As a 16-year-old wannabe designer growing up in Amherst, N.S., Matthew Gallagher did something only an optimistic small-town kid would do: he mailed actual letters to all of his fashion heroes, seeking advice. He heard back from two—Kal Ruttenstein, the late fashion director of Bloomingdale’s, who set him up with an internship in New York; and Tom Ford, who, impressed by the teenager’s drive, told him to stay true to his passion. “When I was applying to university, both Kal and Tom wrote letters of recommendation for me,” says Gallagher. “That was super exciting, because who would have thought?” Unsurprisingly, he was accepted at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York and finished his degree at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan. In 2013, the expat returned to Canada and, ever the optimist, launched his own line of high-end womenswear, Maison Matthew Gallagher.
Fashion is all about fantasy for this Toronto-based talent. “I want to inspire women to dress up again,” he says. “There are a lot of accessible lines out there, but I want to open people’s eyes to something a bit different and glamorous.” And as the winner of this year’s TFI New Labels Fashion Design Competition, the 28 year-old has the backing he needs (media exposure, ongoing mentorship, $25,000 cash) to spread his gospel of glam to the fashion faithful. Case in point: his fall collection, which combines modern minimalism with Old Hollywood flair. Structured separates and tailored looks for day offer a futuristic counterpoint to boudoir-worthy feathered frocks and flowy trained gowns for evening. Think Rita Hayworth meets #bossbitch power dressing—we promise it works.
Click through the gallery below to meet the 2015 Finalists
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The 411: Designer Valérie Tolila fuses Parisian elegance with rock ’n’ roll attitude for a line that exudes that elusive #IWokeUpLikeThis-ness. The Collection: This season’s muse is French model Caroline de Maigret, whose laid-back style and unfussy bed head make her the equivalent of a Parisian Kate Moss. Slinky black skirts, cut-out crop tops and mesh details add streetwise cool factor.
Hair: Matthew Collins, L’Oréal Professionnel, P1m.ca.
Makeup: Natalie Ventola, M.A.C Cosmetics, P1m.ca.
Nails: Nargis Khan, Tips Nail Bar, P1m.ca.
Models: Charlotte Mingay, Sutherland Models; Gemma, Next Models; Symone, Elite Models.