SHOP TALK: Guest blogger Vanessa Ortynsky goes behind the scenes at Ottawa Fashion Week
Shop Talk

SHOP TALK: Guest blogger Vanessa Ortynsky goes behind the scenes at Ottawa Fashion Week

This week SHOP TALK’s guest blogger Vanessa Ortynsky tags along with key Ottawa Fashion Week players as they prep for the upcoming event. From TV appearances to finance meetings, it’s all in a day’s work for these busy organizers.

Models strike a pose on Daytime while designer Geneviève Lima and PR lead Kimberly McCarthy talk Ottawa Fashion Week.

At the helm of OFW Spring/Summer 2013 is beauty guru Bruno Racine. An OFW veteran, Racine has held the position of creative director for the past eight seasons. This October, the heart of Little Italy plays host to this much-anticipated event, which features 21 local and international designers. Preparations have already been underway for months when I catch up with Racine, plus PR coordinator Kimberly McCarthy, and designer Geneviève Lima at The Loft — Racine’s salon and spa — a few days before OFW kicks off. This seems to be the place to be, as the salon is abuzz with stylists and long-limbed models who are prepping for Lima’s TV appearance on Daytime with Lois Lee and Derick Fage.

While the models are in hair and makeup, I sit down with Racine to discuss his role as creative director. He says the biggest misconception about the job is the amount of time he puts into it. People don’t realize that the job “is ongoing, and it’s full-time. Two weeks leading up to the event, I don’t sleep. At all.” He’s constantly networking, answering emails, conducting business meetings, and attending Fashion Weeks around the world. “Initially, when we started eight seasons ago, [the job of creative director consisted of] hair and makeup, coordinating the beauty team, and creating looks for the designers. Now it’s evolved into the entire production of the show.” Racine and McCarthy, the PR lead, are thankful for the numerous volunteers who help organize the bi-annual, non-profit event. “Everyone involved loves the event; they do it because they believe in it,” says Racine.

Always on the lookout for new talent, OFW has an unapologetically local feel, and aims to represent designers from the area. One such designer is Geneviève Lima, who will be showing her debut collection Goddess of the Night at OFW this Friday at 8 p.m. If she’s nervous, she doesn’t let on, talking instead about her eco-friendly design philosophy. She also raves about the four models she’s chosen to accompany her on her Daytime television debut. About her collection, she says, “Each dress is named after a goddess, and is largely inspired by travel.”

Despite Lima’s broken necklace and too-small shoes for Hesther, one of the models, the Daytime segment runs smoothly. Meanwhile, I probe Racine and McCarthy as to the most glamorous part of their jobs. Both agree that the end result is what makes all the hard work worthwhile. “The shows themselves are exciting, as is bringing everyone together — retail buyers, media partners, industry members, and sponsors, along with the amazing designers,” explains McCarthy. The UNICEF show, which ends the week and features one look from each designer, is another highlight. “We have local celebrities walking in it, and $10 from each Sunday night ticket sale goes to the UNICEF water program,” says McCarthy. Solange Tuyishime, UNICEF spokesperson and Miss Canada Galaxy 2011, will be introducing the final show on Sunday.

For this season of OFW, the organizers want to integrate the event into the surrounding community. As such, there will be live music by local talent before and after the shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On the bill: Yanis Khasmi, Erin Saoirse Adair, Justice R.F., Zoo Legacy, Renee Landry, and more. Local celebs and political figures will also be in attendance throughout the week (Erica Wark, local fashion blogger — and an Ottawa Magazine contributor — will be walking in the shows, along with personalities from CTV and Majic 100). The Preston Street sign has even been replaced with an official Ottawa Fashion Week sign.

The main fashion shows take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday at Sala San Marco. Day passes on Friday and Saturday $45, Sunday $55. Tickets available at