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It was 2 p.m. I was waiting for him at the Palm Court of the Ritz Carlton. To be honest, I was a bit nervous. I was expecting Dick Walsh, one of the most important creative gurus Montreal has ever known.  I’m sure he can’t fit all his achievements in one C.V, but long story short: he did windows for Dior, Shieshedo, Valentino; He produced Celine Dion’s wedding, the amazing balls of many museums (like Guggenheim) and charity organizations, he launched Carine Roitfield’s magazine, he did the Grammy’s… And the list goes on… and on. Yep, you can tell I had done my research. I knew his bio so well , but nothing can ever prepare you to meet someone who has such a tremendous influence in the world of design and lifestyle.

The revolving door of the lobby opened and he appeared… he looked very dapper in his double-breasted suit, his funky green and blue velvet loafers… and of course, his great smile that makes you feel instantly comfortable! And that’s the thing about Dick Walsh; Smart, witty but never pretentious. He was very generous, talking about his career; his vision of Montreal’s design and fashion scene… He even shared some of his design secrets (yup, you might want to read until the end!)

Just like any giants, it only comes natural to start by asking: Where and how did it all start?

Dick: I was 17 and I was looking for a summer job. Eaton was opening in Quebec city, and I really wanted to work there but I was underage. I guess I can confess this now, I slightly bumped my age up while applying and they took me. So  like any beginners, I started by opening boxes. I was fortunate enough to be handed what were to be used in the store’s windows. After opening all the boxes, I pulled out the wigs, the mannequins and the accessories… And I had no idea what to do with them. I instinctively dressed the mannequins and used the accessories around them in a way I liked. Next day, Eatons’ GM saw my work and he loved it. Six Months later, I moved to Montreal. They’ve put me in charge of all the windows and I was working with over 40 employees.

During 3 years, Dick created the most amazing windows For Eatons. He Perfected his art and changed the face of Montreal. The secret of his success?

Dick: One of the first thing I did when I arrived in Montreal was to ask for the windows to be lighted-up at night. Back then, downtown was the place to be. All the best clubs where there. So at 3 am. when the clubs closed, everyone stopped in front of the windows. At one point, we had to put ropes in front of them because they were so many people looking at them. I was also asked to make them a little less provocative, because they had a certain sexual undertone to them. Maybe that’s why Karl Lagerfeld is still one of the biggest fans of my Eaton windows.”

He swiped some photos  from his iPhone to show me some examples. The first thought that came across my mind is how windows displays are an art form that needs to be brought back, in all international fashion scenes. Looking at his previous work, I found it interesting how it’s a mix between interior design, photography and cinema. They were like a scene, it always seems to be a story there. It makes you want to pause, reflect, savor and dig into what you see. Paul Klee once said: ”Art doesn’t represent what we see but teaches us how to see”. It’s like a call to stop from walking, to take a break from your routine, to take the time, a moment to really appreciate what you see.

What was your ah-ha moment? When did he know exactly what he wanted to do?

Dick: I never really decide on anything. I’m not career-oriented so all what happened to me wasn’t part of a plan. I just never said no. Like the time when I was still working for Eaton, Famous MUA Serge Lutens suggested I should go to Japan with him for a Shisheido project. I just followed him. For someone who comes from a little town, Donakota, it was amazing. Then, I went to Paris. Then other cities. other projects… I just really never said no.

Then you became an event-planner…

Dick: That was another outcome of not being able to say no. In 1996, I was working for Elle Quebec as a creative director. I got a phone call, they wanted me to to do Celine Dion’s wedding. I never ever did any events, except fashion shows. It was the first time I planned an event A to Z… Actually, now more than ever, I realize it’s really because I have always been open to new opportunities. I always said yes to new projects. I’ve never had any insecurities about my job or trying something new… I’d just jumped right into it. At the end of the day, I’m not a surgeon. If I make a mistake, nobody will die… so I might as well go for it.

What is your secret to great design?

