Fashion Designer


Denis Gagnon is unmistakable; you won’t catch him without his signature standout bold-frame black glasses. But what truly makes this Montreal designer unique are his exquisitely cool, modern designs that provocatively blur the line of gender, and his adoration for leather, which he works in ways you wouldn’t believe possible. He honed his talent by creating theatre costumes, and in 1993 he moved to Casablanca, Morocco to teach moulding. Back in Montreal, Gagnon to this day continues to create unique theatre costumes, but also makes pieces that unique women and men with their fingers on the fashion pulse all over Canada crave.

What was your “ah-hah” moment when you realized you wanted to be a designer?
Since my childhood. I didn't have a precise moment when I realized that, but I guess it has always been there.
How did you begin designing costumes for theatre?
Right after I graduated from Collège Lasalle, I had a small company with friends, and we got a contract to design for theatre.
What is it about the theatre that keeps you in the costume vein?
It all depends on the producer, but it is generally very creative. It brings a lot of excitement.
Who is the Denis Gagnon woman/man?
It's me, as a man or a woman: Denis or Denise.
What is the biggest difference in designing for men and women? Is there one?
Designing for women means much more freedom than for men. Basically, there are almost no limits for women, contrary to men, because you always have to think that it has to be sold, so it tends to be more conformist.
You often blur the line between genders in your pieces; how do you feel our idea of gender roles has changed in Canada? In how people dress?
I feel that the roles haven’t changed that much. It's still very conformist. If a man wears a pink tie, it doesn't necessarily mean there has been a big evolution.
What is it about leather that inspires you so much?
Because it's like a second skin, and I like the idea that, just like skin, it evolves with the ages.
You had a very successful collection with Lancome; what do you enjoy most about collaborations?
I enjoyed it a lot as it was like discovering a different area of fashion: beauty. And it made me think of having my own beauty line, like most big designers.
Can we expect more collaborations from you in the future?
I hope so!
How would you describe the culture of fashion in Montreal?
It’s very open, although there is still a lot to do; but we feel people are being more and more ready to explore fashion and designers, and want to wear more designer pieces; and thanks to Internet, fashion tends to be more accessible.
If you could show anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Paris, of course.
How do you feel about fashion’s increasing role in technology and social media? How has technology changed fashion from your perspective?
I think it brought a lot of positive things. Now you can live in Alaska and still be popular around the world with your designs, thanks to a good website and Internet.
You are well-known for your signature glasses; how did those come about?
A friend of mine had them. I liked them, so I told her that they didn't look good on her and would be better on me, and she gave them to me.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I don’t exactly know, but I would still be in arts, I think.
What song is currently paused on your music player?
Mazzy Star. Even if it's old, I feel it's always contemporary, just like Portishead; relaxing tunes. Although I can also listen to Blondie, The Cure or Billy Idol, when I'm in the mood for it.
Any advice for aspiring designers?
To try their luck abroad before it's too late, as here the market is way too small.