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?

Are We Just Not That Into Him?

After more than ten years of hard work Denis Gagnon is enjoying some well-deserved moments – a FashionTelevision special, a line for BEDO, an exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal and the opening of his own boutique in Old Montreal. The press uses the words “icon” and “Denis Gagnon” together often.

So it was hard to ignore the audible concern over a less-than-stellar turnout at his LG Fashion Week runway show. When will the world properly take note of Denis Gagnon, we all wondered. It doesn’t seem fair (to him) to be kept a secret any longer. This June his genius will be on display at Toronto’s Luminato Festival. Lancôme and Luminato have commissioned Gagnon to create a one-of-a-kind dress installation inspired by Alice in Wonderland. This event will position Denis squarely within the international arts community. And let’s face it, the man is an artist.

Gagnon’s fall 2011 collection was described as a “fusion of colors, textures and materials, the feminine silhouette, endowed with a new profile, enhanced by this exuberant sensuality found in the sculptural work of Denis Gagnon.” Our inveterate creator could have been channeling Michael Alig’s Club Kids of the 90’s in his exploration of a new feminine silhouette.

Photos by Peter Lytwyniuk /
If you wonder how some of these things would look on a store hanger, you needn’t wonder long. Denis opened his new boutique last week in Old Montreal (170B rue Saint-Paul Ouest) where, in addition to apparel, you will find the gorgeous accessories from his runway show. Could a fragrance and line of eyewear be far behind? Who knows? One thing we have learned in ten years of watching Denis Gagnon – expect to be wowed.

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)