“We love women in pants.”
Simon Bélanger, one-half of the Montreal-based womenswear brand Unttld, floats around a ballroom at the Fairmont Pacific Rim with a pair of trousers in hand. On this rainy Vancouver morning he is working his magic, assisting two local women on their quest to find the perfect new outfit. Two racks stand in the middle of the room, each equipped with gorgeous pieces—blazers with eccentric trimming, dresses layered with lace, and of course, pants crafted with the finest fabrics and details. A woman in trousers is a powerful force, standing firmly on the line between masculinity and femininity. She is fearless yet poised, forceful yet elegant. A woman in trousers is everything that the Unttld woman is: strong.
“She doesn’t take bullshit from anyone,” co-founder José Manuel St-Jacques says confidently. “The Unttld woman is a working woman, and these pieces are really meant to empower her.”
In Vancouver for the first time as part of the Fight for Beauty fashion show, an extravagant catwalk put on by the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards (CAFA) in partnership with Westbank, Unttld’s founders are out to prove that they’re ready to go national. And right off the bat, they are demonstrating so with a successful one-day trunk show the morning after the runway.
“For us, it’s really important to be able to build a wardrobe through time,” St-Jacques notes. “Made-in-Canada are expensive pieces, and they’re quality made. We try to really build and think, ‘What does our costumer already have in her wardrobe?’ And we build on that.” The Spring/Summer 2018 line on is utterly romantic, yet subversive. It’s a display of empowerment—pieces mixed and matched, layers of delicate lace on top of robust garments. It is no wonder that the fiercest Canadian women don these designs: lawyers, real estate agents, public relations specialists, the Canadian ambassador to France, and the even wife to the prime minister.
“She’s really, really nice,” says St-Jacques, recalling a fitting they did with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau for the annual Press Gallery Dinner, to which she wore a white t-shirt-sleeve Unttld dress that exuded femininity. “She even made banana bread for us.” Although the young designers declined to snack on the homemade treat during the fitting for fear of staining the dress, Grégoire Trudeau personally packed up the bread so they could take it to go. That kind of success must taste especially delicious.
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