Did you know that the beautiful silk dress worn by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was designed and handmade right here in Montreal by local designer Daniel Beaudet?
Here is Daniel’s story, and the inspiration behind the collection. He describes what it feels like to see your work all over the world and shares where you can find the dress!
How did it feel when you saw the pictures of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau wearing your dress in front of the Taj Mahal?
It was weird because we sent the dress a few weeks before her trip happened, and we were not sure she would wear it. When it happened, it was really anticlimactic. We were like “Ok, next”. It was only a few days later that it really started to sink in. When we started seeing pictures of her all over the world, we were like “Oh, the dress is on the French news channels!"
It’s in Paris Match!
Yes, it’s on Hello Magazine. I was like “Oh, OK.” So, it’s a bit surreal, still.
How did that relationship begin?
It’s been a relationship that was established a year ago. I have a friend that makes beautiful handmade dolls (Aude LeDubé from Coton Mouton / État de Style) and she started to do a series of dolls dressed by local designers. She asked me if we could do a doll dressed by me. I brought her some dresses, and she added them to her atelier, and Zoe Trudeau’s (Justin’s sister-in-law) stylist passed by. She liked the dress. She contacted me, and she wanted a blouse and a few pieces for her personal use, and after that, she asked me to send her sketches for Canada Day last year. Then she contacted us for the trip to India and asked for us to send some pictures of the dresses. She picked two. Sophie chose to wear that one.
What was your inspiration for the design?
It’s from the Fall collection, but we’re cheating and offering it now in the boutique. The starting point was a mug shot that I found on-line of Ida Katz. Her real name was Liliane Brown, from the 30’s. She was one of the three most important brothel owners of Montreal. I really like her face and the way she is smiling while having her mug shot done. She is such a great character, and I dug into her history. So, the whole collection is inspired by that seedy, gritty aspect of Montreal that’s always been there, it’s a party city, a jazz city and a corrupt city. (He laughs). So, it’s that aspect that we don’t really like to talk about but has always been there. So, it’s about that woman with attitude, she’s a bit sketchy, and a bit wrong.
Where can we purchase the dress and when is it available?
It will be available this Sunday, March 11th. The boutique is called Montagne 2125, and it is located on rue de la Montagne.
How did you get started as a designer?
I’d been living in Europe studying at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Art, which is the 3rd best fashion school in the world. I was teaching sewing, and then I decided to go back into the industry. I was not fully satisfied with the work I could find, so at one point I decided ‘well, why not try it on my own?’ I was still working for somebody, so I wanted to keep a low profile for a while. I couldn’t use my name, so I decided to use my name spelled backwards. My Instagram image was greyed out. So, I was really playing it in a Martin Margiela way. Like when you look at something written on the mirror, it’s reversed. That for me was the impression that I had, like this company is me, but not, at the same time. It’s a different aspect of me.
What are the challenges of owning your own company?
The production is really the main challenge. As you know most of the production is sent abroad, and of what’s left, you will find factories that do lower end production, and big quantities. When you are an emerging designer and don’t have those quantities, if you want to do high end, it’s really difficult to find the production.
You handmake everything here in your Montreal atelier?
Yes, and we try to keep it that way, regardless of the challenges.
Can you tell me more about this collection?
The collection is divided into four groups. We have the ‘silver’ group which is made in a fabric that is silk, polyester and chiffon. It’s very particular because usually this fabric is very itchy and 100% synthetic, but we found one with silk. It is really soft and has that sheen.
Then we have another group that is the ‘menswear’ group. We played with classic men’s suiting, fabric with pinstripes, like the banker suit. We deconstructed it. It was really the suit and the white shirt that was the starting point, but on acid!
(Laughing) I love it!
And there is the ‘camel’ group that is more casual. I found a nice, rich, material. It’s wool and felted knit. It’s really soft and warm. I found a Japanese print that looks like silk, and we played with pleats and denim, to wear every day, and on weekends. The fourth group, that Sophie’s dress is a part of, is silk and chiffon, and is really loose and oversized.
When you are cutting silk, do you get nervous that you might damage it?
I’m really lucky. I have a seamstress with whom I work. I drove her crazy, poor thing! She is really, really good. She is Bulgarian. She worked for a lot of designers, and she really knows how to handle the pattern. I make the pattern, cutting toile, and sew them quickly, and badly, (he laughs) and then after that, I ask her to improve the making of the garment.
Do you draw your designs by hand?
Yes, it’s all by hand. That’s my training. In Europe, fashion school is really like art school, so we draw everything by hand. Computers are really limited. I don’t really have enough time to sketch. Every season usually starts with me getting a new sketch book and putting pictures in it, and playing with papers, and drawing with colors, and really being creative. Now I sketch really quickly at the table.
When does inspiration hit?
You never know. When I was working in the industry for other designers, I was hearing “It has to look international, we have to look international”.
What does that mean?
Exactly. I thought, ‘But we are from Montreal. We don’t need another design that looks like what we see internationally, because we already have that. There cannot be Canadian fashion if you are not talking about Canada.’ Belgium designers talk about Belgium. French designers talk about France. Our cultural history is not as old, rich or elaborate, but we have our culture. We have our stories, and we have to talk about them.
