White Winter Fashion City: seven Quebec designers in LondonPublié par Marie-Eve Rochon le 15 février 2014
The mood was festive at the Quebec Government office in London Thursday night as seven designers made their London début. Their collections will be exhibited as part of the International Fashion Showcase until February 18 for buyers, press and public to see.
Melanie Trevett, the project leader and UK partner, had a brilliant idea to make the evening even more interesting. She asked the participating designers to take turns interviewing Thomas Tait. The guests got to learn more about this London-based successful fashion designer hailing from Montreal, thus gaining a little insight into the creative spirit of Quebec. It also made for a very dynamic atmosphere, filled with camaraderie and laughter. It started with José Manuel St-Jacques (half of the design duo behind UNTTLD) surprising Tait by greeting him with a “Hello treacle” as part of an inside joke between the designers. It continued with Tait describing the most outrageous getup he’d seen since arriving in London (sweatpants worn as a romper) and Pedram Karimi downing a glass of bubbly before nervously interviewing a designer which he admires greatly.
Community and aspirations
This sense of community is one of the main benefits of this event for Anastasia Radevich, who designs shoes for her namesake label. Katrine Heim, agent of UNTTLD, also sees this as a positive aspect of the initiative. “We were already looking for a way to show the brand in Europe. If we hadn’t been invited, we might have ended up renting a showroom. But being here allows designers to exchange ideas. If one brings people in, it’s good for everyone involved.”
When asked about their objectives for this week on British soil, designers give very different answers. Ariane Michaud, co-founder of Breed Knitting, is focusing on exploration. “We want to discover London and understand the fashion industry here.” Meanwhile, Anastasia Radevich, who finished production on her collection only days ago in Italy, declares, tongue-in-cheek, that the event “was a good excuse for [her] to meet the deadlines”. For Mélissa Nepton, the goal is to obtain comments and feedback. “This occasion allows us to test our products on the European market for the first time,” the designer explained when reached by email. (Nepton was the only designer not present in London, having recently given birth to her first child.)
Getting into stores
But the main concern is acquiring new stockists. As designer Pedram Karimi plainly puts it: “Visibility is good, but it’s not money”. This is what Katrine Heim, who works with the UNTTLD brand, is talking about when she says: “We’ve had great exposure in Europe and Asia, but now, we’re breaking down walls. We want stockists!” Soft-spoken Jocelyn Picard is cautiously hoping for his brand Lyn to be noticed and picked up by at least one store in London.
It appears they have good reason to be optimistic. After only one day, the showroom had been visited by many potential buyers, including those of retailers Browns and Layers. “A lot of people came here and were pleasantly surprise with what they saw”, says fashion consultant Melanie Trevett. “They were expecting something else entirely. Because of the weather in Quebec, they thought they were going to see technical outerwear, like down jackets. Instead they discovered these avant-garde designers.”
Creativity and innovation were plentiful at the London Quebec delegation office. An example among others: There Are Many of Us leather bags are convertible, but still minimal and luxurious. And forget 2-in-1: some styles transform in five different ways. Emma J. Crosby, fashion business developer, was in attendance Thursday night. Jocelyn Picard’s crochet creations were among her favorite. “It’s cool, urban and still highly wearable. Even better: the designer is such a cool guy!” Every jumper or vest takes between 15 and 30 hours of handwork. Some pieces mix leather or suede with wool, the designer’s staple material. These garment are massive and exhibited on four hangers each.
Inception… and what’s coming
After accepting an invitation from Quebec’s government to attend Montreal Fashion Week five years ago, Melanie Trevett fell hard for Quebec design. Ever since, she’s worked hard to introduce this creativity to London. “The event almost happened two years ago, but funding was cut,” she explains. “In the end, we produced the whole thing on a third of the initial budget.” The consultant and the Quebec delegation in London collaborated with the CCMQ (the Council of fashion designers of Quebec) to bring this project to life. This passionate lady is also working on a trade show with other designers from Quebec. “I think the timing is right, with Montreal Fashion Week being cancelled,” she says. Stay tuned London, more Quebec designers coming your way!
White Winter Fashion City is open to the public from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm everyday until February 18 inclusively. 59 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5JH
José Manuel St-Jacques, half of the designer duo behind UNTTLD – All photos by Oscar May
Karl Latraverse and two bags of his brand There Are Many of Us
Pedram Karimi, designer
Melanie Trevett, project manager, and Thomas Tait, London-based designer from Montreal
Jocelyn Picard shows off some of the crochet creations of his brand Lyn
Frédérique Sarrazin (left) and Ariane Michaud, of the brand Breed Knitting