The Flavour of Canadian Fashion
Written by: Lisa Tant / Dresses by: Lucian Matis and Christopher Paunil / Jewellery: Maison Birks / Model: Ming Bo Lam
Make up: Dawna Boot / Hair: Ladylyn Gool / Photographer: T.H. Jackson Huang of Ikonica
Take the best of other cultures. Stir in a breath of fresh nature. Add a dash of urban spice, and shake in some prairie goodness. Finish it off with a chic sensibility. The result? A luxurious melting pot that I call Canadian fashion.
It wasn’t always that cohesive and certainly others beyond our border had no appetite for it when I first started in the industry, based in Vancouver more than 30 years ago. At best, others viewed our national identity as folksy Northern outdoor gear. At worst, they didn’t think of us at all.
So much has changed in the past three decades. Canada is a country coveted by many with a worldwide reputation that only grows in appeal every year. Immigration and cultural diversity has added so much to our signature style – just look at the designs featured in this story from Christopher Paunil (Canadian designer with Filipino background) and Lucian Matis (with a Romanian heritage and European training prior to immigrating to Canada to study at Ryerson University in the late 90’s). Both add to the Canadian reputation of beautiful wearable desirable fashion.
I first noticed the shift in perception at Milan Fashion Week when I was the Editor-in-Chief of Flare magazine. The world was in the stranglehold of a recession and companies suddenly noticed the wealth, safety and style of the sleeping giant to the north of the United States. I was quizzed on our industry and the best place for these brands should launch – Toronto was the only city on their radar. When I offered up Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and more, I could see the gears in their business world turning.
As many international brands have moved here, scores of Canadian designers are also stepping into the spotlight. And I’ve never seen more engagement of Canadians clamouring to wear homegrown designs. Nothing thrills me more than to visit Toronto-based design houses such as Greta Constantine, Sid Neigum and Beaufille in their showrooms during Paris Fashion Week. I delight at the flashy street style stars in their Canada Goose parkas and Mackage toppers. The people watching – check out that parade of influencers in their Candian gowns - at CAFA or any of Toronto’s highest profile charity galas is brilliant. And what could be more gratifying than to see the world’s most famous style icon – the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton to most of us) cosy up in a Sentaler coat during her recent tour of British Columbia and the Yukon.
Local talent has never shone brighter in the spotlight. And I’m not taking about those who left to make their mark in bigger ponds. Bravo! You make me proud. But there’s so much more going on here, right on our doorstep. And I know that never again will anyone ask me – “Canadian fashion? Is there really such a thing?”
Lisa Tant is an award-winning editor and media personality, Lisa Tant is one of Canada’s leading voices on fashion, beauty and style. A former fashion magazine editor-in-chief and luxury retail VP, she is now Creative Director at LisaTant.com and on social media @lisatant