Friday, December 10, 2010

Denis Gagnon

  I admit, I am woefully uninformed when it comes to Canadian designers.  I hadn't heard of Denis Gagnon, the bespectacled French Canadian who's been in the business for a decade, until I looked into who designed that zipper dress that's been featured in every October/November fashion rag around:

It's sad that I only take notice of a domestic talent once it's featured in an American glossy, eh?

Like Schiaparelli before him (who is sometimes credited with being the first to put ornamental zippers on gowns), Gagnon is an artist first.  He obviously places a premium on inventiveness, letting the wearability of his garments and commercial viability slide.  This (commendable) approach to the industry had everything to do with his shop closure and restructuring, circa 2007. 

His comeback show (the 'Denise' Collection) was well-received, containing the zippered and fringed dresses that have been given prominent placement in recent spreads and editorials.  While his trademark is leather, artfully swirled, pieced, and puckered...

his new vision also includes bias knits, chunky pendants with matching silver cuffs, and the interplay of heavy fringes/zippers with light silks and softly slanting hems.

His show is a striking study in comparison and contrasts, made all the more cohesive and involving for it.  The pieced-together leather pants reference the concentric swirls of zippers that form the neckline of a layered chiffon dress.  Articulated elbows could look like knight's armour, if they weren't accompanied by similarly structured sweater dresses that are tucked and folded just so.  As a layperson who doesn't always 'get' the concept of a runway show, I adore how precise and focused Gagnon's work is.  He has a vision, and he's letting us take a peek at it.
I would recommend Gagnon to fans of Rick Owens, Martin Mariela, Haider Ackerman, Gareth Pugh, and Mark Fast.  They all share that kind of brooding, somewhat gothic, romantic, and razor-sharp intensity.  Back in August, Gagnon did a cheap-chic line with retailer Bedo that was all those things.  The severe, all-black collection showed his signature leatherwork, eye for detail, and edgy aesthetic.

While I'm stoked to see a great Canadian talent experiencing a bona fide comeback, I hope this collaboration is a one-off and not the seeds of future commercial cow-towing.  It's clear to me that Denis Gagnon creates works of art that just happen to be clothes.  I would hate to see these beautiful means unto themselves weaken and become mere means to some profit-motivated end.




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