While style scribes, buyers and consumers will be seated along the runway at Montreal Fashion Week, it's the unseen viewers observing the action unfold from abroad who will be of notable interest.
The semi-annual style showcase has partnered with Russia Fashion Week in a bid to boost the visibility of Canadian designers in the populous emerging market.
Media from Russia attended the previous edition of Montreal Fashion Week, said Sensation Mode co-president Jean-Francois Daviau, whose firm organizes the homegrown fashion event.
Daviau said Russia Fashion Week will be featuring the Montreal shows on its event website. Depending on the response and interest from overseas, a future mission to the country is also a possibility, he added.
The latest international collaboration follows a recent visit involving Fashion Week organizers and a collective of Quebec designers to Belgium. They took part in a special showcase in the Louise district of Brussels, part of an initiative to promote Montreal as a fashion leader and cultural tourism destination.
Daviau said Montreal Fashion Week is set to welcome about 25 buyers from different markets, including U.S. fashion hubs like New York and Chicago.
At a time when there are "huge challenges" facing the Canadian market with respect to distribution, Daviau said having international media to cover the event and buyers ready to open their wallets is particularly beneficial.
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"You have to work with all the different segments of the circle," Daviau said in a recent interview. "So having the media from Russia, it's important. Having the media from Berlin, it's important.
"It's really talking to the influencers to bring the buyers, and for that, you need a strong event. And if you want the strong buyers, you need designers that are able to produce. To be able to produce, you need — at least — a business that reaches the national level."
Daviau said part of establishing a strong international presence is developing business close to home.
When fall-winter 2013-14 collections are unveiled beginning on Monday, fashion fans will be able to access shows by purchasing tickets to attend in person or watching live streams on the event's website and Sensation Mode's Facebook page.
"You cannot reach the world if you don't have the local base. So for that you need demand from the consumers," said Daviau.
"We see that demand is growing because, more and more, the main retailers start to do partnerships with designers. That's really important."
One such partnership is with U.S. discount giant Target, which will be crowning the inaugural winner of its Emerging Designer Award. In addition to a $25,000 grant to produce a runway show at Montreal Fashion Week, the winner will design a collection for Target's Quebec stores.
The retailer is also sponsoring an on-site space called the Designer Studio by Target, which will give designers more flexibility staging their fashion show or installation in a non-traditional format.
Anastasia Lomonova, Melissa Nepton, by THOMAS designer Natasha Thomas, Nargisse Ennasri Akyuz of Nisse and UNTTLD designed by Simon Belanger and Jose Manuel St-Jacques are in the running for the Target award, with the winner to be announced on Feb. 7. Thomas and Pedram Karimi will also be part of "Designer Debut," featuring emerging talent.
Jennifer Glasgow Design, Marilyne Baril, Voyou Melow by Melissa Bolduc, Rachel F. and Copious are among the up-and-coming designers and labels being featured in "Exhibit 24."
The works of budding student designers will take centre stage in the annual "Canada's Breakthrough Designers" contest presented by Quebec-based textile company Telio, showcasing creations from 25 finalists.
Husband-and-wife design duo Martin Lim, Harricana by Mariouche, Nadya Toto, Melissa Nepton, Rachel Sin and Ralph Leroy are among the designers and labels set to present fall-winter 2013 collections.
A series of 21 fashion films selected in collaboration with FAT Arts & Fashion Week Toronto and Triptyque will be featured throughout the week. Included will be a tribute to Montreal-raised designer Rad Hourani, who recently unveiled his haute couture collection in Paris.
Daviau said some designers are turning to film as an alternative to traditional fashion shows and organizers felt it was appropriate to recognize the medium's expanding influence within the industry.
"The fashion film is something that's more and more present in the fashion world," he said.
"Fashion is not only about wearing the clothes, but there's a thinking behind it, there's a creativity process. So that's where Montreal Fashion Week is going — with the pictures, with the video, with everything. It's about creativity."
Montreal Fashion Week runs Feb. 4-7.