Holt Renfrew axes the booze and opts for Canadian Design Coffee Talk

Photography by George Pimentel
Left to Right: Jeremy Laing Model, Jeremy Laing, Mikhael Kale, Mikhael Kale Model, Kirk Pickersgill (Greta Constantine), Greta Constantine Model, Stephen Wong (Greta Constantine), Denis Gagnon Model, Denis Gagnon

Monday morning, Toronto’s fashion elite gathered in the Holts cafe for a very civilized presentation featuring Canada’s top designers: Jeremy Laing, Denis Gagnon, Mikhael Kale, Lida Baday and Greta Constantine. Unlike years past when loud-mouthed fashionistas gabbed over the commentary while knocking back wine, we were all ears for Holt Renfrew’s VP of Fashion Direction Barbara Atkin and co-host Jeanne Beker – the reigning Queen of Canadian fashion anything.

The designers took turns to talk about their inspiration for fall 2010, their descriptive anecdotes were buffered with ‘ooohs and ahhs’ from Atkin and Beker. Of course, we also took cues from the discerning eyebrow of MTV’s Dan Levy. 

A loaded question from Beker to Gagnon kicked things off, “Do you think the women in the rest of the country have caught up with the stylish women of Montreal?”

Gagnon responded safely, “I love making clothes for women.” And we certainly love what he’s managed with fringe and zip for the upcoming season; mini dresses that will have you meowing with sex appeal. 

Michael Kale described his collection, “as feminine as I could go with black,” and that it was. The intricate design was explained like so, “I spend a lot of time alone.” We picture a dark basement with La Traviata blaring, drippy candles and an allusive pet crow.

As for the thought process behind Jeremy Laing’s totem pole dress, “I wanted to do something really really Canadian.” It is is far more elegant than it sounds. Haida references and a variety of furs including beaver and red fox, had us all quietly considering, “What does it mean to dress Canadian?” 

Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong were introduced as the “Yin and Yang” team behind Greta Constantine. When their model strutted out in skin tight leather pants and a powerful fur vest Wong declared, “We love the really edgy and provocative outfits,” and we love them for giving Toronto design such a fierce and fabulous identity.

Designer Lida Baday was ill, so unfortunately the powerhouse panel lacked a woman. However, the longstanding designer at Holts, who is a fave amongst polished working women, was given due praise by Atkin, “..beautiful clothes, well tailored.”

So next time someone asks you to talk about Canadian design, you can now elaborate beyond Joe Fresh – and to that we raise our coffee in cheer!

Designer Panel L to R: Denis Gagnon, Jeremy Laing, Mikhael Kale and Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong of Greta Constantine.

Greta Constantine Model

MTV’s Dan Levy and blogger Tommy Ton. 

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