Born in Montreal in 1946, Francine Monette studied interior design at the Institut des arts appliqués, followed by couture training at the Cotnoir Capponi school of fashion design in Montreal. In 1966, she started displaying her knit creations at Boutique Soleil in Old Montreal and presenting her collections to the press.
In 1968, she began using her married name, Francine Vandelac, and opened her eponymous store at 1459 Crescent Street in Montreal.
As a designer specialized in knitwear, she quickly made a name for herself in Quebec fashion, even bringing out a book about knitting in 1972: Le tricot : “maille, maille,… que c’est pâmant” published by Éditions de l’Homme.
In 1971, she closed her store and moved her atelier to McGill Street so she could expand her business and sell her high-end men’s and women’s clothing to shops and department stores across Canada.
She supervised a team of 65 employees who followed her patterns to produce her creations. She participated in the 1973, 1974 and 1976 editions of Montréal Mode, an event for buyers and fashion media modelled on European fashion weeks. Her distinctive niche earned her the nickname “the knitter of Quebec” and glowing articles in both the Canadian and American press. When the Quebec Government House invited her to New York City to present her collections, her creations were featured in the display windows of Bonwit Teller on New York’s Fifth Avenue and in those of Holt Renfrew on Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street. During this same period, she received annual awards for “Creative Excellence” and “Dynamism in Fashion” from the Quebec Ministère de l’Industrie et du Commerce.
Francine Vandelac also made costumes for cabaret shows staged at Montreal’s Château Champlain and in Nassau, The Bahamas, and created costumes for various Radio-Canada productions and Canadian and American films. She wrote a knitting column for Madame magazine and produced collections of patterns for knitting wool and yarn companies.
In addition to working in fashion, she created wall hangings using a variety of fibres and presented several solo tapestry exhibitions in Quebec, New York City and Washington, DC. She also designed and produced a large woven wool wall hanging, which was commissioned during the construction of Complexe Desjardins in Montreal.
She created promotional clothing for Dominion Textile, notably a collection for the company’s 75th anniversary in 1980, which was a retrospective of 75 years of Quebec fashion history. This collection was the subject of a TV special about the history of Quebec fashion broadcast on the TVA network on December 25 in 1980 and 1981.
In 1980, she proposed something new: knitted fur clothing. From 1982 to 1990, she brought her unique creations to the annual runway shows of Quebec designers and sold her clothing in several high-end stores and to private clients.
In the 1990s, Francine Vandelac became an art gallery director and exhibited her textile works. From 2008 to 2014, she created collections of recycled textile accessories and jewellery.
She has been the subject of two retrospectives: Totalement maille, presented in 2014 at the Costume and Textile Museum of Quebec, highlighted her creations from the 1960s and 1970s, while another exhibition was organized in 2016 as part of Les Journées de la culture in Piedmont. She was still making clothing and jewellery for private clients in 2019.
Carter, Joyce. « FRANCINE » The Globe and Mail, 5 juillet 1973.
« Francine Vandelac : Sa mode tricot a séduit les américains » Photo-journal, 16 au 22 juillet 1973, p. 6.
Iona Monahan, « Francine’s Knitting Needles Make Fur Fly » The Gazette, 23 septembre 1980.