Fashion a la Mode: Mews VIII Stylist Battle at Royal Phoenix

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Prologue

It is perfectly reasonable for you to expect an informed critique of the fashion battle (called Mews VIII) that took place at the Royal Phoenix bar on Friday, November 15.

Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not going to happen. This is entirely the fault of the author. She was raised in a hickish rural Ontario sub-division (as opposed to the Muskoka District) – enjoyed it – and 20-odd years down the line occasionally rolls up the cuffs of her jeans so as to be perceived as “fancy” by city folk.

Suffice it to say, a fair and trustworthy review is entirely outside of the realm of plausibility.

As it happens, D.Y.D.H. Productions (A.K.A. Dina Habib and Danik Yopp) organize Mews nights with a mind to exploding the impenetrable aura of hoity-toityness that typically deters people like me from attending fashion soirees.

It’s held in a gay bar, for one. And the organizers (Dina) say things a propos of the event like, “We wanted a collective of local underground people that don’t normally get to show at Fashion Week.” And, “Mews is dance party meets real fashion and real art.”

And what is Mews VIII? It’s a fashion battle. It’s a calling card. It’s a pop-up boutique. It’s sponsored by Pabst. It’s an event that draws the inverse of the uppity fashion set.

I like to think of the Mews crowd as the avante-garde-fuck-you-and-your-$1000-Gucci[1] -handbag set. From what I saw, they wear clothes for the spectacle but not to be a spectacle, ya know? They are the kinds of people that build high-traffic street fashion blogs and who hate cravats but do very much enjoy the odd pairing of vintage skirts with expensively branded blouses made of luxurious fabrics. After bumming a few cigarettes from some of them over the course of the night, I discerned their hearts to be big and agogish.

venue

In the words of local comedian DeAnne Smith, an event held at the Royal Phoenix is mostly “an excuse to hang out and stick around afterwards and eat poutine and dance to the D.J. and drink and occasionally make out with gender ambiguous hotties.”

True, but it’s so much more than that. Back in September I dropped in on a Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a fabulous (and affordable!) brunch of huevos rancheros with fresh cilantro. See, it’s also got healthy eats.

If the Mile End and Plateau were a human body, The Royal Phoenix would sit right below the hip. It rests like a pair of panties on the corner of St. Laurent and Bernard. It itself is a kind of hottie.

Inside, everything’s painted black and there’s a disco ball that makes everything/one feel all sparkly and huggable. The bar has a user-friendly co-ed bathroom. Long screws replace some of the faucets’ handles. Despite being incredibly good looking (and thus presumably indifferent), the staff is a neighbourly bunch.

Set-up (This part should have been higher up in the article)
On 15 November, Royal Phoenix bar played host to Mews VIII, a fashion event that pitted two up-and-coming designers against each other in an ostensible fashion battle (as far as I could tell no awards were presented or victors announced).[2]

Interviews/meat of post

Stylists Aurelie Gagnon and Marie-Eve Venne presented collections. Makeup was applied on volunteer models in plain sight of the audience. The masses mingled, beautifully, as preparations took place over the course of an hour and a half.

Both presentations lasted the length of a pop song. Afterwards the clothing was put on sale. A pop-up boutique manned by Miss Cocotte sold homespun jewellery in the far corner all evening long.

Aurelie dabbles in photography, visual arts, graphic design and blogs (La Belle Pluie). She’s hoping to study at Concordia’s arts program and in the meantime pursues fashion interests.

She’s inspired by David Lynch. The soundtrack to her presentation was David Lynch’s debut album Crazy Clown Time (6.1 Pitchfork rating). “It’s crazy creepy world. It’s an absurd world,” she tells me in the (tiny) dressing room after the show (ftr, no naked models sighted).

