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Designer Montreal

Designer Montreal

Mathilde Giard - 2012-02-14

Montreal enjoys its status as one of the "UNESCO Cities of Design", of which there are now eleven worldwide. We pay homage here to its style and the talents of its creators.

On the banks of the St. Lawrence river this winter you’ll find red-dyed raccoon furs, Chapka hats, besace bags, sleeveless jackets ... This collection that’s in vogue in Montreal bears the signature of Mariouche Gagné, a stylist with a name inspired by a song called Jack Monoloy by the Quebecer Gilles Vigneault. Her "eco luxury" brand Harricana, named after the Canadian river, uses nothing but recycled materials. It produces two great national symbols: the plaid shirt - especially her boyfriend’s, “which he sports like a trophy “she jokes - and the fur coat, this fleece which made the the trappers’ fortune during 17th to 19thcenturies." The fathers offered them to their daughters when they turned eighteen. But killing for fur isn’t very cute anymore!'' according to the vivacious young woman. With a determination to let beavers and coyotes live in peace, she transforms second-hand furs into the latest designs. Mariouche Gagné stands out as an ambassador of "Montreal, a city of design". Old notions of the Canadian log cabin have indeed been somewhat reinvented: the largest French-speaking metropolis after Paris became, in 2006, part of the network created by Unesco. It comprises ten other cities including in Europe - Berlin (Germany), Graz (Austria) and Saint-Etienne (France.)

A forest of pink trees!

There are more than 25,000 designers who have helped create the city.  The convention centre houses a forest of pink trees designed by the Quebec architect Claude Cormier. At the foot of its colourful façade, a sculpture by the artist Jean-Paul Riopelle comes alive at certain times, with displays of flames or mist. A few streets away, in the changing Quartier des Spectacles, the photographer Geneviève Cadieux has installed a giant pair of lips (her mother’s!) on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art. "Design has been seen to be an economically favourable factor. It enriches our city with its diverse heritage and its legacy from different cultures, French included" says Marie-Josée Lacroix, the design director at the Office of the City of Montreal. This energetic Quebecer has as much passion for the expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, entrusted to the Dutchman Rem Koolhaas as she does for the delivery of 400 newly styled bus shelters.

In the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal, Annie Legroulx, a design graduate from UQAM (Université du Quebec a Montreal), exports irresistible hand painted bicycle bells to New York or Tokyo. She set up her studio called "Dringdring" amidst a number of small boutiques where an almost tangible wind of creativity blows. It’s here that you will also find the largest underground city in the world where you’ll encounter stylized perspectives along its 30 km of tunnels. Another cosier place to warm up is the refined Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montreal, an elegant spa with a décor of wood and slate. You’ll find these on the banks of the Vieux Port, just a few steps from where, in 1642, fifty French settlers founded Ville-Marie, which was to become Montréal on the grand St. Lawrence river.


Where to stay

Hotel Saint-Paul, in a revamped historic building.
355 McGill Street
Double rooms from £120

LHotel - a renovated former bank building with contemporary paintings by Warhol, Lichtenstein and Miro on its walls.
262 St. Jacques Street West Montreal
Offers from £75

Places to shop

Harricana (Mariouche Gagné).
3000 St. Antoine Street West.

Marie Saint Pierre, leading Montreal stylist who dresses Montreal's stars with her wrinkled Japanese fabrics.
2081 Mountain Street.

Denis Gagnon.
170B St. Paul Street West.

Places to relax
In the refined and simple Scandinave Les Bains, Vieux-Montreal, 71 rue de la Commune West.

Taking a coffee break
At the trendy Olive et Gourmando, St. Paul Street West.

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