Denis Gagnon

Meet the Fashion Darling of French-Canada

We'd like to introduce you to Denis Gagnon, as he'd probably be too shy to do it himself. We met the bashful, French-speaking créateur on a recent trip to Montréal, sponsored by the Festival Mode et Design. A local favorite for the past ten years, Denis possesses all the hallmarks of his transatlantic counterparts—the daring of Rick Owens (his own fave), the eccentricity of Alber Elbaz (his signature glasses are Lanvin wayfarers replaced with prescription lenses), the reclusiveness of Martin Margiela (well, not quite as much)—but with an edge unique to Quebec.

In the video below Denis gives us a tour of his fall collection: shimmery dresses draped and layered out of peek-a-boo fringe, skirts sculpted entirely from zippers, expertly crafted leather jackets and pants, and gloves fashioned out of his very own animal-skin rugs, yanked right off the studio floor. (He also gave us a preview of his top-secret spring '11 collection—expect more gorgeousness.) We know the video is sideways and shaky, and the sound quality sucks—apologies. But in a way, it's only fitting for Denis, whose designs themselves are often skewed, requiring closer, tilt-of-the-head inspection. But if it's too much to bear, here's a proper video of the runway show at Montréal Fashion Week, so in-demand they showed it twice.

On October 18, Denis will not only present his anticipated spring collection, but also launch a four-month-long retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, the MOMA of Montréal. Considering the next designer to exhibit there is Jean Paul Gaultier, the first stop in a multi-city tour, a showing in the museum's grand galeries seems only natural for one of our northern neighbor's foremost artistes.

Aug 17, 2010 00:00:00
Boris Bidjan Saberi, fall 10

Men's Designer Boris Bidjan Saberi Sees a Better Future

"My romantic side always thinks about a nicer, better world," says Boris Bidjan Saberi when asked what fashion needs now. "Maybe people will come on my boat one day and we can build a second arc," he adds jokingly. A funny idea, but to the German-born men's designer of Persian descent, anything is possible. Since he debuted at Barcelona Fashion Week in 2008, Saberi has sought a futuristic ideal through artful interpretations of men's silhouettes.

For his fall collection, shown in Paris, enormous sculpted jackets looked as though they were made from one continuous piece of leather, in some cases obscuring the face so as to resemble male veils. Loose-fitting pants worn under asymmetric layers—in his signature scaled-back palette of black and nude—achieved an easy, nomadic feel. It would seem these are clothes intended to be worn in a utopian (and possibly sandy) future, where clothes are minimal, well-proportioned and work in harmony with each other.

Not that the future couldn't use a superhero. Saberi's would be called Wanja, and "he would fight with his best friend against the dark side, with a lot of well-made steel arms." We're not sure about the steel arms, but the black leather cocoon-like sheath? Yes, please.

Visit Boris Bidjan Saberi

Aug 09, 2010 00:00:00
Don't Shoot the Messenger, fall 10

For New Berlin Label Don’t Shoot the Messengers, It's All In the Delivery

Hailing from New Zealand and Canada, respectively, Kyle Callanan and Jen Gilpin ended up in Berlin, where they met, discovered a shared aesthetic and founded the label Don’t Shoot the Messengers. “The name came from a long conversation about the label," they say, "and how we wanted to look into things that were sort of unconscious and untouchable, like mercury. You can see it, but it moves away from your finger when you try to touch it. Also, by association, Mercury is the messenger figure [in Roman mythology], which is where Don’t Shoot the Messenger came from.”

Attitude is key and black dominates, with nude accents the only chromatic concession for fall, their second season. Darkly feminine, the collection—a mix of aggressively cut lamb leather and soft, shimmery silk—is at once elegant, sexy and raw. “We like the contrast of things, line and shape, always looking into geometry and its relation to the body. Leather and silk are our base notes, along with straight lines and curving forms, tailoring and draping.”

In short, don't shoot the messenger because the messenger (who is not Shannon Doherty, by the way) brings good things.

Jul 29, 2010 00:00:00
Manish Arora, fall 10

Manish Arora Lives in a Fantasy World

Launching in New Delhi, but soon showing in London, then Paris, where he's currently on the prêt-à-porter calendar, Manish Arora has a resume that reads like a world map—and a colorful one at that. Although rooted in practicality, he says, his designs evoke a kaleidoscopic fantasy world full of searing colors, wild animals and surreal shapes. His skirts for spring '09, for instance, were made out of miniature, but working, carousels. For fall '10, he showed more of his signature fractal-like prints—worn with neon Louise Brooks bobs—in a sort of futuristic Bollywood. Dazzled by his collections, we wanted to know how his vivid imagination ticks...

