It takes but a quick saunter down any Montreal street to discover that the stylish reputation of Montrealers is well-earned. Montreal is a true fashion city: cutting-edge; inspired by international trends, architecture, nature, movement and visual arts; and unafraid of creative individuality when it comes to personal style. That’s why local designers, whether world famous or neighbourhood secrets, are worth visiting on your next trip. Here are four of my personal favourites, each of whom represents a key part of Montreal’s incomparable style…
Denis Gagnon: Montreal fashion darling Denis Gagnon — whose Lanvin shades make him stand out in any crowd — has finally opened his own boutique in Old Montreal, which also serves as his studio. With items priced from $60 to more than $3000, the little shop sells Gagnon’s eponymous line, which ranges from cocktail dresses to chic everyday wear.
The beloved designer, whose budget line for BEDO last year did very well, was also the subject of a recent exhibit by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts called Denis S’Expose, and popular documentary film Je m’appelle Denis Gagnon. If Montreal fashion had a face, this would be it. The brand new Denis Gagnon Boutique is at 170B St. Paul St. W.
Barilà: Another of my Montreal essentials is hot womenswear line Barilà. Young designer Sabrina (who runs the brand with her sister Claudia) makes stylish, sexy pieces that range from edgy to feminine, fun to flirty. Bold prints, bright colours and tailored silhouettes are made wearable by a subtly chic, womanly flair that reflects the Barilà lifestyle: “Life the life you love.” So coveted is Barilà’s magic touch that the designer was commissioned by the Opéra de Montréal to design costumes for their recent production of Werther. Spring/Summer collection highlights include key signature pieces like little dresses, jumpsuits and bustier rompers. Shopping info at the Barilà website (and check out their Pop Up Shop, open until June 5).
Nadya Toto: Glamour and edge ooze from women’s wear design veteran Nadya Toto’s collections, sold in high-end shops in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, and at home at her flagship Montreal boutique. Since 1989, the sophisticated designer and entrepreneur has been renowned for her silhouettes (as featured in Italian Vogue) and intricate detailing like fringes, braiding, tulle and stunning lacework (a skill passed down by her Italian grandmother). Spring/Summer bursts with bright colours, sexy shapes and lace and ruffles, while Fall/Winter focuses on texture, fabrics and a cream and black palette — all reportedly inspired by the unlikely combination of birds and Russia! Nadya Toto’s exclusive fur collection is available at her Montreal boutique. Nadya Toto is located at 2057 rue de la Montagne, 514-350-9090
Philippe Dubuc: Gentlemen, I didn’t forget about you! Every urban dandy needs a Dubuc suit, and the internationally-acclaimed Quebecois menswear designer’s eponymous shop is the best place to get into one. Since 1993, Philippe Dubuc has been outfitting men in top quality clothing inspired by “modernism and urban contrasts.” Available at his eponymous boutique in Montreal, online and at fine retailers, Dubuc’s current Spring/Summer collection is quite minimalist and subtle in its architecture and features “a couture spirit” in shades of grey and urban concrete. Top quality fabrics in textures both rough and smooth and deconstructed “trompe d’oeil” tone-on-tone effects and detailing. His reinvented Safari jacket features stripes, pockets and claps — for a more structured military effect. Boutique Philippe Dubuc is at 4451 Rue Saint-Denis, 514-282-1424
Guest Blogger Simona Rabinovitch is a Montreal native who lives Brooklyn, New York. She covers arts, culture, travel and entertainment-type stuff for the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, ELLE Canada, Lonely Planet, Zink, DazedDigital and more.
Photo Credit: Montreal Fashion Week: © Jimmy Hamelin