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Prêt-à-porter by a fine arts grad

The stylings of Montreal fashion designer Lucas Stowe
February 18, 2021
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Lucas Stowe walks the runway as the crowd claps Lucas Stowe, BFA 14, launched his eponymous clothing line in 2016.

Fashion designer Lucas Stowe, BFA 14, has been turning heads on the runway as founder and artistic director of Montreal-based label Lucas Stowe, as well as behind the scenes at multinational ALDO Shoes, where he designs their bestselling ladies dress collections.

Lucas Stowe “To be able to grow and learn at Concordia and in an exciting city like Montreal helped me transition from student life to career life,” says Stowe.

Beginning his professional design career at Travis Taddeo, Stowe transitioned to M0851 then Matt & Nat before joining the ALDO Group. He launched his eponymous clothing label in 2016 and was a featured designer in the 2020 digital edition of Montreal Fashion Preview.

A graduate of Concordia’s Department of Design and Computation Arts, with a major in design, he recently sat down to talk about his fashion journey.

How did you get into fashion design?

Lucas Stowe: I went to F.A.C.E., a fine arts-focused high school in Montreal. I did painting and sculpting, then applied for Concordia’s Design program, which is pretty broad. My last semester, I studied abroad in Paris at École Boulle and that changed my life. I went to Paris Fashion Week and decided that was what I wanted to do for a living.

When I returned home to Montreal, I had a seamstress teach me how to make garments. I did another semester abroad in London, England, at the London College of Fashion and studied footwear design. Fashion became my passion. That's how I started.

You began your Lucas Stowe brand designing clothes for both men and women.

LS: I play with gender but don't really think about it. It’s not women’s or men’s fashion. It’s not gendered, really. The word I like to use to describe it is “gender-full”. A lot of people in fashion use the term “genderless” and I hate that word. It insinuates that there is a lack of gender. For me, it's really the opposite. I celebrate all genders.

Designer Lucas Stowe and colleague prepare for a fashion show. Designer Lucas Stowe and a colleague prepare for a fashion show.

What appeals to you about gender-full fashion design?

LS: Honestly, it really speaks to me. I am part of the LGBTQ community, I'm gay, most of my friends are queer. I can't grasp the idea of gendered fashion. I hope my fashion helps free you to be who you want to be. When I put clothes on people, I’m like, 'What looks good on this body shape or skin tone? What is this person leaning towards? Let's try it on.'

How does your queer identity inform your work?

LS: I started off making clothing for myself because I disliked men’s fashion. I hate going to a party and everyone has the same outfit. I made many original pieces that reflected my queer identity. I have a lot of friends who are drag queens or like to dress up. My fashion sense reflects my own tastes and that of my friends.

In fashion, how important is personal style?

LS: A lot of people don’t know much about fashion and don’t care. They don’t know about colour theory or how to dress their body. It’s really complicated, especially if your body is not the commercial body type. Clothing is made for models, so it’s really hard to dress if you don’t have that body type. So the more knowledge you have, the better you look. At the end of the day, I just want to make people look good and feel good.

At ALDO, you design ladies’ footwear. How does a man design shoes for women?

LS: People ask me that question often and I say, 'I wear heels all the time!' I wore heels to the grocery store yesterday. Heels are 3D objects, like sculptures. You think about the engineering behind it. If everything works well technically — the upper pattern and the shape — you don't need to know how to wear a shoe to make a beautiful shoe.

How do you design new shoes for each season?

LS: We’re a huge team. We have line builders who research sales. They give us what we call a product architecture, which is thought through with buyers in mind, tailored for each market. For example, there’s international, Middle East, U.S. and Canada. Each has different needs.

There’s a lot of sampling and colour trials, a lot of back and forth. I basically choose the colour, pattern and heel height. There are literally 10 people trying on shoes before we go into production. It’s a long and comprehensive process, but it’s super fun.

How did your time and studies at Concordia help shape you and your career?

LS: Concordia was a time of discovery. In university, you're so young. I was discovering who I was, my point of view, developing my tastes. There were a lot of really interesting and smart teachers who helped point the way. To be able to grow and learn at Concordia and in an exciting city like Montreal helped me transition from student life to career life.

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