Montreal is known not only for its ethnic diversity, but also for the vibrant creativity and energy of its young professionals. Young people are always looking for ways to express themselves, inspire and bring out the best in others. One of the best venues to channel this energy is in the Fashion Design sphere - a field upon which one’s success depends heavily on passion, dedication and time.
2016 promises to be a particularly interesting year in the world of design and fashion in Quebec as a new generation of consumers are increasingly interested in understanding by whom, how and under what working conditions the products and services they consume come from. Designers find exposure not only through traditional mediums and social media, but also through various events that are open to the scrutiny of industry professionals and general public alike. (Recent notable events include the glitzy Fashion Preview, the champagne evenings at the Crystal Hotel, the National Women’s Show as well as the numerous spring collection launch parties scattered around town.)
The road to fame is rarely straight and often one must wear many hats to find success. To learn some trade secrets, I had the chance to interview four driven, young and ambitious design professionals that are currently making waves among their peers and shaking up the Montreal Fashion scene. Here are their fascinating stories and wise words of advice below:
Name: M De Latour
Fresh from London, M_delatour styling me with a loose curl with flat ends 'BOB' cut a la 'George Northwood'
Fresh from a two years trip abroad in London to perfect his cutting and coloration skills alongside masters such as Gary Ingham, George Northwood, Bradley Taylor and Richard Stepney, this multi-talented musician - turned successful fashion marketer and PR agent is currently a trendy hair stylist at J’aime Coiffure specializing in modern, precision cuts and styles. Amid a pristine salon decor and a warm cup of tea, M De Latour eyes sparkle as he shares his inspiring story between a wash, dry, cut and style.
Why do you like styling hair?
I took an interest in hair styling at the early age of 8-9 when I found pleasure in pampering my grandmother's hair. She would ask me to color and blow dry it for her. However, I've only decided to turn this passion of mine into a career since the past five years. Currently, what interests me the most in hair styling is the potential for facial metamorphosis. It is fascinating to me that by just making someone’s hair straight, wavy, curly or mixed, it will drastically alter their facial features. There are so many ways of creating and recreating various looks: modern, professional, grungy, punk, messy, bed head, chic, luxurious, voluminous... The possibilities are endless, and this principle applies to any hair length.
Tell me a little about your artistic background:
I have a long answer for this one as I have done several things before starting hair styling. From the age of 15, musical studies brought lots of joy and creativity to my life which continued throughout my acceptance at the prestigious Vincent D' Indy music college and the University of Montreal in clarinet interpretation. I would say my path as a musician was successful for the emotional and lyrical beauty I was able to offer as a performer, however I did experience a certain social isolation and thus decided to change course and follow another passion of mine: Fashion Marketing.
Renowned Quebec designer Denis Gagnon hired me for 3 fabulous years as his personal assistant, PR manager and sales representative. Under his wing, I've helped him realize amazing projects such as his exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, his partnership with Bedo and Lancôme Paris, his dazzling fashion show at Birks, the opening of his boutique in the Old Port all the while taking care of his sales and day to day tasks. This amazing experience left me with a desire to collaborate with other designers. I left Denis to be a freelance fashion PR agent. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Barila, Tavan & Mitto, Duy, UNTTLD, Anastasia Lomonova, Lyn, Martin Lim, Hip & Bone, Emanuela Lolli (Fashion Preview) and Nisse (which is still a current client of mine).
At that time, I was working solo on all those projects and I realized at a point that I was carrying too much on my shoulders and started thinking about a change of career... Yet again!
I renounced taking contracts and went to study hairdressing at L’École Des Métiers Des Faubourgs. Once my studies completed, I went overseas on a 2 years London venture to perfect my cutting & coloring skills. Learning and working alongside star professionals such as Gary Ingham, George Northwood, Bradley Taylor and Richard Stepney helped me to develop confidence in my skills and qualities. (Let me tell you, hairdressing is ALL about confidence and precision). My time in London also afforded me the fabulous opportunity of dealing with high profiled clients such as Paul McCartney, Rowan Atkinson, Kate Moss, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alexa Chung.
What is the biggest challenge in a hairdressing career?
It’s personal, however for me the biggest challenge would be to remain patient and stable. Being a person that loves to try everything and constantly learn, I find it difficult to just remain in one place; however it is vital if you wish to develop a faithful clientele that shall follow you. During my training in London, I worked at 6 different hair parlors. Here in Montreal, I need to arm myself with courage, patience and lots of good will to ensure the growth of my clientele - one cut or color at a time.
J'aime Coiffure : 1550 Rue Gilford, Montréal, QC
Any words of advice for aspiring hair stylists?
BE PATIENT ! Work hard, complete your projects whatever they are, arm yourself with charisma and kindness, take as many specialty classes as you can and ultimately, the most important strength is to just believe in yourself.
LOVE the final result !
Name: Carmen Popescu
Position: Founder at NemräC Style
Carmen Popescu is the creative powerhouse behind her sophisticated NemräC Style line that proposes both masculine and feminine urban wear.
