Ottawa may not be considered the most fashionable city but we certainly pulled up our socks this past weekend at Ottawa Fashion Week. Of course, there were some disasters both on and off the runway, but what made these nights unforgettable was certainly the designs that made us swoon, or even made us tilt our heads in confusion.
Elena’s Creations started the night off 45 minutes behind schedule, after staff spent an hour ushering in an eager crowd. The show began with some well-tailored pieces featuring a basic black, white and grey palette. Royal blues, lush reds, and jewel-toned purples made an appearance soon after, brightening up the Ottawa designer’s collection. The fitted pieces reflected the Ottawa scene and brought something new for businesswomen to add to their working wardrobe. Not a highlight of the night, this local left us unsatisfied.
Amanda Emmanuel really brought out some summery vibes with bold and bright prints. Despite the way the colours popped, nothing felt inspiring. The majority of the collection was over the top, and I was disappointed by the lack of fabric choices. Silk is splendid, but it was repetitive. Even though I wouldn’t invest in any of her pieces, the local designer’s background in art and technology certainly showed through in her 3D prints. If this is the look you’re after, then she’s your go-to gal.
Mingling with the crowd after the first break, I noticed a feeling of disappointment in my fellow fashion lovers. Even though Friday evening began with a whimper, it certainly went out with a bang.
!Nu.I brought us back into the zone with some geek-chic style. Big glasses and even bigger hair made the classic nerd look sexy. Every outfit caught my attention, and it was this moment when my interest in Ottawa Fashion Week returned. Onlookers breathed a sigh of relief, and the enthusiasm was back! Deep teals, heavy knits and lots of leather made this collection really stand out. These are the kinds of pieces Ottawa needs to bring out our edgier side, I know it’s there somewhere! It’s just a shame that the local talent didn’t do it; it was this Montreal designer who did.
As for the Friday night finale, Y!D.N.A really made a splash in our conservative capital, with an unforgettable and avant-garde performance. Some of the models were painted in blackface or wore studded and spiked masks, stirring some controversy in the crowd. Although not fit for your every-day wardrobe, it was definitely powerful and innovative. The shredded tights and neutral palette were an undeniable turn on. As Andy, the Montreal based designer, took a bow, we turned off our cameras, and carefully picked our jaws up from the floor.
It was clear tonight the Montreal crew had stolen the show.
The atmosphere was upbeat as Tribal Sportswear kicked off Saturday with bold hues paired with soft browns and gorgeous, heavier fabrics. Simple sweaters paired with bright red pants caught my eye, and of course, fur, an Ottawa staple, made an appearance in this collection. Although I’m not a fan of the jackets that had a marshmallow-like appearance, the colours were fantastic. I have to say, sometimes the plain-jane look is nice, and Tribal Sportswear really hit the nail on the head.
Things got very feminine when Ottawa’s own Jana Hanzel & Emilia Torabi’s new collection made its debut. The pieces had an old school burlesque feel with a modern twist. The cloche hats were a dazzling throwback to the flapper era, alongside some trendy prints on classic styles, and lace in the most risqué of places. Although nice to look at on the models, the designs were shapeless and strange. There was nothing I would want to add to my wish list. These garments are purely for show and don’t offer any practicality for the wearer.
My favourites of the evening have to be ElizBourk and Rachel Sin, two locals who both garnered a lot of positive reaction. Both of these designers always manage to bring both something wearable and creative to the runway.
ElizBourk, who gets most of her inspiration from street style and fashion blogs, showed off some indie edge with soft patterns in light silvers and pinks. It felt springy yet icy, while also nicely mirroring the best-dressed locals you can find in the streets of downtown Ottawa. A fan favourite by the end of the evening, I only heard good things about the twenty-something designer, whose collection offered pieces with great shape and quality.
Rachel Sin followed up with sequins, fur and some animal print. For one of the most talked about designers at fashion week, she was certainly lacking something this year. At first glance, I was impressed, but looking back I realized I had been blinded by my love for Sin. The architecture student turned fashion designer usually has an eye for perfection, but some pieces looked boxy and ill fitting. Fabric was bunching in all the wrong places on a few of the dresses, and I was expecting better construction. But there was a grey dress I would recommend. It looked like it had gotten more care and attention than most of the other pieces, as it had great structure and neat hemlines.
The end of the evening brought a large crew to Sidedoor for a celebratory after party thrown by Rachel Sin herself. After a night under bright runway lights, we sipped on poinsettia punch and discussed the best and the worst thus far.
I could feel fashion week winding down by this time. The photographers were tired and the street style was lacking any originality and inspiration. But I was still hopeful and excited for the finale.
We finally got to see a menswear collection from Loft 604, and even though the pieces weren’t extraordinary, it was great to have male models strutting the runway. Despite the lack of creativity, I did find myself eyeing the elbow patches, which I thought were a nice touch. The navy sweatpants, however, were not on my list of favourites. I wasn’t expecting to see anything that casual at fashion week, but if you are looking for some comfy sweaters, Loft 604 let us know where to find it.
Ella Peru featured fancy hats and vampy looks. Both elegant and wearable, the styles were well put together and the colours complemented each other nicely. I was digging the knee-high socks, a look that can be both innocent and alluring at once. I enjoyed the dresses with more structure, but the way some of the cotton dresses bunched was unflattering, even on a tall, slim frame. I was most impressed with a coral dress paired with turquoise tights, a colour that kept popping up during Ottawa Fashion Week.
