By Annie Arnone
Ryerson fashion grad Lucian Matis was in a meeting when his phone suddenly started ringing, and it wouldn’t stop. Moments before the Toronto designer sat down with a client, Sophie-Grégoire Trudeau arrived at the U.S.-Canada state dinner — alongside Barack Obama and the first lady — wearing an original piece designed by the Ryerson graduate himself. Matis excused himself from the room to silence his phone, only to find what he described as dozens of messages “pouring in,” of people requesting interviews.
“[My team] put in all of our efforts to make Canada proud,” said Matis.
He was in contact with Jessica Mulroney — Grégoire-Trudeau’s stylist and daughter-in-law of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — prior to the Washington state dinner, and was aware that the purple evening dress would be worn by the Prime Minister’s spouse, but was unaware of the fact that she would also wear the day-dress he designed.
“I actually grabbed the last piece on my way out, it was kind of the last add on into the pile and it ended up being the dress [she wore]” said Matis. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
The designer met with Grégoire-Trudeau two weeks prior to the dinner in Toronto for a fitting.
“It was a very sweet meeting,” he said.
He explained that Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau was an exception. Her positive and down-to-earth outlook on picking an outfit was a breath of fresh air for the designer — who typically deals with opinionated celebrities.
“I felt very included,” he said. “Celebrities usually have more of an edge or an attitude but she would say, ‘Lets work together, let’s make this the best we can.’”
Matis drew from spring patterns for the dresses, and initially began with paintings of flowers, which then became appliqués, seperate fabric sewed or embroidered on, designed to line the dresss. The fabric was complimented by both light and saturated colours.
“Gardens in bloom were the colours that inspired the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, therefore most detailing and colours were bright, bold and gorgeous,” explained Matis. Specifically found in the daywear dress -— a fitted short dress completed in flowers — consistent with the evening wear dress design.
After immigrating from Romania in 1999, Matis was drawn to the fashion industry and was embraced by Ryerson as a new student.
“I went to Europe once and I got a job there, but the pace wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel like home, so I had to come back,” he said. “[Canada] felt like home to me.”
After graduating in 2003, Matis worked in various positions with companies such as Urban Behavior and Sirens, where he learned skills as a designer and a buyer — skills he did not gain until after he graduated from school.
“I created my job — in the last nine years I’ve been working for myself, but the companies I have worked for in the past taught me things that school didn’t,” he said.
The designer has been recently nominated for a Canadian Art and Fashion Award.
“I feel very honoured,” said Matis. “These are the Oscars of our industry in Canada. I’m honoured to get the recognition. If I win or not, being narrowed down to top four or five is quite an honour.”