That crazy/creepy sentiment comes through in her models’ clown faces. In one case, the makeup is an accoutrement to a mustard-and-brown-chequered, leather breast-pocketed collared shirt paired with lilac-hued synthetic trousers. The inspiration for the outfit: “I was thinking ice cream flavours, this ice cream mixed with this flavour, it’s perfect together. I would look at this colour and think, this is mint and it goes together with dark chocolate, and that shirt [she pulls at the beige and brown chequered button-up] would be the cornet.”

Accidentally, the other interview (with Marie-Eve) is not recorded. Nevertheless I recall vintage styles being called a serious inspiration.[3] More specifically she looked kind of like a sparrow with cropped scarlet hair and a tiny frame. She had poise and I felt curiously like she was suppressing laughter to a punch line that I may have been at the bottom of. It was all very awkward and besides the recorder never ended up working, so moving on.

Her models were up second and thank god because they were not nearly as absurd or creepy as Aurelie’s. One effeminate model kept winking every time he strutted to center stage. It intimidated me.

Several layers of gender bending and morphology bending seemed to go on throughout Marie-Eve’s presentation. Particularly the one male model that resembled a tarted up lion. The models wore massive circles of blush and generally seemed to be having a whale of a time. Their enthusiasms made me (a feat!) feel vicariously fashionable. I remember a distinct abundance of bowties.[4]

Marie-Eve’s clothing collection had more of a mainstream appeal, which was comforting but on second thought Aurelie’s costumes just, you know, revive the soul as it teaches itself to love itself and not hate its fashion decisions. Like Naomi Watt’s character in I Heart Huckabees,except less pretentious due to it being real life. Anyways, I’m a goddamned amateur and have no business critiquing either collection. The materials seemed luxurious and there were hard edges to everything.

Who is D.Y.D.H. Productions? (Read on for industry-insider info)
“We want to normalize it, make it a non-issue,” says Dina, the co-creator of Die Young Die Happy Productions. We’re in the backroom closet/change room thingy again (still no naked models). The modelling is finished and everyone is sticking around for DJ Zarfan. One blissed out man dances to himself on the catwalk.

In response to my question about venue choice Danik says, “But we really picked the Pheonix, not because it’s a gay club but because we have a good relationship with the people here. It’s a great ambience. It’s a great bar.”

Turns out I shouldn’t have been surprised to have enjoyed the event after all – that’s the whole point of Mews: “We brought the stereotypical club night fashion shows up a level, where you can have high fashion, but where you can have the normal fashion industry in an environment that’s still at a bar. It creates a new ambience. You can still be chill. It doesn’t have to be so pretentious. It can be fun. Fashion can be fun.”

Danik and Dina say that’s why they’ve been labelled “provocative” by the mainsteam media in the past. Dina says, “if they wanted controversy, we could have done controversy.” But dammit if I can’t ignore Danik’s skirt.

Despite its sexiness, his words are more memorable and go a long way towards capturing what D.Y.D.H. is all about: “My style of dress is my activism. It’s my art and it’s my way of deflecting what society thinks I should wear.. It lets me say no to that. Fashion is art, fashion is fun, fashion is an expression of who you are.”

All the better when it’s complemented by a great party.

Epilogue

…And if it’s a party you want, then stay current with the D.Y.D.H. universe by clicking over to their FB Page or website. Apparently plans are in the works for a serious January blowout party to mark their one year anniversary. This December D.Y.D.H. will be hosting a designer show.


[1] I’ve been informed by those in-the-know that Gucci is an inappropriate reference for reasons that I’m ill-equipped to understand or appreciate.

[2] Everything’s on fb. You really don’t need to read more about this if you just want the fucking information. Journalism isn’t what it used to be: DJ https://www.facebook.com/dieyoungdiehappy/info, event https://www.facebook.com/events/274854185968877/, Die Young Die Happy Productions https://www.facebook.com/dieyoungdiehappy/info.

[3] This turns out to be more or less true, upon closer inspection of her Facebook Page photo album.

[4]  (just confirmed on fb album)

Photo Credit: Mohamed Hamad

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