Report by Katherine Ellis.
Lise-Marie Cayer jumps back and forth between doing an interview and helping her customer, who is changing in a small changing room at the far end of her stall.
Clad in some of her designs, including a cute polka dot dress and a jacket from her fall/winter 2010/2011 line, Cayer seems to feed off the energy of her customers. This is only the second time she is participating in the Braderie fashion event (her first being in October 2010), and the owner of Voyou takes the chance to sell some of her surplus stock and samples from a few seasons, including her most recent fall/winter and spring/summer lines.
Fashionistas got to flex their shopping muscles at this year’s 33rd annual Big Fashion Sale by Quebec Designers, also known as “La Grande Braderie de Mode Québécoise.” What began as a two-day event in 1994 with 200 customers has now grown to nearly 25,000 visitors taking over the Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal from April 14 to 17, and visiting the stalls of at least 90 Quebec-based designers. The Braderie attracts eager customers who are able to sift through wall-to-wall designer surplus inventory and samples at up to 80 per cent off.
Emilie Grise, designer of 2ROSES accessories, was so successful during her first two days, that by Saturday (the third day of the event) she had sold out her own designs (scarves, accessories and handbags), and was selling inventory from her distribution company CG Import Export; a business she co-owns with Maria Carbone.
“We have labels from all around the world, including Aaiko from the Netherlands, Silvian Heach from Italy and Minimum from Denmark,” said Grise.
With the help of her daughter Alika, she was also raising money for the non-profit organization Opération Enfant Soleil, and stated that 20 per cent of their overall sales over the four days will be donated to the organization.
“Customers really do come because there is no wall between them and designers, it’s honest. They are not coming to pay for red carpet, but to meet the designer,” said Anne de Shalla, organizer and presenter of the Braderie. “Designers are at their level, face-to-face. Some customers are waiting six months for their new wardrobe; it’s really an institution – a rendez-vous between the public and the designer.”
De Shalla added that one designer sold nearly 400 pieces of clothing, and another who had arrived with five truckloads only left with two and half.
“Even if the designer does not sell even one piece, they should come just for the publicity. But they are making money at the same time, so it’s perfect for them,” she said.
The event has become so popular that there is a waiting list to get in, and de Shalla personally selects exhibitors for the next sale, choosing anywhere from five to 10 new designers each season.
“They have to do some work to put their name ahead,” she said. “The Braderie is a success because we know the designers are elite; they make their designs here and their lines are known.”
This spring sale, new participants included Atelier b., Émilie Desmeules, Ex’citation and Ginger. De Shalla is also looking forward to seeing Caroline Néron’s accessories and the shoes and handbags from Rudsak.
With the success of this season’s Braderie, de Shalla said preparations for the fall/winter 2011 sale are well under way. Though not set in stone, de Shalla hopes to have a small sale in Quebec City a few weeks after Montreal’s event.
The next Big Fashion Sale of Quebec Designers will take place in October in Montreal. For more information, please visit http://www.braderiedemodequebecoise.com/