Fashioning a vision for art at AXENÉO7

Models changing for the shooting

When does art become fashion? Or, to flip that aesthetic coin, when does fashion become art?

Answers may be found at AXENÉO7 in Gatineau on March 28 when arts and fashion come together to raise money for the artist-run centre’s programs. Seventeen artists and designers from the region have collaborated with event artistic directors Stefan St-Laurent and Anykrystel Coppet to create wearable art.

“I’m a bit atypical in what I define to be visual art,” says St-Laurent, the AXENÉO7 director. “Designers, such as Comme des garcons and others, are pushing fashion in ways that redefine what we label fashion or sculpture.” At the fundraiser, “some fashions will be quite wearable and trendy, while others will be much more sculptural and experimental.”

St-Laurent and Coppet — the special events co-ordinator at AXENÉO7 and, St-Laurent says, a veteran of the fashion art scene in Lyon, France — chose the Ottawa-Gatineau artists for Rive Gauche. (St-Laurent acknowledges the event name, alluding to the fashionable Left Bank of Paris, “is a bit tongue and cheek . . . given that Gatineau and Ottawa are not particularly known for their fashion savvy.”)

He adds: “We wanted to spotlight regional artists, in particular our Gatineau-based members. We chose artists whose works could reproduce well as motifs on material and clothing. … Participants were asked to provide images and documents of past or new work that would be placed on various garments.”

The artists approved samples of the clothing and accessories, made by the sustainable, fair-trade American company Print All Over Me.

“There are many fashion-forward garments, such as AM Dumouchel’s dresses and blazers, with digital works that have never been shown publicly before,” St-Laurent says. “First Nations artist Caroline Monnet, originally from Aylmer, has also created a line of clothing with strong black and white motifs, including a show-stopping pantsuit.”  (Surely the first description of an AXENÉO7 to include the phrase “show-stopping pantsuit.”)

Rive Gauche will be the centre’s first fundraiser in more than 10 years, St-Laurent says.

“We wanted to create a fundraising event that was totally unique, not relying on donations of artworks for sale or silent auction, which appears to be going out of favour.” All three exhibition spaces at AXENÉO7 will be “transformed into a giant runway,” he says.

In some ways, Rive Gauche will be like a recent example of  another Ottawa artist’s motifs becoming wearable. The painter and sculptor Christoper Griffin’s graffiti-esque animals were emblazoned on the clothing of international designer Stella Jean, and featured at Fashion Week in Milan.

Rive Gauche’s wearable art will be more accessible than are the heights of European fashion. Though only 125 tickets will be sold for the fashion show on March 28, all items will be available for order online for one month, with proceeds going to AXENÉO7.

“People will be able to buy garments on the night of the event, and will also be able to order in a wide range of sizes, XS to XXL, which was a priority for us. Models will represent to beautiful diversity of our population.”

Because people, like art and fashion, come in all shapes and sizes.

For more information on purchasing tickets ($50) or fashions, and for a complete list of artists participating, see the Rive Gauche event page on Facebook, or visit .

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Peter Simpson, a native of Prince Edward Island, was arts editor and arts editor at large for the Ottawa Citizen for 15 years, with a focus on the visual arts. He lives in downtown Ottawa with one wife, two cats and more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures.