Wondering who’s wearing what, how and where during all the summer festivities around Montreal?...and for the very first time since 2004 I have less stress because I only dressed my regular girls and did not push outside that perimeter too much. WHY? Because frankly I don’t praise nor do the ''much in demand'' #sausagelook and never will. My #upcycling vision is about balance, feminity, sexy but #nevervulgar, revealed but never shown. So when I had the odd unaware girl walking in and asking for #thesausagelook...Sorry I refuse do it. #notgoingtohappen
I am into the #antiminimalist #flowers #ruffles, #flowy #chiffon. The only #sausagelook , if I ever indulge into it, would be the formfitting look I can prone = The #forties #pinup impeccable presentation. Everything is in check head to toe, no bulge, no sausage! In the same line of thinking with the length of clothes: I still do short hemlines & encourage girls of all ages to experiment. Everything is a question of proportion, context, architecture and balance, not age or heights. Legs are an asset girls can play with and carry on for a very long time during a life span: like the stem of a flower... and you can create endless look from that!
*FYI: I refer to girls from 8 or 80 as my regular clients and girls for me is the youthful spirit that inhabit every woman and I am not using it in a diminutive or disrespectful way au contraire!
So getting back to dressing up for #Grandprix, #Festivals, #fundraisers, #galeryopening, #museumnight, or any other events like #Bdayparties, #weddings, etc... I often use the flower metaphore as a structure for a women body and how to play with it. It works. It is soft. It is non-offensive and many flowers refer to many body types and all flowers are beautyful so as so many different girl body type! And that is what I had to say today!
OH! Forgot to say another essential about dressing up: my mom always told me that when in doubt, always better to be #overdress then #underdress and I preach it ever since. This is a topic for another day!
First thing first: I am not a morning person!... so my best thinking, ideas, strategies, plans, always come at night & very rarely in the morning. No surprise for anyone that knows me a little. I can stay up for very long period of time while the Western Hemisphere as gone to bed and be perfectly contempt. It gives me time to explore, observe, digest and process and essentially stay ‘’current”. It keeps me alive, connected and spirited. I will not overly do it because I refuse to become obsess over trends. It isn’t about that! I am not a hipster, I am a Gen X kid.
Back onto the creative process! Today I was attempting to fix a last minute wedding outfit for a girl... I know it is early (1pm) I just could not!... I just finished prom season, Grand Prix fund raiser, etc.... and I have a mountain of summer pieces still unfinished and a brand new website with a new assistant, Alexandra ... just could not do this last minute wedding request! I am an artist : not a retailer : not a seamstress : not a robot and at times, a miracle worker... I can be very fairy like but you call me today and you are leaving at 4h and you want me to fix you a wedding party dress!!!!!
I AM A FAIRY but I cannot do that....it is too last minute, it gives me no time. I actually tried but as I was trying to fix it, I came to realise that what was ask of me was not possible and it was not for me to do... so I decide to write my daily note about it because my creative process for making each piece is EXACTLY like when I paint and you cannot produce a painting, even more so commissioned work under pressure within a few hours. I certainly cannot create a wedding dress in a demi couture technique within a few hours either... to be continued...
The origins of a fiber, the name of the weaver and the face of the artisan each become intrinsic to understanding an object’s identity and soul. Like knowing the source of our food, materials are explored by designers interested in the unique aspects of the animal or plant species. A new generation of designers retrace their roots and research their history, sometimes going back to the beginning of time.
Like foragers looking for food, ecologically-conscious designers hunt and gather organic ingredients, creating a colourful language tinted for today’s greener times. They show us how manufacturing can avoid excessive pollution. Several investigate the properties of individual plants, like contemporary botanists cataloguing their qualities, reconnecting society to nature. Environmentalism is interwoven with sustenance, particularly when it comes to the oceans.
Material is the message in today’s design world, with designers looking at both low and high tech ways to reinvent the elements with which they work, all the while staying connected to the Earth. Recomposed from scraps of matter or reinvented with both natural and synthetic ingredients. Recycled and reincarnated, cultured and cultivated, to give new life to texture, fiber and colour.
Designers aim for a more sustainable production process and make us aware of the polluting ways we make textiles today. They seek to use little to no chemicals and water, work as energy-efficient as possible and manufacture locally, often experimenting with recycled or upcycled materials. They also revive and return to old looms to establish innovative studios practice.
“Today, we are witnessing a shift towards a combination of this functionality and natural beauty. Artists and designers are looking for refined aesthetics.
Competing with corporate giants maybe though, but ERA Vintage Wear is waving the indie flag.
