As I walked up the Arsenal stairs in my new black patent Mary Janes, I couldn’t help but smile at the overwhelming sound of heels clicking and cameras flashing. Montreal Fashion Week is a time where some of the country’s best designers and most fabulous
fashionistas sit under one brightly-lit roof in full fashionable force.
There was quite the lineup this year. From veterans such as Nadya Toto and Harricana by Mariouche, to newcomers like Pedram Karimi and Matière Noire, the designers left the city panting and wanting more. I sat down with Pénélope Plante, the publicist of designer Rachel Fortin of Rachel F., for an exclusive interview.
Fortin has created her line based on recycled fur and leather and vows that not a single new skin will ever be used while designing her cozy and urban accessories. Another positive aspect about recycling old fur coats is that each one is different in presentation and appearance, making each of Fortin’s pieces unique; there is no mass production.
Although her label was originally focused on recuperating old fur clothes into new garments and accessories, Fortin also felt compelled to experiment with leather. It is resistant enough to recycle and leather is much more versatile than fur allowing Fortin to be a little more creative in designing pieces from winter to summer.
Inspired by Montreal in the 1970s, the Fortin Fall/Winter 2013 collection involved fur, leather, fringes, tails and nubucks in beiges, browns, blacks, yellows and khakis.
“It all started with the ‘arrow sash’,” said Plante. “We took the traditional feeling of the design and incorporated the arrows, points and triangles into it.”
According to Plante, Fortin first realized that she wanted to be a fashion designer after coming to Montreal from Saguenay to study fashion at CEGEP Marie-Victorin. Upon graduation, Fortin accepted an internship in Denmark to specialize in the development and research of fur, an experience that had an influential impact on her earlier collections. Although she worked in Denmark, Paris has always been the city she dreamed of living in.
“For the moment, she’s in Japan and I think that is where we are going to keep her energy. The Japanese market is easier to penetrate than the Parisian one,” said Plante. “We would probably try New York before Paris, especially when it comes to fur.”
Although the label is based on recuperating and revamping old fur coats and leather goods, it’s not always easy for Fortin to convince anti-fur organizations to change their negative connotations of the brand.
“Some [groups] don’t even let us get to the point where we tell them that it’s recycled. People are just against fur in general, it doesn’t matter if it’s recycled or new, as soon as they hear fur they just aren’t interested,” said Plante. “We do have clients that are vegan and they don’t seem to mind because we really stress the fact that it is recycled.”
Whether you love wrapping yourself in mink or detest the idea of wearing animals, the idea of recycled fur and leather does bring up quite a debate.