Launched in May 2015, mmode brings together all sectors of the fashion world (suppliers, manufacturers, stores, designers) in order to join forces to stimulate the growth and competitiveness of their industry.
INTERVIEW WITH DEBBIE ZAKAIB, GENERAL DIRECTOR OF MMODE – THE METROPOLITAN FASHION CLUSTER AND COLUMNIST
1) As the CEO of mmode, what is your role exactly?
The mandate of the mmode cluster is to stimulate the growth of the fashion industry in Montreal, and to improve the competitiveness by acting as the main platform of exchange and collaboration in Quebec. As the CEO, I’m in some way the conductor that ensures the implementation of the cluster’s mission through its operationalization and the achievements of its four primary areas, strategically chosen to address important issues of the industry. I also act as a unifying agent for the industry and promote opportunities for synergies, collaborations and networking. My team and I hope to act as a primary point of information and as the link between the cluster and its members, the industry, the different levels of government and the financial partners.
2) How would you describe the dynamic between the players of the different fashion sectors to the cluster?
Currently there is a certain craze and a beautiful energy around the idea of collaboration. The collaboration overrides the competition: with the current labor and technology issues, the issues about the image of the industry and the market expansion, the industry would like to find ways to act collectively in a more substantial and structured manner.
3) Based on your experience and your knowledge of the environment, what is unique here in Montreal according to you? How does the city of Montreal stand out in the fashion industry internationally?
The personality of the Quebec people is evident in their clothing and in the way of doing business! We are unique through our heritage, our geo-location, our seasons, our nordicity, our ingenuity, our culture, our languages, our natural resources, our cultural diversity, our joy of life, our creativity, our festivals, our openness towards the world, our pride, etc … Quebec people are super creative, passionate and have an ingenious spirit which is accordingly reflected in the designs and business models that are innovative, smart and unique. But we have to work together to strengthen the image of the industry’s branding and of Montreal as an important and worldwide recognized fashion city.
4) We know that the fashion industry is a difficult domain and requires considerable perseverance. In your opinion, what are the key issues the fashion industry is facing? Are there specific challenges in the international department?
The fashion industry in Montreal is now facing a global competition. To ensure the sustainability and growth of our industry, we have to work together to find and implement solutions for the ecosystem’s main issues. The primary areas that have been identified and on which we are focusing are the image of the industry, labor, integration of new technologies, investment support and development of the international markets.
5) Ecological values are more and more important, the second-hand clothing industry is booming. What do you think of this industry?
Several researches to find better alternatives and environmentally friendly materials are underway. I think that momentum is super positive! Our research institutions are very active and work closely with the industry to develop innovative products. The young people are mobilizing to make a difference by implementing ecological and responsible business models. We also have Quebec companies that are world-class leaders in the integration of new processes and components and eco-friendly textiles.
6) What do you think of the challenge of buying local in Quebec?
I think it is very advantageous for the Quebec people to buy locally. We have to educate the entire population on the benefits for the society if we favor our local productions. From our side we also have to help the consumers by putting more emphasis on local products, attracting them with bigger display windows and making our local products more accessible. The mmode cluster is just in time: the energies are converging in this direction and the cluster is here to push the idea.
7) You are involved in many causes, how do you choose your mandates and how do you manage your energy and your time to fulfill these missions that you give yourself? We would like to know your secret!
I feel very privileged and pampered by life. I try to live in a balanced way; to grow professionally, and enjoy the pleasures of life with my family and friends. And I also make time to give back to the community around me by being involved in different causes I’m passionate about. Everything related to creativity stimulates me, inspires me and gives me energy to complete my projects. I enjoy being invested with the young people, the next generation, and also in the field of culture and arts, such as the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal, and the Contemporary Art Fair of Saint-Lambert. I also like to promote initiatives that showcase Quebec and Montreal, and encourage our local talents.
8) You’re also known to be a great art collector. Do you also collect designer clothes for pleasure?
My husband and I are indeed very passionate about contemporary art. We are interested in and we like to encourage local creations and products, be it art, design, fashion, architecture, gastronomy, culture, etc. For me clothes are an extension of oneself, and a way of personal expression. I like to choose pieces that “feel” like me, that highlight my personality, that allow me to express myself, and that reflect who I am.
9) In your opinion, is fashion an art? If so, how is it different from other art forms / mediums (painting, photography, theater, digital)?
Any form of creativity and self-expression is somehow reflecting who we are and thereby a form of art. The different eras have shown us that fashion trends have managed to reflect the way of thinking in that exact moment. The designs and materials used in the conception of the clothes or accessories express different perceptions of the world. For me fashion design is an art form: the act of choosing a garment for yourself is a form of self-expression.
10) Last but not least, do you have a favorite place you could suggest to people who are interested in discovering local designers?
There are different places to buy clothes from local designers and manufacturers. You can purchase them on their websites, in their workshops, or in local boutiques and retail stores. “Fibres collectives” for example, allows you to discover and purchase clothes from local designers. The “Cabinet éphémère” – at Ogilvy right now until the end of December – is a great platform to see the creations of several designers in one spot. Also look for the Montreal fashion pin logo on the boutique windows.
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