Fashion is like the music world: Each as its major labels, independent artists and all sort of different styles. Using this metaphor, ERA Vintage Wear can be called an indie artist that is pushing the boundaries, maintaining creative control and possessing a certain insider appeal. It is an identity that ERA takes on proudly.-despite all the difficulties incumbent upon being a fashion David in an age of Goliaths!
ERA Vintage Wear is striving to be the vintage fashion equivalent of early Nirvana: There’s a degree of charm & coolness that you can’t buy. As the artist-designer-curator behind ERA, I, Elaine, am cheering the rise of independent voices in fashion, convinced that the orgy of megabrands, accessories & logos in recent years will finally ease and give some elbow room in a crowded market.
As Rei Kawakubo once said:’’ Ultimately people like to be free and independent, given half the chance’’. This is a major component of the brand philosophy behind ERA Vintage Wear and myself. There is more and more demands for independent points of view, because not everyone wants to be the same as everyone else! I sure know I don't! Like NEVER !
Doing sustainable design through vintage clothes does not have to be done in such a politically charged manner but I don’t think people buy a garment so much anymore because there is a certain label. I think people are really looking for something that speaks to them, something they REALLY like. I am not suggesting that people are about to turn their backs on such fashion pillars as Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Dior. But the ever widening appeal of mega luxury was bound to trigger a reaction. It creates a void and an opportunity for the customer who wants to have a more unique and less identifiable branded look. This is the sphere that ERA Vintage Wear inhabit! There is a willingness of customers to try something less well known for the sake of personal style, higher quality for values, and ethics.
As the designer-curator-artist behind the ERA Vintage Wear ideology, I strongly believe the new luxury is individuality in an era where the word luxury is commonplace. Designers and fast-fashion labels might be all the rage now, but consumers get tired of the short expiration dates, and the shoddy quality.There is a growing hunger for unique shops, under-the-radar collections, personalized service and exceptional quality and these are all what ERA Vintage Wear stands for! We want to show a real point of difference!
Vintage style labels are, more then ever, desirable.Even more so now, when fashion is so formulized. A focus on big brands inevitably creates an opening for small players. You always need the alternatives, the indie to keep it fresh!
It is not my aim to ever be corporate. I have a lot of freedom when it is my own business, my own customers, and for me that has always work for the last 14 years since I created ERA Vintage Wear. Freethinking is what generates the ideas and trends that keep the fashion industry percolating.
Nothing moves in the world unless a few risks are taken. It may seem that endless numbers of high-powered financial types are eager to get into fashion, in reality, it’s no easy task to convince the money folks of the viability of sustainable design and vintage upcycling. So the entire upstart of ERA was done without any financial backing, and no cash injection except for my humble own money. Not even the bank gave us any help or line of credit or any help! It was just sheer willingness and consistency in believing in my own brand philosophy and applying it day in and day out that lifted ERA Vintage Wear into a concrete life style in November 2004.
There was no one that understood : No luxury conglomerate because they need to stay focus on their big brands, private equity funds wants established businesses, and most hedge funds wants sizable deal. So I did it my way, alone like a big girl.
After the upstart, ERA Vintage Wear never seeked a backer. I prefer to focus on my design work and reinvest whatever I made back into my business. I never want to find myself in a trap of needing money and dealing with backers that are always trying for a quick return: for me this signifies death of my freedom as an artist. The moment you have a backer, you loose control over everything you do. Backers always want to steer you into a certain direction. FREEDOM, all indie artists agree, is the ultimate reward. It’s what allows ERA Vintage Wear to open the 1st shop in the pre-gentrification of Griffintown for 9 years: an off-the-beaten-path move that no backers would have ever agreed upon...and pushing it further by leaving the street address once the neighbourhood got over-gentrification issues such as rent cost and quality of customers. When it got too trendy, ERA moved into a very industrial New York worthy 4300 sqft loft that was my painting studio since 1994. Staying on the off-beaten-path once again for the sack of keeping the philosophy of the shop to play by its own rules! And yes, sometimes misunderstood with at-my-own pace approach to style and fashion by the local fashion industry but always felt supported by the larger global community. Which in itself led to the website creation.
The core quality of being an artist is to realise that you love the craft you decide to express yourself with. For me it is upcycling vintage clothes more then anything else. It is not about the profit s or the business side. All that comes later.
ERA Vintage Wear came about while I was writing trend forecasting capsule for a project.
As I was reviewing the how’s and why's, I realized that I couldn’t detach myself from the old, although I was referring and interpreting the new. My life has a women is marked, at least in part, by the clothes. I wore new and used for minor and major moments of my life.