Your prints are so vibrant. What color do you like the most?

Bright Indian pink! But I love color on the whole, all tints and shades. The more the better, accented with gold or silver.

Do you design more with an eye toward the past or future?

I design toward the future and at the same time I incorporate traditional Indian techniques in surface ornamentation.

If you could create a fantasy world, what would it look like?

Bright, sparkly, colorful and Space Age.

At times your clothes have featured prints or images of wild animals. What animal are you most drawn to?

I like tigers. They’re so regal. I love the contrast of the black and orange in their coats. Not as a garment though—just wild and free!

What is the most decadent or extravagant thing you’ve done?

I really don’t remember. I’m a pretty simple person. I strongly believe in practicality. I guess my need for extravagance is satisfied when I design my clothes. 

What are your thoughts about doing couture?

I would love to do it. If time permits, one day I will.

What was your most beloved storybook when you were a child? What is it now?

The Ugly Duckling. Today, Alice in Wonderland.

Is there a specific time or place when ideas come most freely?

As an artist, you can find inspiration from almost anything, from eras and civilizations to people and places. The list is endless. You always come across things that strike that cord with you. This is fashion, always evolving, constantly on the move.

What is the scene for a young designer starting in India? What was your experience?

I consider myself a young designer because I’m still in the process of evolving. But on a general note, nowadays it is very difficult for new designers in India to make a mark, as there is a lot of competition that’s growing by the day. 

What is one fashion question you wish the press wouldn’t ask?

One question that I don’t appreciate is when the press compares the styles of two designers. A lot of work goes into creating our pieces by translating our individual ideologies into reality. In my opinion, unless a design has been knocked off, two artists should never be compared.

You've worked with Reebok on a limited-edition shoe. Any other collaborations in the works?

I love collaborating with brands and artists. It takes your scale of designing to the next level. Currently I’m doing a project with Nespresso. Also, I designed an elephant [sculpture] for auction for the Elephant Parade in London.

Jul 24, 2010 00:00:00

Jewelry Designer Elie Top Goes Over the Top for Lanvin

Meet Elie Top, the 33-year-old designer behind Lanvin's fantastic, over-the-top jewelry. Dapper and self-effacing, Top was one of fashion’s best-kept secrets who now finds himself one of its fastest-rising stars.

In the dozen or so years since he began as an intern illustrator in Yves Saint Laurent’s atelier, Top has helped put jewelry center stage not just at Lanvin, but across the board, and his quirky tribal-industrial fall collection is a stunner—a cross between an H.G. Wells time machine and a medieval torture device (those metal chokers could do some harm!).

Add to that hand-faceted, jeweled carafe-stoppers for Baccarat, not to mention design stints for names we’re not at liberty to mention, and it’s clear why Top is coming out on top—even if his feet remain firmly on the ground. “Big rocks don’t interest me,” he says. “What interests me is character.” You can see a lot more of his character when he launches a semi-precious jewelry line of his own next year. In the meantime, here he reflects on his cosmic-grandma baubles for Monsieur Elbaz...

How did you get your start?
I met Albert Elbaz at YSL Rive Gauche [in 1997]. When I arrived in Paris at 20, and my first job was in M. Saint Laurent’s studio, mostly working on illustrations. Then Alber asked me to work on jewelry, plus some belts and bags. When Tom Ford took over, I left Rive Gauche and went to YSL couture, but also went freelance. When Alber went to Lanvin, he called me. Aside from Chanel, jewelry had no real presence. Alber totally relaunched that.

What did you learn from Yves Saint Laurent?
I learned that everything has a purpose and there is no room for useless detail. He would spend hours choosing the right black crêpe and perfecting the cut. No act was gratuitous. Alaïa works that way, too, on the body. There is a continuity, and I like that. It’s more interesting than changing every season.

What were your inspirations for fall?
It’s a tribal collection heavily influenced by an industrial theme, but it’s a bit of a cabinet of curiosities because there’s a cosmic side to it. It’s very 3-D and high volume, kind of far-out with lots of mixes, like leather and rhinestones. That was an interesting exercise, because we wanted to do massive stuff that wasn’t heavy—and I usually do stuff that’s heavy, like my cuff for the Baccarat Bouchons collection. 

Tell us about your process.
Alber lets me do my thing, and then we talk about it. What’s great about Alber is that if something works, he really pushes you. He asks for a lot and it’s always interesting. For my part, I think its interesting to take something common and then do something unusual with it. For example, I like taking something that’s not directional, that’s had a previous life, like something grandma wore that you’ve had around forever. That way, it has personality—a bit like Loulou [de la Falaise].

