Montreal Fashion Week: Day 1 with Marie Saint Pierre, David Dixon and Helmer

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The week began with lots of running around: First to Marie Saint Pierre’s sprawling atelier by the Atwater Market for an up-close view of her avant-garde designs and the space where she creates them each season. Naturally, she presented her standard fare of draped jersey dresses, crinkled tops and crisp overcoats, with a fresh infusion of colour blocks in bright green and geometric appliqués that take her monochromatic styles from simple to striking.

Next up, a straight shot east to Vallier restaurant in Old Montreal for Ève Gravel. Despite the long lulls in the show that seemed to split up the show’s three themes (Jacquie O, nautical and military), Gravel impressed with a charming collection of easy-to-wear pieces, like her signature soft, ruffle-sleeve tops, sexy shift dresses with sheer lace overlays and belted bloomer shorts.

The off-site spree was actually a nice change of pace from the standard shuffling in and out of shows required at Marché Bonsecours, but given the teeming rain and my busted umbrella, I was happy to settle in for the night, especially since it kicked off with Toronto’s David Dixon.

While so many Montreal designers have trekked to Toronto with their collections in tow to show at LG Fashion Week, the reverse is rarely true, and so I was thrilled that one TO’s most celebrated designers decided to show on our turf — and Dixon did not disappoint. (Sadly, though, his six-o’clock time slot meant he had to show to a half-packed house.) He sent out embroidered silks, sequined fringe, shiny faux-alligator fabrics and a slew of soirée-ready strapless frocks, while his fondness for feminine silhouettes shone through in the numerous nipped waists and peplums that came down the catwalk.

Seventies fever took over at Muse by Christian Chenail, but the vibe was more boho than disco (in fact, the only thing disco about it was the soundtrack). Picture tie-dye prints, halter-top maxi dresses, flowy tunics layered over straight-cut pants and wrap skirts that hit just below the calf.

The night ended for me with Helmer. The notoriously shy designer was supposed to retire from the Montreal Fashion Week runway two seasons ago, but happily for us he just can’t seem to stay away. I often hear people question the functionality of his high-drama designs, but when it comes to Helmer, whether it’s wearable or not is beside the point. The Paris-trained couturier is an artist in every sense of the word, and as always he paid painstaking attention to detail, teaming up with local glass artist Jean-Marie Giguere and florist Christine Pickrell to craft one-of-a-kind creations inspired by life under the sea. Never mind that glass-shard-covered gowns aren’t all that sensible or that the fresh flowers on the finale frock have a shelf life of only a few days —  the man knows how to put on a spectacular show. Here’s hoping he understood that the multiple rounds of applause throughout and the standing O at the end was our way of saying “Come back again!”

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