A few weeks ago it was Portes Ouvertes Design Montréal, a weekend long open invitation to the city’s most infamous and creative design studios, fashion houses, architecture firms and art galeries. I was lucky enough to make it to Helmer Joseph‘s atelier in time to catch the fashion show being held just outside. A white carpet was rolled out, and a live DJ played as model after model came out and showed off some of his pieces.
Helmer and his philosophy/approach to fashion are a bit of a rarity here in Montreal. The industry in this city is pretty unique in that it’s filled to the brim with designers who seem happy to sit as big fish in a tiny little pond (something fellow Montreal Rad Hourani has been vocal about in the past,) but it also just feels kind of confused here at times. Best to let the experts do the talking…:
Ce que je déplore à Montréal, c’est que les gens refusent de faire la différence entre la mode et le vêtement. Le vêtement est pour le quotidien, la mode, c’est de la recherche, de la création, on se défonce pour trouver des idées nouvelles. Le vêtement est une partie noble de la profession, c’est ce secteur qui rapporte de l’argent, mais les gens de l’industrie associent mode et vêtement. On ne comprend pas la différence et la mode n’est pas assez encouragée, encadrée: on ne comprend pas ça à Montréal.
(to get the english translation click here)
When I originally read his interview with le Devoir, I was practically yelling YES! Finally!! into my computer screen. The distinction he makes between creating pieces and manufacturing articles of clothing is incredibly refreshing.
One my first ever fashion shows was Helmer, and funnily enough the show I saw of his was also the first time he presented his own collection in Montreal (way back in 2007 – wow time flies…)
Here’s the thing about Helmer, he’s been creating since he was 9. He got his start learning under his uncle in his tailor shop in Haiti. He’s been to more than 15 fashion schools and has the diplomas to match, each in a different creative area and the man cut his teeth working under the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix in Paris, where he continues to take on contracts today.. The guy knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.
There are two constants in most of his collections: the wedding dress (at his very first show a model came sprinting down the runway in a white gown and flowers,) and cruise gowns made up of patchwork material, show above. Because of a sudden rainstorm everyone that had been watching the fashion show was able to duck inside the atelier, watch the end and peek around. I don’t need to explain how excited I was.
It was a really fun little moment – him passing out champagne to all these people, soaking wet, who’d invaded his creative space, everyone being able to touch the pieces he’d created and go through racks of his designs, poking around what would otherwise be his office… Yea, I was totally giddy.