By Jill Adams
Photography by Adam Dietrich
This season’s Ottawa Fashion Week opened with a mixture of eclectic shows and generally wearable collections. Despite snowy weather, which caused a delayed start and a line-up change, the city’s most fashionable gathered at the Ottawa Convention Centre for a preview of the latest trends.
Here is a breakdown of some of our favourite collections, as well as our Best Dressed photo gallery.
Bernice & Barclay
Defined by its refined simplicity, local design duo Lorianne Hawdur and James Nesbitt’s collection consisted of long and short jersey dresses in red, white, deep turquoise and black. The show was characterized by a flirty and upbeat energy. Dropped shoulders, leather skirts, vibrant prints and a simple, yet chic, silhouette occurred throughout the show. The looks were completed with pin-up style hair, a bright red lip and the addition of winter accessories. The fall/winter 2013 collection — the duo’s first — is available online and in various Ottawa boutiques.
Toronto-based Carissa McCaig, the designer behind Copious Couture, offered flattering and trendy dresses in a mix of prints and fabrics from tweed and plaid to chiffon and lace overlay. Influenced by the ’40s, her collection featured peplums and cinched waistlines. An interesting floral print used in unexpected places, such as on the backs and shoulders of dresses, added a pop of colour to the generally neutral collection. Most notable were McCaig’s final two looks: a gold sequin gown and a plaid dress with a gathered, asymmetrical hemline, both glamorous enough for the likes of Hollywood.
With her versatile and wearable collection that combined various fabrics, textures and embellishments, designer Elise Bourque offered a youthful energy and feminine silhouettes. Her collection consisted of short coats (often adorned with fur) and chic dresses, including an eye-catching strapless leather dress with an attractive cinched waist. Sheer hemlines and sexy cut-outs were used generously in the mostly black and neutral collection. Leather leggings featuring carefully placed sheer panels were also repeated throughout Bourque’s edgy designs.
This presentation was filled with unusual prints and bold colours — a refreshing departure from the black and neutral collections that were often shown over the weekend. Tess Johnson, a young designer from New York City, creates her unique prints digitally; this season, she used images of schools of fish and coral, reflecting the collection’s deep-sea inspiration.
The show offered ready-to-wear pieces and included sophisticated, yet edgy, dresses, cigarette pants and cropped, tailored jackets. It also consisted of high-concept designs, such as an architectural jacket and a shapely skirt. Johnson’s versatile clothing line combined various shapes, lengths and silhouettes. Detailed necklines, leather and pops of trendy blues and yellows were also prominent.
Gwen Madiba, the designer of Dare, opened her show with exciting rhythms created by almost two dozen African drummers, who were dancing and chanting while playing drums balanced on their heads. Her collection offered clean lines and focused on designs with few to no embellishments.
The mermaid silhouette and skirts with deep slits were featured among fitted Lycra and lace gowns. Madiba also showed short dresses, faux leather accents (a continuing trend for next season) and subtly patterned fabrics. She said that her fall/winter 2013 collection was inspired by her time spent in Paris, where much of the collection was created. Notable was a deep-red, strapless gown, adding colour to the mostly black and white presentation. The drummers — Madiba’s creative effort to embody her African heritage — returned to close the show.
Montréal designer Andy Nguyen, known for putting on outlandish performances, closed the second night of the Ottawa Fashion Week. He opened his show with dry ice (which mesmerized the audience until it prematurely ran out), and a female model carrying a clear suitcase that contained a decorative white liquid.
The futuristic, all-white collection consisted of tight pants reminiscent of jodhpurs, cropped and full-length sleeves, and cardigans. His collection, which was almost entirely menswear, frequently focused on layers. The male models wore handcrafted, reflective silver platforms that were tied on (some looked more stable than others). Now partnered with a sponsor, the fearless designer intended this season’s collection to be more commercially appealing, but it was, arguably, still on the conceptual side.
With an Asian influence in his designs and styling, Ottawa’s Frank Sukhoo showed couture dresses and separates in black, champagne and deep gold, including ensembles in bright colours, such as bright yellow and crimson. A floral inspiration was present in embroidered fabrics and lace overlays.
Sukhoo’s heavily embellished line was defined by a bold mix of textures: leather, sequins, mesh, fur and feathers. A-line silhouettes, mandarin collars and flowing layers were also seen. Gold and silver detailing, used as accents, was repeated in many pieces. The show was characterized by fine-tailoring and a fun energy, as models struck eccentric poses.
MUSE par Christian Chenail
Inspired by his ideal ’60s Bond girl, Diana Rigg, Montréal designer Christian Chenail offered sleek and leggy silhouettes. Straying from last season’s monochromatic focus, Chenail, who has been designing for over two decades, frequently used royal blue and burgundy in his collection, which included dresses, fitted and A-line skirts and chic jackets.
Oversized houndstooth (in black, royal blue and burgundy), textured leather and fabrics that combined various black and white graphic patterns were also recurring. Other fabrics had more subtle patterns or prints. Ultimately, Chenail showcased exquisite tailoring and his signature aesthetics.
After opening his show with layered and refined, ready-to-wear looks (with a business-casual feel), Montréal-based Helmer Joseph transitioned seamlessly to avant-garde evening ensembles. Rich tweeds, clean lines and conscious draping were strongly present in his first set of looks, which consisted mostly of neutral colours.
Many of his conceptual designs featured intricate details, structured silhouettes and corset bodices. Models wore handmade, embellished footwear, drawing the eye from head to toe. Some models sported unique, Jean-Marie Giguère glass masks that covered the models’ heads entirely. It was reminiscent of Joseph’s fall/winter 2012 collection, where a model walked the runway in a black and clear glass outfit. One model was even accompanied by an unexpected guest: a Great Dane.
Notable was an innovative black corset with an architectural red skirt and a standout white gown paired with a shimmering red glass mask. With a couture mix of prêt-à-porter and theatrical looks, Joseph — the weekend’s headliner and a self-proclaimed perfectionist — lived up to his reputation.
Behind the scenes