With the judging panel deadlocked, Edmonton's Malorie Urbanovitch and Cecile Raizonville of Montreal-based Matiere Noire were both named as winning recipients — a first for the contest which is devoted to recognizing emerging designers across Canada.
The duo were among eight finalists vying for the top prize during the competition final held during Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week on Tuesday.
Urbanovitch has an eye towards use of natural and innovative fabrics in her ready-to-wear line. The French-born Raizonville — who studied and worked in design in Barcelona, Paris and New York before settling in Montreal — cites curiosity and interest in other cultures as central elements to her brand.
Both designers opted for a minimalist approach in their collections. Urbanovitch's line featured materials described as soft sueded silks with a collection encompassing yellow and charcoal hues. The range showcased graphic knit tanks and toppers, sleek pants and skirts in addition to an array of dresses in sleeved and tank-styles, notably a delicate, dusty rose number with tie-front detailing.
Raizonville showcased a contrast of both the refined and raw within her line, from the bold horizontal striping and peaked shoulders on sleeved dresses to the visible fraying on a sleeveless woven vest. Fitted jackets, a richly-hued burgundy shirtdress and shorts and a prim black sleeveless collared shirt adorned with white trim rounded out her collection.
Now in its third year, the Mercedes-Benz Start Up initiative seeks to offer a nationwide platform to discover and support emerging design talents who've been in business less than five years.
A cross-Canada search for up-and-comers consisted of stops in Calgary, Winnipeg, Laval, Que., and Kitchener, Ont., with semifinal runway shows held in each of the four cities.
Along with Urbanovitch, P.E.I. sibling duo Hilary and Louanna Murphy of clothing and accessories brand Dreamboat Lucy were also finalists in the 2012 contest.
Iranian-born, Montreal-based Pedram Karimi, Eliza Faulkner of Vancouver Island, Toronto's Hussein Dhalla of HD Homme and Jonathan Shimoni of Toronto-based lifestyles brand Faded rounded out the list of contenders.
The winning designers are slated to return to the Toronto catwalk for the next edition of Fashion Week to stage their own fully produced solo show, in addition to editorial support from Fashion Magazine and continued mentoring from industry experts.
Like Raizonville, the labels who were victorious in the previous two Mercedes-Benz Start Up contests are both Montreal-based.
In 2011, married design duo Danielle Martin and Pao Lim of Martin Lim took home top honours in the inaugural competition showcasing a series of fluid and feminine colour-blocked creations.
Duy Nguyen of ready-to-wear label DUY landed the top prize last year with a richly hued collection inspired by the 1980s. He returned to the Toronto runway in March to present his Canadian winter-inspired fall line.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version identified the Matiere Noire designer as Celine, rather than Cecile.