When he was a visual arts student at Cégep François-Xavier-Garneau in Quebec City, Dick Walsh got a summer job at the Eaton‘s store in Sainte-Foy, dressing mannequins. Six months later, he was hired as a window dresser at the Eaton’s on St. Catherine Street in Montreal. Shortly thereafter, in 1976 when he was barely 20, he became the window director, overseeing a staff of 36 employees.
Bursting with creativity in a conservative milieu, he started a small revolution in the art of window displays in Montreal.
He began using more realistic mannequins, transforming the simple display of objects into a staged scene where the décor itself provided dramatic structure. During his time at Eaton’s, he co-ordinated dozens of fashion shows for the department store.
In the mid-1970s, Dick Walsh also helped organize runway shows with Iona Monahan and Roberte Bolduc. He was notably Roberte Bolduc’s assistant for the last edition of Auto-Élégance, an event combining cars and high fashion in the Laurentians at the Hotel Mont Gabriel in 1979. Let go by Eaton’s in 1981 for having put together a display that the management found too provocative, Walsh became a freelance window display artist for Bloomingdale’s in New York, Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Shiseido in Tokyo. In the 1980s, Dick Walsh started offering his services as a freelance artistic director, branching out into other fields. However, to this day, his work remains very closely associated with the world of fashion. For 10 years, he worked on contracts from around the world and travelled extensively, primarily between Montreal and Paris.
He worked as a photo shoot coordinator, for magazines such as Marie Claire, Vogue and Elle.
He staged runway shows by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaïa and Claude Montana in Paris, and shows by Geoffrey Beene and Calvin Klein in New York. In Quebec, he was a stylist for campaigns by Browns Shoes and occasionally designed advertising campaigns and images. In addition, for several years he was the art director of the men’s fashion pages for The Gazette newspaper. He produced fashion shows for Lily Simon, the North American Fur and Fashion Exposition of Montreal (NAFFEM), and Quebec’s most popular designers. One of Dick Walsh’s favourite jobs was Rendez-vous ’87, five days of festivities in Quebec City featuring two hockey games between the Canadian and Russian teams. He organized a fashion show for the occasion which became a major event itself, attracting 6,000 people and the attention of Good Morning America.
From 1990 to 1994, as head of the fashion section for the magazine Elle Québec, Dick Walsh gave the impression that he was settling down. However, he returned to freelance work in 1995 when he created a “fairy tale” décor for Céline Dion’s wedding. Then, in 1996, even though he would have liked to stay in Montreal, he moved to New York City where there was a greater demand for his expertise. He has nonetheless continued to work in Montreal ever since, and was the designer and director of a special event during the Fashion & Design Festival/Festival Mode & Design on St. Lawrence Boulevard in 2001 and 2002. Under the name of his company Walsh Lab Design, founded over a decade ago, Dick Walsh has been behind many recent memorable gala and fashion events in Montreal and further afield. For example, he was the artistic director of the Crazy Horse Paris world tour that began in 2011, artistic director and exhibition designer for the Musée Grévin in 2011, organizer and producer of the launch of the Carine Roitfeld makeup collection for MAC in 2012 and the opening night of the first Piaget boutique in Moscow in 2014, and the artistic director and designer of an exhibition of 30 dresses by Guo Pei at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris. He also works very closely with fashion designer Denis Gagnon.
Cynthia Cooper, McCord Museum