Always weeks ahead of Toronto’s LG Fashion Week, Semaine de Mode de Montreal kicked off last week – here are some highlights… or previews of what to expect three weeks from now down at the Ex.

For Spring 2011, Toronto’s David Dixon offered a conservative line of business-casual/vacation-chic wearables that oozed femininity in his debut David Dixon Studio line.

Crisp whites were paired with royal blues, muted greys and cherry red florals, meant to evoke images, according to the designer, of “a picnic by the Eiffel Tower maybe, or a bike ride in a resort town to have dinner with friends.”

The collection was defined by simple, clean lines, modest shapes and varied textures. Faux-alligator, sequins, chiffon and embroidered silk were used to evoke “casual luxury spirit”. Hitchcock-blond resort-wear meets MadMen business casual with a hint of modernity.

Waistlines were cinched and pleated, jackets and coats were double breasted and accented with large buttons, and conservative tailoring ensured that there was nary a kneecap nor a hint of cleavage to be seen.

The piece de resistance came in the form of an elegant, white, floor-skimming evening gown with fitted strapless bodice and feathery sequin detail.

In stark contrast to Dixon’s tailored, refined conservatism, show stopper Helmer wowed the crowd with a highly stylized couture show, which was a mixture of 1980 prom meets renaissance-GaGa meets artisanal craft.

Models walked the runway slowly and deliberately to the soundtrack of renaissance music accented by the tinkling of glass bottles, and later, a violin rendition of Bad Romance.

The collection itself was a mélange of textures, colours and shapes that celebrated his collaboration with Quebec artisans. Soft, light layered tulle tutus, feathers, netted hats and veils were contrasted by sparkling sequins, hand-blown and frosted glass, and broken bottle shards. Powder blue, emerald green, fuchsia pink and shades of purple were juxtaposed against simple white, black, red, and the occasional shock of neon to really mix things up.

The show was a visual smorgasbord, and a press favorite. The crowd was notably moved, clapping several times during the show, and jumping up for a standing ovation at its close.

Dimitri Chris’ ready-to-wear collection – Skärgården – The Island Garden – offered an entirely different ambiance once again.

Inspired by the elegance of the 1930’s, and perhaps to evoke a sort of sleepy sexiness, the collection was comprised largely of was lounge-inspired daywear, striped pajamas converted into sport coats and suits, perfect for late afternoon cocktails on a summer afternoon after spending most of the day sleeping. Or reading The Great Gatsby.

Or, truthfully, the image of hospital orderlies came to mind.

Suspended fluorescent light fixtures highlighted the exclusively cotton collection, a variation of stripes, solids, and plaids. Cuffed shorts were paired with knee socks and garters, double breasted dinner jackets were matched up with double pleated chinos, and cutoff caplets were worn over crisp oxford shirt.

The collection was a mixture of wearable staples with whimsical influence of garden party dreaminess.

Montreal will play host to upwards of 30 fashion shows, events, conferences, and parties galore over the four-day fashion extravaganza.

by Jennifer Charlebois