Shop Talk is written by OM senior editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, OM account executive and fashion maven.
When we first heard that Ottawa Fashion Week (OFW) was moving to Sala San Marco, we were confused. Sure, we could pull up an image of the Preston Street hall in our mental map, but it involved memories of lunch dates, not runway shows.
So, as OFW takes their presentation out of the downtown core for the first time in its history, we chat with one of the original visionaries behind the show: founder and executive producer Hussein Rashid.
“It’s all about really getting more involved, it’s about taking the event to the community,” explains Hussein. “We wanted a space that people live near.” The venues available downtown, he says, have restrictions that his team found difficult to work around.
(We asked about the National Gallery, a personal favourite. Hussein agrees the space offers a unique, magical atmosphere, but said the fact it’s also a public space with opening hours to maintain posed certain challenges.)
On the other hand, Preston Street offers the chance for OFW to literally stop traffic.
A stretch of the Corso Italia outside the hall will be shut down from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for what Hussein calls “an art-based event” aimed at engaging the community at large. Between the tented marketplace (where the vendors set up) and the Sala San Marco (where the runway shows take place), the plan is to stage a tribute to Andy Warhol. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the death of the pop art king — and in connection with OFW partner, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa — large-scale prints of pop icons will adorn the street. Passersby will be encouraged to ‘edit’ the images, which will be judged at the end of the three-day fashion event.
Hussein sees all of this as something of an “educational process,” a way to bring in the general consumer who might not think of coming to a fashion-focused event. He describes it as less of a trade show, more of a festival. “This year, expect more.”
So far, he says, the ticket sales reflect an interest in the new venue. “We do so well at adapting. It’s one of the reasons people buy tickets, to see how we’re going to adapt to that space.”
As for how they’ll adapt a space known for Italian weddings into the backdrop for cutting-edge fashion, Hussein says their goal is to reflect the larger trend that sees runways to reflect the space. For the Sala San Marco, that means playing off the baroque trend in creative ways.
Sure, he adds, maybe one day OFW will evolve into a massive event that will require a permanent home. But until that day comes, Hussein and his team will have some fun bringing runway fashions to the rank and file.