03/13/2013 12:06 EDT | Updated 05/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Milan-trained Matthew Gallagher's Fashion Week debut to feature twist on classics

TORONTO - A family vacation to Europe for his 21st birthday proved to be a life-altering experience for Matthew Gallagher when he noticed a design school in Milan.

Since wrapping up his studies in Italy, he's done fashion illustration work for Ports 1961 and a costume design internship with Ubisoft for the video game "Just Dance." Next up: unveiling his collection at Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week on March 21.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Gallagher dished on the pros and cons of life in Milan, what motivates him as a designer and which famed director's films helped to shape his sense of style.

CP: Why did you decide to launch your label in such a big way showing at Fashion Week?

Gallagher: It's something I've always wanted to do. I did internships after I graduated school. But I just felt the hours were so long and you're working so hard towards something for someone else that I just thought: 'I would rather be putting all of that time and effort into something that I wanted for myself.'

CP: What was it that inspired you to want to become a designer?

Gallagher: I was always into creative arts and drawing and a bit of acting, too, when I was a kid, and I realized I was way too shy to be in that industry. It's just something that I've always wanted to do.

CP: Who were some of your style influences as you were thinking about embarking on a career in fashion?

Gallagher: I watched a lot of old movies when I was a kid, like Hitchcock movies. So I've always been inspired by that kind of look. It was very serious yet still sexy and elegant and it was chic — it was just very put-together. I guess that's what really inspired me the most, and I always kind of reference that in everything I do.

CP: You decided you wanted to study abroad and got your certificate in fashion while in Milan. What was that experience like being educated in a fashion capital?

Gallagher: It was amazing. It was a great experience. I met lots of great people from all over the world and got to travel to so many different places in Europe. It's so easy there to go from one country to another, so it's really interesting to see all the different cultures together. So I think I learned a lot as a designer and even as a person. I became more mature and I just experienced stuff that I would have never experienced if I had stayed (in Canada).

CP: Are there any disadvantages to being a designer in Milan?

Gallagher: I think it's more a matter of (the fact) that it houses a lot of big names. So it's really hard to get in because Versace, Armani — all those companies are still very strong and they still are run by the people who started them. So it's kind of difficult to make a footing as a new designer.

CP: In deciding to launch your own label, did you have a specific woman in mind that you're designing for or a specific influence that you're tapping into?

Gallagher: It's just for a confident woman who wants to be modern yet elegant, put-together, but not too stuffy. Just nice and clean and prim.

CP: Can you give us a sneak peek or a hint of what we might be seeing in the way of colours or specific patterns that you'll be incorporating?

Gallagher: I'm really not so much a fan of patterns. I like tone on tone, and if there is something to add to it, I prefer embellishment to pattern. The colours are pretty straightforward. I chose a kind of oxblood red and black, white, cream — these more kind of neutral colours.

CP: Tell me about the fun side — and also the challenging side — of putting together a fashion show.

Gallagher: It was really difficult because it kind of happened all very fast. So I had an internship and I was like: 'OK, I've got this opportunity, now everything is put on hold.' I stopped my internship and I just began making everything from scratch for an entire 10-piece collection in the past month and a half. I've been working non-stop. It was a huge challenge, but it was also exciting to see what you're capable of after those years of studying and you really put yourself in it. And you start making the clothes and they're coming out exactly how you imagined. That was the good feeling.

CP: What are you most looking forward to about having people see your work for the first time?

Gallagher: I just hope that it's well-received and that people understand where it's coming from. I'm quite classic, I would say, but I do put in twists of different cuts or different seaming. I don't want to be seen as maybe too simple. I want people to really appreciate what it is they see.

CP: Have you given thought to where you'd like to see yourself five years from now?

Gallagher: Probably Europe because I've gotten the bug. I love Europe now. But I'm not really sure. It really depends how things go. I've been enjoying my time here in Toronto, and it's been nice to be home and see people. And everyone's so friendly and welcoming.


Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.


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