CAFA Designer Spotlight: Matthew Gallagher

In the lead-up to the 2015 Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards, we chat with some of the buzziest nominees

Homegrown talent FTW: this Saturday, Canada’s fashion elite will celebrate the industry’s best talents—established and emerging—at the second annual Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards in Toronto. FLARE will be there (again!), and in the lead-up to the big night, we’re spotlighting some of the most exciting nominees.

First up: womenswear designer Matthew Gallagher, nominated for the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion. Gallagher grew up in Amherst, N.S., and trained in Italy before debuting his eponymous luxury womenswear brand in Canada in 2013. Gallagher’s sophisticated, feminine pieces are handcrafted in his Toronto studio using fabrics imported from Milan. Fans include fellow Canuck and former FLARE cover star Elisha Cuthbert, who recently wore one of his designs to a Golden Globes after-party.

(Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Gallagher)

Matthew Gallagher, nominated for the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion, at the 2015 CAFAs

In five words or less, how would you describe the woman who wears your brand?
The woman who wears Matthew Gallagher is sexy, strong and elegant.

Tell us about the first time you felt awestruck by fashion.
I can’t pinpoint an exact time, but as a child I watched old movies with my mom like The Birds and Rear Window. I remember understanding a certain refinement and elegance from Tippi Hedren and Grace Kelly that mesmerized me. I also used to watch Death Becomes Her and Elvira over and over again, which definitely had strong female characters and a distinct sense of style. I think I was always drawn to the dream of glamour beauty. I’m from a small town, so it’s outside the norm, and it impacted me—it made me want to be a part of that world. Fashion was the best way to escape to that fantasy.


Maison Matthew Gallagher

It can be difficult for Canadian designers to resist the urge to set up shop in other countries. Why did you decide to establish your brand at home?
Initially, my move back to Canada was mainly due to an opportunity. I was mid-internship in Milan and I was contacted by The Collections and recruited to show at World MasterCard Fashion Week. Of course, being newly graduated, I jumped at the chance. Later, I felt there was a certain appeal to come back and establish my business in the country that I came from.

Can you share one major source of inspiration for you?
I’m often inspired by atmosphere. I travelled a lot when I lived in Europe, and I feel like certain places are so rich with history: it allows you to escape to a time and create a story in your own mind. I also look to old movies for inspiration, either a character or an overall feeling. I like to imagine I’m designing for the same girl every season, and the inspiration is her next role.

Matthew Gallagher

Maison Matthew Gallagher

It’s 2025: what does your brand look like? What do you hope to accomplish by then?
In 2025, I hope to have a standalone concept store to house my collections and a range of products. I am passionate about shoes, jewellery, skincare, fragrance, kidswear and even menswear. I would hope, by that time, I had a start on some of those categories—ultimately, working towards Matthew Gallagher being a full-circle lifestyle brand.

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The Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards take place Saturday, Jan. 31. Visit throughout the week for more Q&As with the nominees!