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Organizing a Fashion Week involves many different fashion professionals who are experts in their fields ranging from director to designer. With the series “Meet Fashion Week professionals”, FashionUnited looks behind the catwalk to introduce those who bring great fashion events to life all around the globe. We recently chatted with Chantal to learn more about her role as Executive Vice President Creative Affairs & Founder of Montreal Mode & Design Festival
Chantal, you are working at Montreal Mode & Design Festival, can you tell us a little bit about the event?
Well, the Festival is overseen by our company, Groupe Sensation Mode. For the past 20 years, GSM has been packaging fashion, street sense, consumers, retailers, and creators into entertaining, smart, and innovative lifestyle experiences, known for having produced the largest fashion events in Canada, serving as a local and international showcase for creativity and talent. Our biggest venture up to now has been the Montreal Fashion & Design Festival, and we just launched the first edition of URBANI_T , in Toronto, this year, which was a roaring success and we are in the middle of preparing next year’s. Plus, over the years, we have been able to lend our expertise to develop concepts and innovative experiences across the world (New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, to name a few).
The big picture: we connect the spirit of the street, shoppers, lifestyle brands and creators in major (outdoor) events that draws on influences from fashion, design, music and film.
We believe that the most influential ideas happen when the street interprets designers, and when designers interpret the street. We believe that fashion should be inclusive, and that clothes look even better on the sidewalk! But it doesn’t stop at fashion. Design and innovation is found everywhere, and every year we develop this idea of integration more and more.
At the Montreal’s Fashion & Design Festival, which is on it’s 18th edition this year (running from August 20-25th 2018), we have been welcoming about 500,000 visitors, and hub as many as 300 participants (speakers, pop up shops, designers, artists, entertainers, influencers) every year.
Please tell us about your role at Montreal Mode & Design Festival?
Obviously, as anyone who builds a company from the ground up knows, our roles change over time. But the role of EVP of Creative Affairs resulted from my strength and passion in leveraging those big ideas and moments of inspiration into real, concrete projects we can develop into immersive, innovative experiences for the people, to bring them together in new ways.
What is your professional background? How did you become the EVP Creative Affairs & Founder at Montreal Mode & Design Festival?
I co-founded the company and developed the concept with my partner, Jean-François Daviau, in 2000. The idea came to us while we were walking around the city and realizing that we needed to bring art & fashion to the streets, and to create a platform not only offering public access but generate conversation and collaboration, and that kind of platform didn’t exist at the time. I spoke about this with FashionUnited a few years back. At the time, we probably didn’t have more than two pennies to rub together, but we were bold. And it paid off, didn’t it?
I actually studied Art History at uOttawa, and you understand the core of every artistic form has to answer a deeper question. Why do we do what we do? Why does it matter? We have to remember the humanity behind every artwork (or every performance, or show, or other form of self-expression). That is what defines human culture and the need to connect with each other. And I believe that the fact that we apply this notion in what we do makes the difference. The Fashion & Design Festival is not a festival; it is a platform to be seen and be heard and to matter, a point of connection and of assembly, bridging together all walks of life... it is a cultural movement.
What do you like most about your job? Did you always want to work for a fashion event like the Montreal Mode & Design Festival?
The Montreal Fashion & Design Festival is my baby! I live and breathe it! So it would be very difficult to imagine myself doing anything else (or being as in love as I am with anything else). However I can say that, over the years, the Festival has become its own entity. And that is thanks to our incredible (and I mean IN-CRE-DI-BLE) team of do-ers and go-getters. So this has allowed me to take a step back to see an even bigger picture of what the Festival could be like, as a cultural bridge and platform between cities, across the country and the world. So while I would never imagine my life outside of this, I do feel that after 20 years, I’m starting to focus less on “where we are today” and focusing more on “where we could go tomorrow”. And that is really exciting. Big things to come, stay tuned.
What is your advice for those who want to pursue a career in fashion?
I mean, I could give the standard advice for pursuing any career, which is to give it your all, to be disciplined when you need to be, and to set yourself a goal and not lose sight of it, especially when things get rocky (because they always eventually do, at some point)! But what else could I say about fashion, specifically? I can’t say that my advice isn’t the end-all-be-all advice, but I would say open mindedness for one. Fashion is about self-expression, and there is no one way of doing it. I believe fashion should be inclusive, and people who work in fashion should hold inclusivity as the highest virtue. Another advice would be to stay current. Don’t be like a horse in blinders and only focus on your track; keep up to date with what else is going on around the world, starting by what’s going on next to you. I read, I participate in new things, I ask questions. That’s where I get my inspiration from. There is always something new to learn, but it is our responsibility to keep learning.
Many thanks for your time!
Read more about Montreal Mode & Design Festival here.