Dick: Lighting. I like simplicity in my home. I don’t like to have many objects, but lighting is the key. Even when you don’t have the budget, you can have a great set-up with the right lighting. I did an event here, in Montreal, last year at L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel. We had no budget but we created a great concept: The models were on Black cubes and we’ve put a nice dramatic spotlight on them. It was gorgeous!  At home, I have different lights for different mood. But I found a great little lamp, here in Montreal: It’s a minimal strip of led light but it produces a great halo. I bought a bunch of them, so I have them everywhere at home now!

What’s next for you now?

Dick: I want to go back to my roots and do more windows. I’m moving to New York, as I’ll be collaborating with MAC Cosmetics for Henry Bendel & Saks. But I would love to come back to Montreal. I find it very sad that many talented people leave the city, because there is only so much you can do. I keep bumping into so many Quebecers, working in the industry, either in Paris or New York.  People blame it on money, they say there is no budget but I don’t agree. I think it’s more about taking risks and being more outgoing. Because otherwise, you can do a lot without much!

What would be then your advice to the next generation? 

Dick: We simply need the new generation and the government to get involved to make the city alive again. In the 80s, everybody would come to Montreal! I remember there were some crazy parties with Fellini, Picasso’s family and others legends. We didn’t to get out to the world, the world was coming to us. But people forgot what it used to be, they need to know the city’s history, what we came from, and what we can do to make the city great again. People wait for opportunities, but they forgot they can create their own opportunities.

***

There was it. A wonderful afternoon with Dick Walsh. He made me proud to be and feel Montrealer. Our Quebec moto is ‘Je Me Souviens’. Let it always be a reminder that Montreal is the city where all dream can come true. All opportunities can be a success. Our DNA can lead many industries. Talent & creativity is part of our heritage and our future.

What do Patricia Fields, Scooter Laforge, Vincent Leret, Adam Katz Sing , Stephen Jones have in common? Yes, they all have a stellar career. And yes, they’ll all be in the city for five days – as speakers for Festival Mode et Design. But I’m mostly referring to fact they all responded to one man’s invitation to be part of this public celebration of fashion. The man in question, Stéphane Leduc, is the absolute key-play to why we’re having these a-list players in our city.

If you’re part of the fashion industry, you know who’s Stéphane. Editor-In-Chief of Dress To Kill Magazine, he’s that discreet and polite man you’d bump into in events. He’s also that dapper gentleman, whose love for fashion leads him to rock gorgeous textures and fabrics… And he’s also that successful Journalist, one of the few Canadians to be invited to Chanel and Dior shows– every.single.season. (Yes, I’m jealous, who wouldn’t be! #LifeGoal). But above and beyond all, I always liked the man for that kindness that emanates from him, the smart and deep way he looks at people. Down to earth, humble, he’s one of the good ones! It was a rainy morning, sometimes last week, when we’ve met over a morning coffee at the Loews Hotel Vogue. Although the aim of our discussion was to introduce the #FMD15 speakers, I couldn’t help but ask him: Who is he really? How did he make it in the fashion industry?

Credit Photo: Josée Lecompte

“ I started as a reporter for Music Plus. I remember I had this small segment about fashion. What I wanted, back then, was to specialize in movies; I was fascinated by the world of Film and I never thought I’d end up in Fashion. But my segment did so well, we went from 5 min to 30 min, and the show, called Perfecto, became a key-show in the fashion industry.”

How did that happen? What made that show different from other shows?

Probably that I used the same approach than when I used to conduct interviews in the film industry. Instead of just talking about the latest trends, I was more interested in the designer’s process of creation, the behind the scenes… but also women and men fashion. When the subject was good, it was good. We wouldn’t discriminate one gender over the other, and it was good because our real audience were both genders.

How the switch for fashion really happened?

The show was amazing, it was relayed in different channels and gave me access to all sort of people I loved to interview… Among them,  Karl Lagerfeld who’s extremely generous in interviews. Back then; he was doing Chloé, Chanel and his own line, which gave me 3 interviews with him to conduct per season. There was also the Top Models phenomenon that sparked; it was the era of Claudia, Naomi, Kate and others models who became celebrities. Here in Montreal, it was the début of today’s most renowned fashion designers like Philippe Dubuc, Marie Saint-Pierre, Nadya Toto etc… They weren’t known back then, and the show gave them the opportunity to shine and get access to the public. So covering international and national events in the show gave me the opportunity to deeply explore the fashion industry and I loved it.

