Having survived multiple trips on the 107 to the ALT Hotel, including one that left me stranded on the other side of the river, I got to experience Montreal’s first ever men’s fashion festival to the fullest. A collaboration between ArtMtl, and local artists and designers, diversity was the keyword of the event. I chatted with some artists and soaked up the inspiring, forward-thinking designs throughout the 3-day festival, which is set to become the go-to event for the fashion-conscious man.
Griffintown’s modern and tasteful ALT Hotel was the perfect host for the festival’s debut. Up on the seventh floor, the painters mingled as I checked out the work, which ranged from abstract to figurative. Faiza Abou-Abdou has been painting for 25 years. She presented Trans at Just For Him, an abstract painting exploring the ideas of movement and masking, featuring patterns inspired by Berber art, common in many of her pieces. Alexandre-Éric Piette and Marcalain Marticotte also exhibited their abstract pieces. Piette’s came from his new body of work, Zen Bleu, exploring ideas of light, intensity, depth and calm. Marticotte’s work is inspired by his training in psychology, and Un peu de nous deals with themes of identity and self.
Wafa Kammoun, Christine Bélanger, Patrick Larrivée and Andrée Roy presented figurative work. Kammoun’s Baba azizi (grandfather) is portrait of a man who places a lot importance on his appearance and presence. Here, he wears traditional Tunisian clothing, bringing the theme of culture to fashion. Bélanger’s Gabe is portrait painted from one of Hamza Mejri’s photographs, displayed the day after, of a model who then walked the runway on Thursday. She explained how she is still trying to find her style after a major career shift in 2013. Although, I’d say she has definitely found her niche with portraiture. Larrivée’s self-portraits Jazzman Saxo 1 and 2 have a sense of freedom and abandon. He explained how he “works in concert with orchestras,” only painting what touches music: instruments, musicians, dancers, etc. Roy’s black and white portraits have a sense of depth and ephemerality, as the faces seem sketched onto the canvas.
Back at the ALT Hotel (after my trek across the river) on Wednesday, photographs from Thibault Navarro, Benoit Rousseau, Christine Turek, Marcel Cristocea, Sergei Bergen, Shawn K Bennett and Hamza Mejri filled the exhibit space. Striking fashion photographs, in black and white and colour, captured my attention one at a time. Many of these photographers were also self-taught, which was even more impressive, especially when I think back to my failed attempts at film photography.
On the night of the fashion show, I found myself on the 19th floor of Place Ville Marie, faced with a breathtaking view of Montreal. Designers and models scurried about, preparing for the main event of the festival. I sat observing, and decided that my exercise for the evening would be to come up with three adjectives/phrases for each designer collection.
Carissa Vales opened the show with three of her singles, pumping up the crowd. Then, with the entire city of Montreal as their backdrop, the models walked the runway, starting with designs from European brand Tom Tailor.
Tom Tailor: Casual, confident and effortless
Diodati: future of active wear, modern casual, out of the box
KARV: urban, details, badass jeans
Théroux: androgynous, artistic and modern, unexpected silhouettes
Just Ta: playful, subtle patterns and textures, intricate (the coats, oh the coats!)
Marc de Storm: amped up casual, simplicity done right, innovative
The diversity and versatility these local designers showed was impressive, and definitely put Montreal on the map for men’s fashion. It was also great to see Marc de Storm’s continued success: Montreal Rampage covered this label last year when they began their kickstarter campaign, hoping to develop their contemporary cycle wear. What all began with an oxford shirt has now grown into an impressive collection, my favourite being the black sweater with a white band around the left arm. Stylish, simple, striking.
French singer, Alex Toucourt, then took the stage, playing four of his original songs as the next batch of designers prepared their looks.
Tristan: classic, colourful, fresh
Pascale Labelle: luxurious, details (fur, leather, buckles, laces, you name it!), unexpected outerwear
XOOS: confident, sleek, classic
Wizemen: futuristic, bold, strong
Guillotine: unexpected, whimsical, fun and artistic (and, in my humble opinion, the bowties all men should be wearing)
Keep an eye out for the next edition of Just For Him, this is a festival with a real future!
The first Just for Him festival took place May 26-28. Cassandra Marsillo runs the blog The Artistorian.