I actually enjoyed shopping as much in a Chanel boutique as I do in rummage sales. But more specifically, I have always done so all my life. There was always a pleasure to mix the old and the new. I remember checking church bazaar listing faithfully every saturday morning, rain or shine, and my best friend and I would be hopping on buses and subway and do as many as we could. We were barely 13 years old and that is how we spent how babysitting money. I remember my mother’s face when I would come back with better stuff then she did, because she too would hunt down forgotten treasures. Because my mom refurbished antiques this habit for vintage hunting was passed on from her to me. She dragged me with her my whole entire childhood until I was able to do it by myself.
We also had lots of fashion magazine in my house, the classics: Vogue, Harper’s, ELLE, and later on Flare was encourage too.
I went through life through always with the same attitude towards style and clothes. There are always beautiful things and that they are cyclical. So you must hang on to those things that are well made or/and unique or special and always keep the classics. I have done my homework in this department. I have mixed the old the new and the borrowed continiously. I say borrowed because after working with many designers I got to experiment with a lot of interesting looks.
What also guided my decision to open ERA Vintage Wear, was that every time someone asked me where did I get this or that, my reply led to a long conversation. I would tell them how I had achieved a look, and they’d replied that it was amazing but that they would love to be more stylish but could not conceive or picture themselves doing that much hunting, curating and research. They did not want to dig and look, did not like the smells, couldn’t bother with the repairs, the dry cleaning, etc… But the idea of doing what I love doing in a slightly larger scale to provide ready-to-wear vintage lure me in. I wanted to bring this to all the girls that kept on asking!
Well, that is the part I am naturally good at since spending most of it under boxes and racks while my mother scavenge for antiques to refurbish. I call it early childhood research and development LOL....no wonder architecture,art, were obvious school choice... all of it led to how I view what I do.
This is the mission for ERA Vintage Wear: to provide women with vintage clothes of all era that have been cleaned, repaired, rethought, died, deconstructed,etc... but specifically so they may fit the garment to their needs in a contemporary way. I believe each garment can find it rightful owner. And retro is never my goal
“It’s nice to see a designer embody her own ethos”
And I undeniably do that. I try to exude the same chic, old-school, uptown propriety as do my upcycled vintage inflected clothes I create for ERA Vintage wear. It fits right in with the well-appointed setting of the loft. I also happen to be my best customer!
The fact that I register so low a profile in the overhyped world of fashion does not bother me a bit. It’s not about me, it’s about the product. I rail against the syndrome of Global Fashion, the overexposure that occurs when the same ‘’IT Look’’ are shot for every magazine and sold at every stores. Sometimes I do my part to fight the phenomenon by offering stylists and photographers (my Chosen Ones!) the option of borrowing from my upcycled luxury pieces from the vast collection. I think it is chicer not to be overexposed. Even if it means not getting the credit due to me. Many socialites buy many of ERA Vintage Wear pieces but won’t admit to it. I am their best kept secret. Once asked what they are wearing, they will mention it is vintage but they will not say more” L I long for a day someone will rant that it is a sustainable design made by someone who really care about style,,bla,bla,bla….so until then I just shrug…at least they keep comig back to me.
My attitude, rare in a world of militaristic PR operations, appeals to my clients/fans, which I always refer to as my ERA Girls. I have a few friends who also wear my clothes and their friends too. When I see them, I never look & think Oh, that’s an ERA. I look & say ‘’ You look amazing’’
Also I enjoy when I see someone wearing my work and it doesn’t smack of, ’’Oh, you’re wearing so-and-so’’ I like to think: She’s wearing a secret weapon, she is wearing ERA.
I never attended fashion school for the sake of fashion. Fashion has run in my vein since childhood, courtesy of my mother, who had closets-full of stylish clothes. I recall watching a Chanel couture show with my mother, then still designed by Coco herself. I asked my mom: ‘’Why do all the models have beige shoes with black tips?’’ She said it was to elongate the leg. So on my first trip to Europe when I was 18, I bought my first pair of Chanel shoes, a beige spector 2’’1/2 heels with black tips and I still have them to this day! I have been collecting Chanel shoes has a guilty pleasure ever since.
After I got my graduate Degree in Paintings & Drawing from Concordia University, here in Montreal, I work for an impressive Contemporary Art consultant who was a member of the Canadian Art Council, mostly researching and sourcing artists work while I exhibit my paintings in local galleries. Through it all, I started working with an incredibly talented Montreal Base Designer, Denis Gagnon. We worked on his collections, styling runaway shows, selecting pieces for photoshoot for magazines and television too. That was my introduction to Fashion. Until then I had remained an artist that had an extensive vintage collection I had been building since I was 8 years old. And one things led to another and I merged all of my passion, training and ideas into this ERA thing: what I critically call my fun with accumulation, appropriation and curating in the aftermath. Over the year it has been nice to be the Alfa ERA Girl because I practice what I preach. Stylistically speaking everyday 24/7 I am ON! I live to show women of all ages, shapes, & sizes the endless possibilities of STYLE!