Impressive path, you’ve witness not only the fashion industry’s evolution but also the society’s! What part of this evolution you find notable?

What impressed me is how the fashion industry was perceived changed over time. Before, people thought of it as a dumb and useless subject, and that people who are part of that universe are completely futile. Today, it’s an acknowledged part of everybody’s lifestyle, people are no more ashamed to dress well, to spend money on clothes, to discuss it… or be passionate about it. But there were many stages and factors that contributed to the society’s development, like Sex and The City …

… Who’s stylist, Patricia Fields, is one of the speakers you invited… 

… Exactly. What I find interesting with SATC is how it liberated women from their complexes. The 4 women were free, modern, career-driven, they loved fashion, they were able to make their very own choices and they weren’t ashamed of it. The wonderful part is that they’d do it without any pretentiousness. They were expressing their love for fashion and freedom, with a lot of humour, fun and in a natural way that set an example to everybody who watched that show.

How about you introduce us each guest, and how you’ve met?

To be honest, I never met Patricia, and I’ll meet her next week at the conference when I’ll interview her in front of the audience. But I liked her vibe when I spoke to her over the phone. One of the speakers, Scooter Laforge, introduced me to her and told her she should trust me. She did, and now I’m ultra nervous 🙂

Scooter Laforge: I met Scooter few years ago when I was in New York. I remember I loved his work so much, I featured it in the magazine although it had nothing to do with our editorial line, We connected, and we kept in touch. I found he was a perfect fit with the multi-aspects of the FMD.

Marc-Antoine Coulon: Marc-Antoine’s is a very talented illustrator. It’s curious how two years ago he was still debuting, while today, his career is evolving by leaps and bounds. I noticed in him a sincere love for fashion, which translated in a different vision of that universe. I can only nod to his success. Before coming to the city, he was exposing in NYC (he’s based in Paris). I can’t wait to see him again.

 

Peter Simons: I find it unbelievable he accepted to be part of the speakers. In my opinion, he’s the epitome of success here in Quebec. Today, Simons is 175 years of success and it still grows significantly in Canada. It’s rare that you see a local company succeed this well in our local industry. He makes us all proud and I’m very happy that he’s taking the time to speak about it openly, with the simplicity and the passion we know he has. It’s rare that he gives interviews, it’s a great honour to have him accept this invitation.

 

Adam Katz Sinding:  an amazing guy, who’s very successful and has a great vision as well. He’s a well-know blogger but refuses to call himself a blogger per say. He always says that his work is more like photo-reportage than street style blogging. What you need to know about Adam is that he’s super exigent with his work. If the photo doesn’t answer to his criteria, even if it’s a celebrity shot, he’d automatically cut it. Let’s say if it’s a photo of Kanye West coming out from a show, and there is a lot of people around him, the photo is deleted. It’s better to go see his work on his website than his Instagram – it’s much more revealing and deeper than what he posts on social media… Which makes sense.

 

Vincent Leret: I met him once, when I was interviewing Chandler Burr, a journalist who wrote a book on Dior Perfumes. Vincent was there, and he was contributing to the interview in all-things related to the history of the brand. I found he had interesting anecdotes. Later that day, Dior hosted a supper to celebrate the new J’ADORE fashion film with Charlize Theron. I saw him again and we took the time to discuss furthermore. It was a very laid-back discussion and I discovered him in another light. He’s a very interesting guy, he has such a deep savoir about the history of Christian Dior, it’s impressive. He’s the one who curates all the Powerhouse’s museums and archives. See, there isn’t much information about the designer himself, I find there is many movies about YSL and almost none about christian Dior. It’s a true privilege to have Mr. Leret talk to us directly about the genius who started La Maison Dior, and the heritage he left behind them.