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Pop Montreal: Fashion Pop

Fashion show: October 2 / Coda (4119 St. Laurent) Marketplace: October 4-5 / St. Michel Church Hall (105 St. Viateur O.)

I had never set foot in Montreal when I decided to pack off to our fair city. My perception of Montreal was based entirely on the misleading “knowledge” of fellow Vancouverites who had. Popular kernels of wisdom ranged from “You don’t need to speak French at all,” to “It’s so European!” But by far the most common expression of admiration, and undoubtedly the most italicized, was the assertion that “Montrealers are sooo stylish!”

At risk of casting the people of Vancouver in too bumpkin-ish a light, languishing as they do in their western solitude, I will accept this last generalization as a fair assumption.

The young people of Montreal are indeed fashion-conscious. However, beneath the glossy veneer, something sinister is at work: homogeny. In response to the pressure to look good, many have adopted a uniform. Why curate a varied wardrobe when one can easily acquire the “look” in one fell swoop at Urban Outfitters? Silk scarf, check. Flannel, check. V-neck, check. Sometimes fashionable is just another word for formulaic.

If this sartorial equation leaves something to be desired, have no fear – Puce Pop’s second annual fashion show is here! The show will be part of Puces Pop’s official launch party and will showcase six young Montreal designers’ sweat, blood, and knit cotton jersey.

This event provides an important outlet for designers looking to start their careers, says Marilis Cardinal, one of the show’s coordinators. For most of them, it will be their first show. “A lot of people who applied said, ‘I’ve been wanting to do a collection, but I never had a reason to,’” she says. “Only one or two of them had ever [done a show] before.”

The Le Château-sponsored show will be juried by what the press release calls “fashion professionals,” with a $2,000 prize going to the winner. According to Cardinal, a budding tastemaker needs all the help he or she can get. Material costs for small-scale producers are high, meaning that, despite young designers’ best intentions, they can rarely afford to put accessible prices on their clothing. The harsh reality, she says, is that although “people in Montreal are fashion-conscious, [most] don’t have enough money to buy from designers.”

One wonders if this realization was a harsh one for the designers competing in Pop’s show. All of them are currently based in Montreal, but many migrated to the city from Canada’s coasts to study fashion at Lasalle College. Montreal’s reputation as the “most stylish city in Canada,” which is likely based more on a knack for thrifting than limitless clothing budgets, may seem incongruent with the difficulties faced by the city’s emerging designers.

Nonetheless, Cardinal encourages fashion hopefuls to give it their best shot. “Look on Craigslist for opportunities, post photos, get a web site up – just put yourself out there.”

If you support small businesses and youthful ingenuity, then you have all the more reason to make your way down to Pop’s fashion show this Thursday. “The cool thing about Montreal designers,” says Cardinal, “is that not one is like the other.” And that’s exactly what this city needs.

– Madeline Coleman