Yes, designers have to define Montreal for themselves!
For me, it’s really apart from the language, there is more than that. That’s what I try to do. That’s why most of the time the starting point is something from Montreal.
Where do you find the stories?
This collection started with a random mug shot that I saw on my newsfeed on Facebook. I was curious to know who she was, and so I started to dig. From that starting point, then I associate movies, art, music, and create a world around the collection.
You were telling me that one of your coats was worn by someone special.
There’s a really well-known stylist in Montreal named Andrew McNally and he approached me. He said he is dressing the girl that will be on the new show produced by Julie Snyder. ‘It’s Kim Gingras, would you like to dress her?’ I didn’t know who she was, and then I looked it up, and I realized she danced with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and all the big stars. She’s based in LA, and she is really well known there. She did the halftime show at the Super Bowl! I was like ‘Wow, she’s a big star!’ So, I said ‘why not?’ So, we’ve been dressing her, three or four times. She’s really sweet.
What are you working on now?
I’m already in Summer 2019! That’s part of the challenge. When everyone yells ‘Happy New Year! It’s 2019!’ I’m already in 2020! I’m thinking ‘That’s so last season!’
What will we be wearing next summer?
There are no trends anymore. There are items are that are popular, and that people buy, but it’s not as monolithic, as defined, as before. If you look in the street at what everyone is wearing, it’s jeans and t-shirts. My summer 2019 collection is going to be really colorful, deconstructed, really graphic. Really confused, like the state of the world right now.
Do you have a character that you are basing that collection on, or is about how you feel?
I read a manifesto by a group of French students and the title was “Since everything is over, everything is allowed.’ It was about a joyful ‘I don’t care’. Those young people are saying we don’t know what the future holds, and we decided to be present, and make the most out of it, and be creative. I found that point of view refreshing, and somehow hopeful. It’s about that confusion, that fear, and not getting down by it, not starting to see everything as black, but to embrace the present and be creative.
Where has that brought you?
Most of the time what I do is quite austere and covered up, black, and sober. I always say that I do clothes for the stylish Amish! So, for me it’s to break out of that. To use color, and prints, and play with volume.
What color are you excited about?
Yellow! Intense primary colors. It might evolve. I’m just starting to think about it. Maybe the collection will be pink, I don’t know yet.
Who else wears your clothes?
Chantal Fontaine, a Quebec actress and entrepreneur. Icon Accidental. She is an influencer who became a fashion icon by accident. She is 64. People took pictures of her and she was starting to get a buzz around her, so she decided to start a blog. She is starting to get a strong following. I really like those kinds of models appearing on social media. I like that they present a different option to young women. Like, you can age, you can look stylish, you can look cool. You don’t need to get botox and injections. You can have wrinkles, you can have grey hair. You can still look cool and be a woman. You can still be noticeable, and important, and be part of society. You don’t disappear at a certain age. That for me is a really important message to pass on to young girls right now.
Who is your favorite designer?
The reason I went to study at the Royal Academy in Antwerp was because of Margiela. I’d been following his work since his first collection and I still miss him. I miss his work so much. The way he turned the construction of garments upside down, his approach, and the fact that he was invisible, not a star designer like we have now. It was about the clothes and his vision.
How old were you when you realized you loved fashion?
I can’t remember. I think my first memory was seeing an Yves Saint Laurent show on television and seeing that tall black woman wearing a sheer chiffon blouse with her breast peeking out and just being like, ‘wow’. I was 16 when I started to work in that world doing DIY stuff for a theatre group, and for a second-hand shop on Saint Laurent street. Then I decided to go to school and get in the fashion food chain.
Do you have moments where you say, “Wow, I am living my dream!”?
It depends on the day. I’m living my dream, but what people don’t realize is that the better it goes, the more work you have. It’s just crazier and crazier. So, right now, I’m happy, but I’m also exhausted. So, I’m really looking forward to having an assistant.
“Things get broken, you fix them with the tools that you have.”
Do you have any advice for young adults thinking about becoming designers?
First you need money, because it’s really expensive, so start saving up! If you don’t breathe it, if you don’t see fashion in your soup, if you don’t dream about it, if it’s not your life and you’re not ready to make it your life, just forget about it. It’s really hard and the situation right now doesn’t make it any easier. People are like ‘Oh, I’m going to do a fashion show here and there’. But, it doesn’t work that way, it’s really hard work.
How would you describe the state of fashion now?
It’s like a renaissance. It’s a technical revolution. There’s also a big generational shift. The traditional model doesn’t work, but no one has figured out what the new model will be! Everybody is running around like headless chickens. Also, the consumer habits have changed. Before, you had a work dress code, but now Casual Friday is all week. If you’re working for Google, you can wear chinos and polo shirts. Women don’t need suits and stockings. That is becoming a niche. You still want to make that category of clothes, but you wonder if it will sell.
You are really good at designing pieces that a person will wear for years so people don’t need a new wardrobe every season.
I like to describe my clothes as subversive. At first glance they are simple, but you have to really look and realize ‘Oh, it’s deconstructed and there are pleats’. I don’t want my clothes to be gimmicky. I want to the wearer to love my clothes so much that she wears it to rags. That’s my goal.