Montreal’s fashion in Jean-Claude Poitras’ eyes

After 40 years working in the fashion industry, Jean-Claude Poitras has do it all and seen it all. He donned the garments of a fashion designer (with clothes and furniture), a painter and even sculptor. Contributing repeatedly to « Le Devoir » and hosting several conferences, Poitras has established himself has the reference when talking about fashion.

Can you describe Montreal’s fashion in one sentence ?

Montreal’s fashion is eclectic, fascinating and inconsistent. It is sometimes on the edge of the kitsch, sometimes marginal, inspired and creative, sometimes commercial, populist and banal. It is capable of the best and the worst.

Montreal’s fashion industry is said to be in a stage of rebirth, Why ?

Since the mid-90’s, production’s accelerated transfer to Asia. Quebec’s retailers’ lack of commitment to the province’s creators, in addition to the scandalous failure of Mode Montreal, an organization established to structure and promote upcoming designers that ended up going bankrupt in 2002 after 2 years of existence scared away entrepreneurs and potential investors. Since 2010, however, after going through a difficult fifteen years, several community stakeholders (designers, retailers, manufacturers, developers) got together to bring back some sheen to Montreal’s fashion by leveraging it’s creative and unique image.Retailers and manufacturers seem more committed than ever to the importance of working with our designers, while the organizers of the Montreal fashion week (MFW) and the officers of the Bureau de la mode de Montreal promote and vigorously support the excellence of Montreal’s fashion.It should also be noted that a new generation of sub-contractors wish to rely on the added value of design by providing designers more flexible production in small series to counter the mass production from Asia.

Has the rebirth came to conclusion or is there still work to do ?

After reaching a critical threshold of survival, Montreal’s fashion has been doing a long climb. Driven by national and international successes, some of its pillars were able to renew and position themselves as true leaders. We here have to quote Aldo, M0851, Rudsak, Joseph Ribkoff, Point Zero, Parasuco, Reitman’s, Peerless, Joanel, Lolë, Tristan, Jacob, etc..

What were the most significant changes in the fashion industry in the last five years ?

Among the greatest influence over the past 5 years, it is worth mentioning :

The invasion of sports brands across the ready-to-wear Nike, Puma, Adidas, Louis Garneau, Billabong, Arc’teryx, etc…

Fashion is more accessible with the surging phenomenon of retailers offering widely, almost each season, collections signed by well-known designers at low prices. (H&M, Mango, Target Reitman’s, Bedo, Simon’s …)
Have you noticed a shift in the work of the new generation of designers ?

The invasion and the importance of new fashion technologies, which offers a live fashion with the globalization of trends, the expense of regional influences as well as the proliferation of transactional web sites, online stores and smart phones’ applications.The marginal creators provide green, engaged and mobilized clothing and accessories to promote eco-friendly, made in natural, organic or recycled materials, manufactured by cooperatives or people in social rehabilitation.The designers want to win over Medias by playing the provocation offenders instead of the seductive mode.The cult of eternal youth dearly acquired blows the cosmetic surgeries industry (Karl Lagerfeld, Thierry Mugler, Cher, Orlan etc).The new standards of beauty, pushing people to an unhealthy look or to anorexia like the fashion models. The movement also includes instant stars-like thugs tattooed from head to toes. (Rick Genest “ Zombie Boy ”, Andrej Pejic).The « Pop-Up Shop » : these temporary boutiques that create events since recent seasons.

The individualism that has always characterized the approach of the designers of all backgrounds is now replaced by a new philosophy more supportive of each other with an emphasis on group work. Thus we see born collectives, which express a new vision of participation and the symbiosis between designers from different backgrounds. The contribution of multidisciplinary designers has initiated an irreversible trend that is gaining more and more followers. The period was marked by a new school of thought : the doctrine “ CO ” in reference to co-design, co-branding, cooperation, coalition, cohort, cohesion, coexistence, collaboration, community, conference, community consultation, conciliation, implementation, conglomerate, convergence and correspondence. The fashion world is constantly questioned. Trend hunters that are always abreast of the latest changes in society have led fashion to become an industry that will never stop playing the visionary figureheads.

From the 50’s to the year 2010, this ephemeral universe has made us travel from the haute couture to the ready-to-wear, bringing us to the ready-to-throw so pervasive at the beginning of the decade.

Where do you think the fashion industry will be in five years ?

My previsions for the next fives years :

An accelerated democratisation of Fashion, which will become a little more affordable and accessible to all.

To the opposite, lux brands will impose their styles and their dreams mostly on up and coming market (Asia, South Africa, Eastern Europe, etc.)

The technologies revolution will radically change the way we purchase and will enhance the trivial and fleeting trends.

Fashion will soon be in and even sooner be out.

To balance the globalization phenomenon, a new movement will start to valorise the specific attractions of regional creativity, the ancestral knowledge and to creations with a social mission. Those will be included in the neo-traditional wave surging all around the world and recognizable by the multiple interpretations and the originality imprinted in the artist’s work.


Interview made by Ruby-Maude Rioux
Thanks to Noelline Rioux