Helmer’s collection was something else. It started out with some simple solids and fancy patchwork, but by the end he had us scratching our heads. The show went from classic women’s wear to classic fairy tales. When the music suddenly stopped, we all grimaced, thinking the tech guy screwed up. But soon a tall figure appeared and the sounds of chiming glass took over the room. The model walked in complete silence except for the glass swaying upon her, clinking with each step. This was over seemingly quick, and bagpipes made an appearance before two final pieces were revealed, both bearing extreme frills. One of the final gowns had long pieces of straw dragging at the back, really giving a country wedding vibe, while the other was an odd-looking pantsuit. This was a confusing moment for all of us in the audience, especially after seeing so many other inspiring designers from Montreal.
It’s safe to say Sukhoo stole the show, even if the strange lighting did irk those of us trying to take photos. Each piece had a different feel, from ladylike and chic to dark and gothic. There was also some stunning detail – even if you didn’t care for the design, the quality is obviously there. I was whisked away by a black and white striped maxi dress, but the whole collection was emanating uniqueness and even style genius. We should be proud to say this is a product of Ottawa!
OFF THE RUNWAY AT OFW
Even though voted one of the worst dressed cities, I have to say, some of the best dressed in Ottawa made an appearance this weekend. From ages 18 to 50, and even the odd toddler, most had something interesting, if not strange, to wear. Although not all the spotted outfits were fashion week worthy, we still managed to make a point: we can be conservative AND cool. Fashion in Ottawa may be hidden, but uncovering some real gems is half the fun. Individual style blossoms in the capital, and I noticed a lot of hip O-towners claim their own signature styles that sets them apart from the crowd.
However, I was amazed at how few dared to be different with their outfits. This was your chance to show you’ve got style, why not embrace it? What I did notice was some serious sex appeal. There were numerous pairs of strappy towering heels and even a sequined bustier that was baring all sorts of cleavage. I would have loved to see more leather and lace, two big trends spotted on the runway that are well worth your investment this season and next.
I know I’m sending harsh criticism towards the Ottawa crowd, but I still have to admit that for the most part, you did well. I’m happy to say only a few were committing a severe fashion faux pas (this includes an ostrich-like jacket in an awful shade of pink).
As for the men, I was head over heels! Well-fitted jackets and classy hats took the usually boring suit to the next level. Fashion guru Sid Cratzbarg was spotted in an almost metallic-looking suit paired with hot white frames on Sunday evening.
Of course, most of the trendiest Ottawa folk only showed up on Saturday, leaving Friday and Sunday feeling a bit more watered down when it came to style.
There were a few items on the runway I was happy to see on my fellow OFW-goers! Fur was a hit, but you really can’t expect anything less when you live in a city that spends half the year under a foot of snow.
James Jefferson of Blackbook Lifestyle is just one trendsetter who was spotted wearing a decadent fur pelt over his shoulders.
As for prints, dare I say it, but I barely saw any that were inspiring. It seems as though Ottawa is a city of solids, often opting for darker toned colour palettes to match our at times dreary weather and boring government jobs.
I wasn’t surprised at the endless sea of black outfits, and in fact I almost grew tired of them until I saw some done just right. A pure black outfit paired with a light pink blazer was definitely one example of this.
One thing is for sure; the ho-hum outfits in the lobby were no match for the eclectic styles on the runway. I often found myself in search of a stylish individual to pose for my camera, but wound up staring hopelessly into a (literally) black abyss. Luckily, a few of those in the younger crowd were willing to step outside of the comfort zone.
But don’t fret, there’s always the next fashion week to give it your all. Of course, we’ll be sent to yet another snazzy Ottawa location to check out, which will be a relief for some who hated the scenery this time around.
By the end of this weekend, all those in attendance at OFW may still be a bit lost on what to wear and what not to wear. Overarching themes on the OFW runway included animal prints, fur, sheer fabrics, sequins, lace, bold patterns and bright tones, as well as leather. Quite the eclectic mess, you say? I do have to agree, but it was great to see such a range of styles among designers. However, the shows never seemed to flow into one another. We seemed to have a little too much at once, and it was as though some of the designers couldn’t decide what exactly they were aiming for.
Ottawa Fashion Week brought a lot to the table in terms of confusion. Not only were the designs all over the map, but musical notes changed drastically, ranging from soft melodic beats to heavy bass and dubstep, even more reason for the puzzlement. Most in attendance still seemed to enjoy themselves despite the jarring transitions and oddly placed pieces. This may have been hard to avoid with so many designers jam-packed into a three-day event.
So what should they do? Cut designers, or add days? The latter option may not be feasible, so they need to pick the best of the best, giving Ottawa designers top priority. Helmer is certainly one who could have been eliminated, as well as Symbiose, who had unfinished hems and even visible stains! Some collections were also far too large, as Turbine showcased over 40 looks.
Ottawa Fashion Week needs put organization on their list of things to improve. We saw designers that varied greatly in tone and inspiration right next to each other. Y!D.N.A and !N.u.I’s edgy and at times weird styles didn’t coincide well with Amanda Emmanuel’s girly prints. The organizers should have put this into consideration when making the line ups.
My final criticism is Ottawa designers need to try harder when attempting to impress a crowd full of people who are not wearing Ottawa designs. The Montreal crew was outshining our local crop, and we can’t let this happen at our week. If designers want to inspire people in the capital to head downtown and check out their work, they need to make it more appealing. This shouldn’t be hard to do; after all, Ottawa is full of buy local advocates.
By Melissa Schilz