Any challenges?
The trap of designing is that you become enchanted with the picture, but it doesn’t always work in reality. It’s easy to get caught up in the design itself and forget reality. There’s a lot of economy in getting just the right line.

Jul 15, 2010 00:00:00
Pleasure Principle men's

Look Book Look: Pleasure Principle

Behold Pleasure Principle's men's collection for fall—or a small selection of it—with all the Druid  hoods, mummy  draping and ghastly silkscreens you've come to love and expect. In stores at the end of July.

photos Francois Hugon
model Nick Palmer

Jun 22, 2010 00:00:00
Graeme Armour

Graeme Armour

“He was soft and romantic, then hard and dark,” says Scottish designer Graeme Armour of the late Alexander McQueen, under whom he apprenticed during his fashion studies at Central Saint Martins. "It's something I find in my own work." But while McQueen is the progenitor of the fierce/fragile dichotomy that underlies the aesthetic of a new generation of provocateurs, Armour's hard-edged elegance is all his own. For spring, Armour’s acuity for elaborate detail plays out through the evolution of his zipper motif, a signature of earlier collections. Here, zippers are coiled into petal shapes or used as trim on modernist black, white and gold leather dresses, resulting in a tactile hybrid of utility and femininity.

"I love the feeling of sports mixed with elements of couture," says Armour. In other words: "cool, expensive, experimental and fun"—which is also how he describes the type of woman drawn to his clothes. After all, this is a man whose first widely coveted garment was a pair of gold pants consisting of delicate leather foliage resembling the underside of a mushroom. "I produced that collection for £1250 right on my kitchen table," he says of his 2009 debut. Among Armour’s early adopters were Kate Bosworth, Cheryl Cole and the always intrepid Lady Gaga.

With plans for a resort collection, an exclusive Japanese “jersey” line and, of course, spring 2011 well under way, Armour is quickly rising to the level of fame enjoyed by fellow Scottish designers Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders. "The Scots are having a moment, and quite rightly,” he says. "The glamour of dress and excess are part of the Scottish culture,” he notes, quipping, "Some Scottish women look like the daughters of Valentino in a country that has no sun!"

photos: Saga Sig
styling/make-up: Elisabet Alma Svendsen
model: Azila @ FM Models

Jun 04, 2010 00:00:00
Vilsbøl de Arce, fall 10

New Designer Alert

: Vilsbøl de Arce

Based in: Copenhagen, Denmark

Designers: Prisca Vilsbøl and Pia de Arce

Accolades: Design Talent of the Year at the 2010 Danish Fashion Awards, which they won just a couple of weeks ago. Rihanna also wore one of their Jetsons-looking creations from last season on tour and Lady Gaga donned a black mask of theirs as a shield from journalists' questions, a video of which you can see on their website.

Amazing: because, for fall, they were inspired by the human anatomy, laser-cutting leather to resemble a rib cage splayed open, or a body undergoing a dissection. Other fabrics were quilted and ribbed to give the appearance of pulled musculature. It sounds gross, but it's actually really beautiful.

The Takeaway: that northern avant-garde is alive and well.

Jun 01, 2010 00:00:00
Elisa Palomino, fall 10

Elisa Palomino: Gotham's Galliano

Fashion's current yen for moody 90s androgyny isn't lost on Spanish designer Elisa Palomino. It's just that, well, the Dior Couture alum and, until recently, NYFW virgin, doesn't give a damn. "What a relief to see all the soufflés of organza and feathers amongst all these boring minimalist jackets without buttons," she recalled one prominent journo telling her last February.

Palomino's fall 2010 debut—in which nary a low-waisted trouser or boyfriend blazer was glimpsed—took its cues from a headier decade. Inspired by the 1920s equivalent of teenybopper magazines and the long, lean figures of Japanese illustrator Kasho Takahata, the collection channels equal parts Daisy Buchanan-in-Tokyo and Palomino's former boss, John Galliano (whose studio she once headed up, following a stint at Moschino Cheap & Chic).

"We live in a dark enough era," she says. "Our clothes should lighten up our existence, not the contrary." Think pink mink boleros, tulle-trimmed suede flappers and ostrich feather-fringed cocktail dresses. Puffer vests feature kimono embroidery, while cherry blossom branches crawl over off-the-shoulder chunky knits. One mini-dress comprised almost entirely of oversized sequins is distinctly more Gaga than Erté.

May 16, 2010 00:00:00

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