Style Forecast

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Muse par Christian Chenail returns to OFW for a second appearance. It takes place Feb. 8-10. Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa Fashion Week promises plenty of surprises, designer lineup next month

Fashion buffs, fasten your seatbelts. The next installment of Ottawa Fashion Week promises to be a knockout, with a stellar lineup ranging from Ottawa mainstays Elena Hinke and the design duo of Jana Hanzel and Emilia Torabi to New York City-based newcomer Tess Johnson, whose ethereal creations have captivated fashion audiences.

OFW, which runs Feb. 8 to Feb. 10, once again coincides with Winterlude and will be held at the Ottawa Convention Centre, with its sweeping views of the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill.

So far, about a dozen of the 20 runway slots have been filled, says Ottawa Fashion Week creative director Bruno Racine, adding that contracts with designers from across North America and Europe are pending. Meanwhile, OFW organizers are harnessing the synergy of fashion, food and music.

You can get a foretaste of Fashion Week on Feb. 1, with the American Express Whirlwind of Taste and Style in the convention centre’s ballroom.

Foodies are already chattering about the Winterlude event, which promises to be just as much a treat to the eye as the palate. Guests will consume a five-course meal created by Atelier chef Marc Lépine, winner of the 2012 Canadian Culinary Championships (spoiler alert: dessert will have an all-white snowstorm theme).

The catwalk quotient will be filled by Toronto-based Lucian Matis, the Project Runway alumnus whose high-end “editorial” collection has been featured in Elle and Flare, as well as the elegant creations of Canada’s Judith & Charles. “It’s an honour to be asked to participate in Ottawa,” says the Romanian-born Matis, who picked up his tailoring skills working in his mother’s shop — his teachers were among his first customers — and came to Canada in 1999 after studying painting in Romania.

Matis graduated in design from Ryerson University and he has become a Canadian fashion brand.

Matis’s Project Runway work attracted comparisons to John Galliano, the former head designer for Givenchy and Dior, and the The Huffington Post declared Matis’ “moody, broody” collection for Toronto Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2012 to be a standout.

The collection attracted raves for a crocodile-embossed leather suit in lemon yellow and the punch of his over-sized prints.

Expect more of the same when he comes to Ottawa next month. Matis says he will be showing 15 to 20 pieces from his editorial collection in Ottawa. He also has a mid-range “diffusion” line and the Daphne Collection, which sells on the Shopping Channel, and he is creating an interior design line.

Matis promises more crocodile-embossed leather and pieces with the extravagantly-patterned “Moroccan” motif. Pattern and high-end textiles with pared-down silhouettes have become the signature detailing of his brands, says Matis, who has only shown in Ottawa once before, in 2008.

“It’s all about the fabric and the quality of the fabric,” he says. “The collection is going to bring a little bit of warmth to Ottawa. There will be a bit of vibrant colour. In winter we tend to have a lot of black.”

OFW creative director Bruno Racine plans to bring back more designers who have a following in Quebec. This is Christian Chenail’s second appearance at Ottawa Fashion Week, for example.

Chenail, who studied architecture at the University of Montreal and fashion design at Lasalle, produced his first collection in 1989, and opened his first Montreal boutique in 1989.

“I like Ottawa. A lot of my customers from Ottawa come to shop in my store in Montreal,” he says. “I think there is a place for more high-end boutiques in Ottawa. I would like to open one. But the recession has been hard on this business. We’re just recovering.”

Diana Rigg-the leggy British actress who embodied the mod spy of the 1960s.

Chenail, who has shown in about 20 fashion weeks in Montreal, believes customers are looking for versatile, better quality clothing that will last.

“We don’t need 20 pieces each season. You need to find what’s good for your body, says Chenail, who is hard at work completing his Fall and winter line for next year in time for OFW.

The new collection is loosely based on the Bond girl of the 1960s. But it is inspired rather than dictated by the styles of the 1960s, with slick silhouettes and menswear reinterpreted in feminine colours and a palette of black, royal blue and deep burgundy.

“I loved Diana Rigg,” says Chenail of the leggy British actress who embodied the mod spy of the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the OFW music lineup is still in the works. The performers who have already signed on include Erin Saorise Adair, David Little G and Brad Morden.

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