The Fashion & Design Festival (FDF) is a major outdoor event in Montreal that, as its name suggests, brings together fashion and design, along with music, dance, visual arts and various performances. In addition to presenting outdoor runway shows and live performances, FDF organizes conferences that enable attendees to meet major international fashion icons and discover emerging alternative artists. As of 2018, it had six days of scheduled programming.
Founded in 2001 under the name Sensation Design, FDF was initially a three-day event organized on Montreal’s St. Lawrence Boulevard to coincide with the Canadian Grand Prix in early June. The project was an initiative of Groupe Sensation Mode (GSM), which is run by Chantal Durivage and Jean-François Daviau. Right from the start, FDF put fashion front and centre by scheduling a runway show featuring 20 Quebec designers, including Georges Lévesque, Hélène Barbeau and Marie Saint Pierre.
In 2004, the event was officially named the Fashion & Design Festival and moved to McGill College Avenue in downtown Montreal.
Wanting to play up the inclusive, accessible nature of fashion, FDF decided to organize open casting calls to audition models from the public at large, rather than through agencies.
This method of recruitment has become a Festival tradition. Another addition in 2004 was the Montréal Griffé group fashion show that brings together a number of local designers and brands.
FDF’s efforts to spotlight Montreal talent do not stop at fashion. Over the years, it has worked with institutions like the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Opéra de Montréal. Many singers, DJs and bands have also taken part in various shows and runway events. In addition, FDF has developed a social and philanthropic component over time.
For example, it has championed the cause of homeless women by supporting Le Chaînon, a women’s shelter, and has encouraged body diversity in the fashion industry.
Since 2010, the event has included a runway show to highlight the beauty of all body types. That same year, FDF changed dates and moved to the month of August.
Though FDF aims to showcase Montreal’s cultural identities, it also includes a major international element. This is typified by the presence of honorary presidents from outside the country, like designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Nathalie Rykiel, the daughter of designer Sonia Rykiel. A lecture series, added to the schedule in 2014, brings in prestigious experts from around the world. Stéphane Leduc, the curator of these public talks, has interviewed Scott Schuman, a street photographer and blogger of The Sartorialist; Patricia Field, costume designer for the series Sex and the City; designer Hervé Léger-Leroux; artist Jean-Michel Othoniel; and François Demachy, the “nose” behind Dior perfumes.
In 2014, FDF also changed locations again and moved to the Place des Festivals. That year, Montreal’s Fashion Week merged with FDF to create the new Collections event, headed by renowned curators like French blogger Garance Doré and British milliner Stephen Jones.
As of 2018, the Fashion & Design Festival was still in operation and preparing for its next edition.