While the country has always had its fair share of interesting models (Linda Evangelista, Daria Werbowy), designers, artists and celebs are now coming to the fore. The epitome of that? The “Dionaissance” – the return of Celine Dion, no longer the height of naff blandness.
So why is 150-year-old Canada finally having a moment? It helps that feminist and photogenic Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is cooler than most international leaders (not difficult). Toronto and Vancouver have vibrant tech and film industries, and are attracting the right talent. The country’s rich indigenous heritage and huge immigrant population also means unusual cultural mash-ups are being produced. Then, there’s the everyday modern approach to life – socially conscious, eco-friendly and wellness-focused.
But perhaps it boils down to this: 2017 has been a year of uncertainty and unpleasantness, and we’ve had enough of bad boys. It’s time for the nice guy to get the glory. We need a hero for our times. We need more Canadians. We need… Celine Dion.
The Style Icon
The 49-year-old is hardly a new celeb, but she is one of the few genuine icons around. She’s been famous for the better part of 30 years, even though her music is the opposite of cool (it’s a guilty pleasure). Still, My Heart Will Go On remains one of the best-selling singles in history. But it’s Dion’s style that’s suddenly got everyone talking. In 2016, she started working with “image architect” (aka stylist) Law Roach, who also works with US singer Zendaya. He put her in a Vetements Titanic hoodie, and a fashion star was born. It turns out that Dion is one of the few women who actually wears couture (she’s done so for every one of her Las Vegas shows for the past five years). Moreover, she’s fun: She was photographed at Couture Fashion Week posing, being silly, draping herself over cars, and then in that amazing Vogue video where she modelled the collections. Also, she seems utterly uninterested in appearing aloof and ice-queen-like, and that’s what makes her cool.
Identity is the key theme for this 29-year-old photographer. As a woman of mixed heritage – Plains Cree (an indigenous tribe), Scottish, English and Dutch – she uses her surreal, beautiful self-portraits to explore ideas about home, the self, and possibilities. She’s already had enormous success early in her career – a solo show at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, New York, two years ago.
In a world full of performance art and digital sculptures, Japan-born Keita Morimoto is blazing a trail in the most traditional discipline: as an oil painter. At first glance, the 27-year-old’s works look like those of European Masters such as Rembrandt, or 20th-century Realists like Edward Hopper. But instead of 17th-century noblemen, his subjects are his peers in his adopted city, Toronto. He says that a combination of government grants, and supportive galleries and collectors make Canada a good place to be an artist – so much so that he’s been making a living as a full-time painter since graduation. “That kind of practice is virtually impossible in Japan,” he says.
The Fashion Designers
Torontonian sisters Chloe and Parris Gordon set up their brand in 2009 – the former designs ready-to-wear, while the latter specialises in jewellery. Originally named Chloe Comme Paris, they rebranded in 2013 as Beaufille (French for “handsome girl”). But Fall ’16 was their breakout season – tastemaker Yasmin Sewell wore one of their coats during Milan Fashion Week, and the brand was picked up by Net-a-porter. Their sensibility is classic minimalism, but with interesting design elements (think abstract prints and cut-outs). This year, they won top honours at the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) and appeared in Forbes’ 30 under 30. How does their Canadianness inform their style? “Canadians, in general, are more relaxed and practical, so there is always a sense of ease and logic in our way of dressing,” they say.
Alberta-born, New York-educated, Toronto-based Neigum set up his eponymous brand in 2012. A self-confessed maths and science nerd, he bases many of his designs on the golden ratio (a mathematical feature that appears throughout nature, art and music). He’s a master of construction, using draping, knotting and origami to create his signature structured pieces, and describes his sensibility as being both maximalist and minimalist. Last December, US Vogue named the 29-year-old one of the “16 young designers who won 2016”, and said of him: “Neigum’s clothes are conceptual and avant-garde, but they make sense for real life, too.” The standout element of his F/W ’17 show? His use of distressed velvet. It’s a material that can sometimes look frumpy, but in his hands, it’s clean and modern.
This 17-year-old Ontarian is classically beautiful – it’s the reason she’s walked for every major brand, and posed for every big magazine in her first year of modelling. But what’s put her in the spotlight is her openness about her scoliosis. In 2014, she had fusion surgery to correct the curve in her spine, and now has a 40cm scar running down her back. She chose to post before-and-after surgery photos on her Instagram to inspire, using the hashtag #scoliosiswarrior. Six months after recovery, she was picked up by an agent.
Like Mia Farrow and Jennifer Aniston, 22-year-old Witcomb credits her success to a haircut. After her hair was cut into a jaw-length bob for Prada’s Spring ’17 show, she posed for W and Vogue UK, among others, and had a career-making stint as a face for Burberry and Celine. Unlike some models, she’s not a chameleon – her strong jawline and definite nose make her hard to miss.
She was born in Sydney, and has lived in Paris and Amsterdam, but now calls Montreal home. Her Pierrot-like features can be pretty or edgy, but always possess a hint of melancholy. The daughter of a photographer, she was scouted at 13, and her big break was walking for Chanel in S/S ’17. Her distinguishing feature is one of a kind: ultra-short bangs that she’s been cutting herself since she was 13, with whatever scissors she can find.
Additional Research Andrea Claire & Cristina Belmonte Runway Photos Showbit.com
The Product Designers
Vancouver-based McCormick started as a graphic designer, but discovered a passion for lighting, and established his eponymous label in 2013. He loves the unique challenge that creating lighting presents – it must be a beautiful object that can also light a space in a beautiful way. Known for his minimalist, industrial aesthetic, 2017 has been his year. So far, he has won a European Product Design Award, presented at the Rossana Orlandi Gallery in Milan, and had an installation at The London Design Festival. “Canada is a young and vibrant country that is constantly changing, and our open and diverse culture allows for the formation of new ideas. In the past 10 years, the international success of some Canadian designers has instilled confidence, and encouraged the blossoming of a new breed of designers,” he says.
This Montreal-based designer originally intended to be a sculptor, before turning to furniture and homeware – she likes the “humanness” of them. Her clean designs often use pops of colour and unusual combinations of materials, such as her Ora mirror, which combines glass, brass, marble and wood. Where does she think Canadian design is going to go? “We don’t really have a definitive aesthetic to follow or react against, and I think that gives us a lot of freedom. The design community here is small yet strong, and there’s a lot of potential and possibilities for Canadian design right now,”
This story first appeared in Female’s November 2017 issue.
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