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!
There was a time, not too long ago, when Montreal had Montreal Fashion Week twice a year! Hélas Toronto has won the runaway capital but I still believe style is here!... my humble opinion. We also have another platform to show Montreal design talents, name the Montreal Fashion & Design Festival... and yet again it is no longer showing during the Grand Prix, but in mid-August! When the MFDF was coordonnated with our annual Montreal Grand Prix (#grandprixweekend) ! It brought all aspects of our urban fabric together: sports, culinary, arts, fashion, clubbing,etc...) and made our city shine for everything it truely is: A city filled and inhabited by beauty.
I have always been a proud born&raise Montreal girl, attentive to our many festivals and I was always fond of my fashion crowds. I always support all of my Art & Fashion crowd! ALWAYS I launched ERA Vintage Wear during the Montreal Fashion Week March 2005 edition F/W2005 shows. I did it with with a Big Bang because I wanted to share what I was doing with everyone that knew me. It worked out beautifully and if you refer to our Media/press section there are good write ups on it.
And over the last decades I have shown with both but I was always a fan of showing my work during the Grand Prix de Montreal because the effervescence energized me and I would sketch the look book (aka the artistic direction) and I would get carried away and even the Press kit had a gloss colored copy of the look book. I thought this way it tied my entire idea together and made it clear.
So it is Grand Prix weekend in Montreal & I have a strong desire to put on another show in a near future, because it is a wonderful way to share with all my ERA Girls! So don't be surprise if you get an invitation and I sure hope that some of you make it FRONT ROW of course.xx
‘For some young fashion lovers, the hottest place to shop is mother’s closet’
Every young girl has done it- cracked open the door of her mother’s closet and peeked inside, gently touching the silk skirt of a gown here and stroking the furry fringe of a coat there. If she’s brave enough, she’ll even dare to slip on a dress, hike up the trailing hem and strike a pose in front of the mirror. For that dark, cool closet is hallowed ground, and its holy grail are carefully tucked inside garment bags and hung on racks while they wait for their next turn in the spotlight.
But then the girl grows up, the clothes starts to fit and that closet starts to look more like a boutique then a big box of dress-up clothes.
For some, like me, shopping Chez Mom, was an enviably easy task. Since we had same tastes, there was a lot of pieces I liked. It was always sort of last minute- I would need a jean jacket that makes this outfit more casual.
Over the year, I have acquired more unusual pieces. I have assembled a collection of LBD (Little Black Dresses) from all era of and style, from the early 20’s to now, which have caught my own daughter eyes. It has always delighted me to lend them to her as my mom had done for me. For the most part I do share peaceful sartorial relationship with my daughter but I do have boundaries ‘’the very expensive collectable and fragile stuff is off-limits. Especially if she is going to a party and people are going to mess it up with drinks, food and make-up.
I’m sort of nervous with the borrowing of some gowns. Borrowing can be tricky. I have to not be in a fat phase or if it’s a certain time of the month, no one can come near my closet not even my own daughter! I do enjoy sharing my closet with my more conservative daughter. What I like to do with her is accessorize If she says ‘’ I’m just going to wear this minimalist black LBD, then I will say ’’ well, you should stop by the shoes inventory’’. It’s like playing stylist!
In many lucky cases, symbiotic fashion relationships are a family tradition. For example, since I regularly go on shopping sprees for ERA VINTAGE WEAR, returning with Courrèges ,Dior, etc… It is no surprise that my daughter has made a regular habit of popping into my closet for a quick fix.
I will let my daughter take anything. She has pulled out my black Chanel boots for a New Year’s bash and everyone was asking her what those were and what year, and materials. However, I don’t always love our open-door policy. If she does not bring them back it’s bad. I have a fairly organised closet (a bedroom completely transform) I have specific sections for everything: clothes, belts, sunglasses, jewelry, scarves, etc… Its great when I want or she wants to do a walk in- walk out raid, because you can find everything.
A girl takes a mental note of the stock of her mother’s fripperies. There is something from childhood, when your mother is getting ready and you see her as a princess. You become obsess with the transformation.
I would see my mom get dressed and put on her perfume L’Air du Temps, and go out with my dad, and I would think ‘’Someday maybe I can wear a Yves St-Laurent dress that twinkles all over’’ and sky high stylettos.
My childhood dream came true after waiting patiently: one day when I was able to borrow a white strapless silk jersey jumpsuit suit my mom wore to Studio 54 for my Prom night, I felt like the queen of it all in it! I was secretly a little nervous because it is not easy – it’s white , it’s strapless and I am 16!... But she told me never wear anything that has more attitude then you do…. but I had attitude and I went with it and didn’t care.
I also felt like that when I wore my first fur coat at 19. The fantasy materialised after my mom passed away. It was sentimental but I had wait all my life to wear it: white silver fox short coat. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful thing and being from Montreal, I felt no guilt as we must find ways to be stylish in subzero climat.
But there’s more to the appeal of the hand-me-down frock than a famous label and a couple of ostrich feathers. It’s something that somebody you love very much cared about. It meant something to them, and when you wear that, you feel special.