Ottawa’s Absolutely Fabulous Fashion Week

By Regan Harney

I was one of the luckiest people around, last weekend; I got to attend Ottawa’s eighth fashion week. The festivities started on Friday evening at the elegant Sala San Marco on Preston Street. The main foyer was filled with beautiful, well-dressed people, but there was still a very welcoming, non-pretentious vibe. I found my front-row seat and settled in for the first of three shows. From the first night I was most impressed by Korto Momolu’s work. She made very chic and exciting dresses, blazers, skirts and pants appropriate for everyday wear.

The closing Saturday night show ended with a bang – umbrellas, gold glitter and half-naked, muscular men. Wowee!

Two designers really stole the show on Sunday (closing night): Shweta Wahi and Elena Hinke. Shweta Wahi’s collection is called Solace, and every piece has an Indian influence. The models were barefoot, adorned with big gold bangles around their ankles, beautiful gold designs painted on their faces, and clad in silky, stunning clothes. Elena Hinke had a very different style but it was equally gorgeous. Every model that came out looked like the belle of the ball – wearing gowns with up do’s that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn. One dress that made almost everyone in the audience drop their jaw was all red with a sweetheart top, a floor-length skirt followed by a flowing train, and covered in three-dimensional roses. The model was drop dead gorgeous and wore the dress incredibly well.

I spoke to Bruno Racine who told me that he started working at Ottawa Fashion Week as a hair stylist in 2004 and has worked his way up over the years. Up so far, in fact that he is now on the board of directors, along with Hussein Rachid, Paul Valletta and Ruby Cheng. The four organizers were glowing with excitement all weekend and, of course, were clad in super-stylish outfits.

The night came to an end with Prophetik by Jeff Garner followed by the UNICEF charity show. Garner’s clothes were really interesting because he uses eco-friendly fabric and materials but still design clothes that can be worn to a formal or casual event. His collection was an interesting combination of riding/farm wear and formal, black-tie dress.

At the UNICEF fashion show, Bruno Racine gave a brief thank you speech and introduced Canada’s UNICEF ambassador Solange Tuyishime, who introduced the charity show with some interesting facts about UNICEF and disturbing statistics about the number of uneducated, malnourished and dehydrated children around the world. I, along with every ticket-holder in the room, I’m sure, was very pleased that some of the money raised that week was going to support such a worthy cause as UNICEF.

Two exciting performances followed Solange Tuyishime’s inspirational speech. In the first, two salsa dancers twisted and turned down the catwalk. They danced with style and grace, getting awfully close to the audience but always maintaining control. The next performance was my favourite of the entire weekend: Measha Brueggergosman, Ottawa’s great prima donna, sang an incredible French aria. Her performance, which can only be described as truly awesome, ushered in a multitude of Ottawa celebrities gliding down the catwalk in a variety of the designers’ clothes. Every familiar face from CTV was happy to participate in the charity show and walked while the audience clapped, danced, and cheered them on.

With 22 designers, nine musical performers, and other spectacular acts, Ottawa Fashion Week was a grand show. After such a successful week, I’m already looking forward to the next one!