billboards and film installations.  Isabella Rossellini once named Hopper, in an interview, as the one person she would call if she were ever in trouble.  It’s no wonder she felt that way.  In response to Hopper’s recent death, Rossellini is quoted as saying “he had gone to hell and came back from it with great wisdom.”  And apparently, great art.  (Through September 26)