Making their mark in fashion

Photo: Courtesy of Shaughnessy Photography

As the city’s fashion scene recovers from the loss of one of its biggest events, some of the University of Ottawa’s most stylish students are leading the walk down the runway.

The U of O’s chapter of the online magazine and community Her Campus is back to host its third annual charity fashion show called Capital Catwalk.

A variety of designers will unveil their collections, including Julien Boissonnault, a fourth-year communication student at the U of O and the creative mind behind the label Julien|George. The show will also feature local fan favourites like Babes n Gents and Zarucci and even established labels from outside the city, like Montreal’s Naike.

“Ottawa is becoming a lot more of a young city,” says Meaghan Hannah, external affairs intern at Her Campus and a U of O student.

“This convergence of style, fashion, and young creative designers is pushing the city into a new and exciting direction.”

But despite Capital Catwalk’s success, Ottawa’s fashion scene has seen its struggles.

It was dealt a big blow just this past June when Bruno Racine, artistic director of Ottawa Fashion Week (OFW), announced that the bi-annual event would be cancelled.

So what makes some fashion leaders strut while others stumble?

It’s hard to tell what it will take for fashion to thrive in the capital, but Her Campus’ president of events and marketing Jessica Mastronardi says it’s up to students and other young people to set the trend.

“What sets us apart is that Capital Catwalk is student-run and student-attended,” says Mastronardi, “The fact that students are so dedicated and involved in the community to help out charities is a great thing.”

Grace Odumo, creative director of 613 Style, agrees that it’s Her Campus’ access to young, creative people that’s kept things going strong. They rely on students to push ticket sales, a “brilliant strategy” because it’s the same audience as their publication, she says.

Their marketing is what’s helping them to thrive,” says Odumo. “That same technique wouldn’t work for Ottawa Fashion Week because it’s expected to adhere to a different standard of sales and marketing.”

However, problems with marketing and maintaining an audience may have been just a small part of a much larger issue.

“What happened in Ottawa isn’t an isolated event,” says Ottawa Citizen style editor Janet Wilson. “Fashion weeks the world over are experiencing problems as online shopping and discount retailers are taking a big chunk out of the business.”

She says Ottawa also has to face down its rather conservative reputation. “We do have a gala crowd but not everything that was shown on the runway is suitable to wear in Ottawa.”

Those who were involved in OFW remain active in the fashion community by helping out with various events, including Capital Catwalk.

“There is talk that fashion bloggers would like to resurrect OFW, but most admit it’s a dream,” says Wilson.

Still, the city’s most stylish can take in the latest trends Jan. 31 at the Shaw Centre, where 500 people are expected to attend Capital Catwalk. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.