Culture & Conversation

Fashion, Smacked on the Pavement

It’s street style like you’ve always known it, and like you’ve never seen it before. The annual Montreal Fashion & Design Festival is setting up shop on Avenue McGill College this week, with a jam-packed roster of shows and spectacles showing off the city’s most promising design talents.

Although the Festival includes showcases of the city’s furniture artists and design-y architects, fashion reigns supreme. And with a giant runway set up down one of downtown Montreal’s busiest streets, how could it not?

The Fashion & Design Festival is probably Montreal’s most flamboyant attempt at staking its claim as fashion capital of Canada. And it is no secret that the Festival is meant to provide a boost to retail sales in the downtown core – the Government of Quebec and the Fashion Bureau of Montreal are two headlining sponsors.

Although its corporate interests are sometimes painfully obvious (Forever XXI has a covetable 9:00PM timeslot for its show on Friday August 5) the Festival must be applauded for its support of emerging homegrown talent. Not only do local fashion schools showcase the works of students who would otherwise not be able to show, but many young Montreal-based designers get to show their collections on the runway in front of the people that matter most, the consumers.

And that is what sets the Fashion & Design Festival apart from various Fashion Weeks across the globe. Fashion shows are open to one and all, democratized like never before. Instead of being limited to elite members of the press and exclusive department store buyers, the celebration of what it means to put on a beautiful dress is shared with the consumers, the people who drive fashion and bring it to life.

The most exciting example is without question the Jean Paul Gaultier show on August 3 at 10:00 PM. Riding on the coattails of the excitement surrounding his exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, the designer will re-show his Fall 2011 collection not in some sybaritic Parisian salon, but on the streets of Montreal. And if you’re swept off your feet by the collection’s doudy-gone-chic aesthetic, you can saunter on over to Holt Renfrew and collect a piece or two to take home. Just raise the limit on your Visa first.

Other highlights include the Oh La La lingerie show closing the Festival on Saturday at 11PM, a far cry from yet saucy homage to a Victoria’s Secret runway production. Also on Saturday is what the schedule refers to as “Crème à la Glace Limonade Sucrée,” which is without a doubt going to be a thrilling production of alternating sets from Montreal’s beau and belle of fashion, Travis Taddeo and Eve Gravel, with bands Miracle Fortress and Parlovr switching it up between catwalk shows. And be sure not to miss the daily “5@7 Musique” happy hours where you can sport some stylish duds and pose while listening to scene-y Montreal DJ’s.

All in all, the Fashion & Design Festival promises to keep you – and your credit cards – excited and educated about the Montreal design scene, be it what’s new at Forever XXI, what couture is fresh in from Paris, or what grassroots talent is growing right in your own backyard.

The Fashion & Design Festival begins Wednesday, August 3 at noon, and runs all day until 10PM every day through Saturday, August 6 on Avenue McGill College at St. Catherine Street. For more information and a complete schedule of events, please visit .

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