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Fashion

Buy local: Les Enfants Sauvages

Posted by Andrés / June 28, 2010

20100628_enfants_sauvages.jpgLocal clothing designer, Les Enfants Sauvages, wants Montreal to live a little wild. Not that we don't already, but we tend to express our inner savage through music, dance and the occasional all-night bicycle ride. In terms of covering our naked selves, the majority of us turn to brand names or international designers. The result: a local clothes design scene left starving for attention.

Marie-Christine Quenneville studied Cultural Anthropology and traveled halfway across the globe before setting up shop in HoMa (yes, it's official), and applying her knowledge to her current trade. Amazed by the unique liveries of Vietnam and Western Africa, Marie-Christine endeavours to imbue her seasonal lines with the historical 'essence' of said locales. She has a passion for colours and the 'flowiness' of fabric. Oftentimes importing the natural fibres, wools, cottons and silks that make up her clothes, all the handwork is done in her two-room shop in one of HoMa's many nondescript warehouse buildings.

Upon entering her workroom, I was amazed by how each step of the development process lay before me. To my left, a shelf overflowed with fabrics of all colours. A large work table held pieces in the midst of cutting and shaping, as well as draft papers with sketches of the forms the material were bound to take. To the right were half-made and completed pieces on multiple racks. The entire start-to-finish process occurred in this one space. Fitting the variety of visual colour, her stereo system played Animal Collective's psychedelic, ethnic and environmental sound deluge.

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The skirt above exemplifies some of what the Les Enfants Sauvages line is all about. Marie-Christine loves colours, but also likes the traditional fits of 'classic' designs like the pencil skirt. Her designs aim for a formal or practical form with colour either infused or blossoming out. She feels that this allows the wearer to feel both classy and original.

Her passion for colour means she spends much of her time tracking down original prints and fabrics and applying them to her clothes. A Western African theme permeates the majority of her pieces, and she continually reinvents and plays with her designs, trying to find the perfect match of class, culture and comfort. She avoids the want to feel 'cute' or 'fashionable' and instead aims for designs that speak to her personality and - she hopes - others.

The design and construction is the easy part. While she occasionally hires part-time workers to help her, the majority of the work is done completely independent of outside help (be it human or mechanical). The hard part is advertising her lines. While Montreal has been a place of great success for local music and film talents, the same cannot be said for fashion. Part of the problem is advertising: as a one-woman shop, she hardly has the time to actively promote her wares. The other part of the problem is finding a suitable platform to make Les Enfants Sauvages available to a wide audience. This quandary hits any local clothes designer. While she has a good rapport with a select few boutiques, many can be hard to deal with and ask for large profit margins. The resulting higher prices coupled with the fact that many Montrealers just don't seem to be interested in buying local brands makes it all the more difficult.

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Les Enfants Sauvages has found one outlet that is the most promising for artists of any genre: the online forum. This venue allows the most freedom and doesn't expect an uncompromising cut in revenue. In the end, the best possible supporters are me and you. Marie-Christine hopes the trade can take off some day soon and that Montrealers can adopt local clothing in the same way they have adopted local music.

Start supporting local brands now. You can find Les Enfants Sauvages products online at etsy.com, or at boutiques such as Général 54, Molykulte or Belle et Rebelle. Visit Les Enfants Sauvages' official website for more information and more pictures of their seasonal clothing lines.

Images courtesy Marie-Christine Quenneville.

Discussion

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