Romanian born fashion designer Carmen Popescu is the creative mind behind the urban design and utilitarian chic NemräC Style. After graduating with a BA from the École supérieure de mode de Montréal (UQAM), Carmen Popescu was awarded the highly illustrious honour of interning for the internationally renowned designer Jean-Paul Knott in Brussels, Belgium—an experience that only further confirmed her passion for the craft. Since launching her signature label in 2012, Popescu has revealed her innate talents to the Montreal fashion scene through cutting-edge collections that are a reflection of both her story and her individuality.
1. Why do you love Fashion Design?
I love Fashion Design because it allows me to create something that is inspired by other art forms. I’ve always loved the idea of having an image in my mind and being able to bring it to life with my own hands! I believe that’s actually the best part; being able to recreate a reproduction of an exact idea I have imagined. I find it simply remarkable to see the reactions of others when they like, love or support the fruit of my ideas.
I also love the fact that I can use my creations to help others feel good, beautiful / handsome and comfortable about their own self. Fashion can be used as a therapy for some and can contribute to help others feel good as well. There is absolutely nothing better than being able to help someone feel good. Clothes can provide that comfort or can allow you to be who you want to be at times. Fashion can allow people to make bold statements - that alone is amazing!
The talented @carmenpopescu @nemracstyle presenting her beautiful new collection @hotellecrystal
2. What is the biggest challenge in developing new ideas for your collections?
I believe the biggest challenge is directly related to the financial and marketing fields. When creating ready to wear pieces, it is always important to think about the overall cost and marketing of the brand. It is equally very important that the individual pieces sell well, fast and doesn’t have a substantial overhead cost.
I sometimes have more outlandish designs ideas in mind, but I cannot always bring them to fruition as they would either cost too much, not sell well among my clientele or worst: both! That being said, I often get inspired from that first crazier idea and later design something a little less complicated, yet still inspired from that initial extravagant idea I had. It’s all part of the creative marketing process and I believe I get better with it as time goes. Of course, I still sometimes let my imagination run looser than usual , mostly for fun or for private orders … Haha, I guess it’s all part of my creative designer’s mind!
3rd edition of art & bubbles @hotelcrystalmtl welcomes designer Carmen Popescu who presented her new collection ♥♡♥ @nemracstyle
Tell me a little about your artistic background?
Since a young age, I was attracted to artistic activities and manual work. My grandmother taught me to sew at the age of 4 and I loved it! Actually, here is a funny anecdote: my mother says she remembers that even at age one; I used to have so much fun untying knots! Haha! Yes I know... a little weird right?! I have also always loved to draw and paint with acrylics... I feel like my love for texture comes from those early painting years. As for my love for linear and angular shapes, I assume this comes from the fact that I have always been attracted to architecture. I once considered that field, but I changed my mind at the last minute and switched to Fashion Design instead. Today, I can proudly say that I am a clothing architect.
What word of advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Always believe in yourself even if at times you feel nobody does. As cliché as it may sound, it’s the occasional feeling of failure that will allow you to really push yourself to go further and create much with little. Also, never let yourself believe that just because you love something and are passionate about what you do, that success will come easily...Passion can only allow you to keep going and work for long hours, but it is determination that will be the true test of time. Nothing successful comes easily in life…You have to learn to work hard for it, no matter what.
Name: Annick Levesque
Position: Founder of Annick Levesque Accessories inc.
You might have glimpsed one of this young designer’s useful light bags in a dark cinema or seen one of her Apple compatible key chain cable pom poms hanging from someone’s purse. Maybe you recently saw her on television on the French version of Dragon’s Den, keeping a strong stance and asking for 80,000$ in financial backing. Annick Levesque is a fashion bag and accessory designer that likes to combine cool innovation with practicality.
The Montreal Fashion Society
Why do you like the world of fashion accessories?
Simply because fashion accessories can dress up or dress down any outfit. Also, fashion accessories can be worn by everyone regardless of shape, age, gender, culture or size.
What is the biggest challenge in developing new ideas for your creations?
My biggest challenge when I am developing new ideas for my creations is to just stay simple. I find it much more difficult to create plain, simple and functional accessories than anything that is overly fancy. My motto is: Less is more.
Silver fox fur braided USB cable bag accessories from @annick.levesque
Tell me a little more about your artistic background and finally what word of advice would you give to aspiring designers?
From the age of seven up until my late teens, I used to paint. I won several prizes which included a grand prize hosted by Visa that would influence my future. Visa’s challenge was to draw a loved one realizing his Olympic Dream. I drew my father on a bobsleigh. This piece won the first prize and I thus represented Canada at the age of 12 years old for the 1998 winter Olympic Games at Nagano in Japan. I can still remember the amount of days and long nights I spent working on my drawing - My parents would have to remind me to go get some sleep! With this achievement, I was sincerely convinced that if I believed in my talent and in myself, I could achieve everything! That initial experience gave me motivation and wings to fly.
Since then, I chose to orient my professional choices towards art and following that, towards starting my own brand in fashion accessories. My studies and work gave me opportunities to create and keep doing what is important for me; making a small difference in everyone’s life by putting a smile into every women’ face with my smart, stylish and practical handbag collection.
If I could give few words to aspiring designers, I would say; believe in yourself, stay grounded and focus on the needs of your customers, Most importantly, remember to be passionate.
I hope these few humble words of advice will help you grow in the competitive fashion industry.