By Nicole Nolan
Photography by Dmitri Moisseev
The fall/winter 2011 installement of the Ottawa Fashion Week could not have been held in a better place: the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada provided a view of the city and a glimpse of the Ottawa River. The weekend’s collections were at home in the expansive glass structure, and reflected the modernity of the gallery, as well as the gothic architecture of the nearby Pariliament Buildings and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Fashion bloggers and writers from Montreal and Toronto, as well as Ottawa’s own, gathered to witness the showcase of some of Canada’s leading designers and brands.
The shows suited the city well, bringing the practicality and straight-forwardness that Ottawa’s clients demand, together with creative and unique details that made the pieces anything but ordinary.
Owls were the dominant inspiration on the runway at the Serendipity (by Kelsey McIntyre) show, extending from the models’ white-eyed make-up to owl appliqués, and finally to a show-stopping feathered evening gown. The collection embodied a feminine vintage vibe, in a wearable and refreshing way. Victorian blouses were re-imagined in soft white jersey, and the hourglass silhouettes were kept young with feminine skirts.
Rachel Sin is ever a crowd favourite, and this season was no exception. Cocktail dresses were the focus of the collection, and will no doubt be worn by many in the front row, as soon as they hit the stores. The collection blended edgy silhouettes and dark black satin with sparkling metallic accent fabrics and feminine details. The crowd favourite, however, was without a doubt the opening number: a glittering gold blazer that was met with gasps from the audience.
Emily Woudenberg and Anastasiya Kuyevda opened their collaborative collection with a re-imagined modern flapper vibe. The vintage feel of the prairie floral prints was balanced out by a sleek, slim-legged silhouette, and modern takes on vintage pieces. Flapper era ‘step in’ slips were re-imagined as flirty playsuits, and drop-waisted dresses were executed in cotton jersey, wearable for day or night.
Vickie Joseph brought her creativity and plentiful ideas to the forefront of her latest collection for !Nu.I. The show began with a salmon-coloured blouse, which immediately harkened in the feel of autumn. The collection segwayed into a focus on gold and silver lame detailing on leggy silhouettes, with the occasional punch of colour.
The strongest pieces in this collection were without a doubt the basics: blazers were expertly tailored with small details like lace, and one LBD in particular had eye-catching pleated pockets.
Anomal Couture opened to applause from the audience, and the show certainly lived up to the high expectations set by its opening look: a black thong bodysuit that was at once futuristic and historic in feel, through the contrast of black leather and puffed shoulders. Sonia Leclaire’s passion for her art was visible in the impeccable finishing and attention to detail in each piece.
The models embodied a dark and mysterious Victorian woman, complete with Leg-o-mutton sleeves, re-imagined in soft jersey and Gibson Girl bouffant hair. Gently curving pieces of contrasting fabrics added interest to the perfectly tailored skirts and jackets, and added a futuristic twist to the neo-Victorian atmosphere. The show closed with a stunning gown cut in black and pewter brocade, whose full skirt and corseted bodice reflected the art-deco-esque curves of the entire collection.
The cocktail dresses in the Illyria Design collection were simple and classic in silhouette, and used texture and cut to bring in detail. These dresses, with their deep colour palette, and sleek silhouettes were perfect for transitioning from day to night. Illyria also presented maxi dresses made in matte black jersey, accented with a glowing black lame, which highlighted the contours of the body.
Adrian Wu’s show began before the first model sashayed down the runway. OFW staff spilled from backstage and smoothly disassembled the back wall of the runway set up, and let loose bags full of black balloons.
The collection itself was far from wearable, but that was not Wu’s goal. Instead of creating clothing, he aimed to create art, attaching rectangular cushions and padding to the models, and making a 3D play on shapes.
The striped pink and blue fabrics were reminiscent of mattress covers, as were the soft cushions that covered the models. A standing ovation was received at Wu’s bow, showing that fashion in Ottawa need not be conservative to be applauded.
Last but certainly not least, Africa’s Children – Africa’s Future was the organization of focus for the Walk the Truth Charity Show and Gala, the grand finale of the Ottawa Fashion Week. The gala was opened by an African women’s choir, singing upbeat and energetic songs, followed by a video and speech by the AC-AF director, Gita Jaffe. The show focused on five themes conceived by the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa that AC-AF works with: Life, Love, Children, Death and Hope.
Highlights of the show included a liquid silver gown by Jessica Biffi, a brightly lined flamenco-inspired dress by Pam Chorley, a multilayered blue ball gown by Pat McDonagh worn by singer Kathy Grant, natural agate jewelry by FrAsh Femme, a fresh white tuxedo by Brian Hope and an incredible cream lace bridal gown by Chris Pauhil. All pieces from the show are available for bidding at http://www.walkthetruth.com/auction/ 100% of the proceeds go to AC-AF.
Overall, Ottawa Fashion Week was a definite success. The organizers did a splendid job at bringing great Canadian designers to the forefront in the nation’s capital. There were a few hiccups at the beginning with opening the doors on time, but by Sunday, everything was executed smoothly and quickly. In future years, fashionistas across the city will hope to see even more Canadian talent, and continued focus on excellence of construction and design in the shows.
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Nicole Nolan is a fashion designer and writer based in Ottawa.