Canadians do it better
Canadians have long been cultural trendsetters; they just don’t like to brag about it. Here is your cheat sheet guide to the country’s unsung cultural heroes.
Creating fashion for your feet
From Beyonce to Madonna, John Fluevog’s footwear has been a favourite with style-conscious celebrities for decades. No prizes for guessing why; these are Statement Shoes with a capital S. Fluevog’s cutting edge designs include his Cubist Cupcake lace-up ankle boots. Made of distressed red velvet lined with gold leather, they feature a brushed silver roller buckle and an 8cm heel.
Looking for something for everyday wear? The Maui flats team a white noughts-and-crosses pattern on a black background with a pink lining. It’s not just big-city stylistas who love these shoes: you can find Fluevog stores right across Canada. As well as outlets in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, Fluevog has shops in Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City.
Putting on the biggest show on earth
When it comes to outside-the-square entertainment extravaganzas, Cirque du Soleil has cornered the market. This Quebec-based company is the largest theatrical producer in the world, with around 20 shows performing right across the globe at any given time. As the 90 million people that have caught a Cirque du Soleil performance known, each show is completely different from the next, blending acrobatics and theatrics with colourful costumes and daredevil staging.
They range from the water-based ballet of O, permanently on show in Las Vegas, to the steampunk fantasy of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, to productions celebrating the music of legends such as Michael Jackson and Elvis. The best way to experience a Cirque du Soleil production is under a big tent, like the one permanently positioned on the Montreal waterfront.
Equipping you for unforgettable adventures
Canadians have always been outdoor types, so it is no surprise that they produce some of the best adventure gear around. Take Arc’teryx, a company that started making equipment for climbers, but moved into clothes suitable for all types of wilderness adventures. Whether you are ice canyoning in Alberta, hiking the Yukon or camping beneath the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories, Arc’teryx’s line of reinvented essentials has you covered, with everything from shell jackets to base layers.
The company has even developed new materials to make the products more practical. Along the way, they have earned some serious style kudos, too: the launch of the Veilance menswear collection was featured on fashion website Mr Porter as well as style-savvy magazines such as Monocle and L’Uomo Vogue.
Conjuring up new worlds
Canada is home to some remarkable storytellers. The country’s best-known novelists include the likes of Rohinton Mistry and Yann Martel, but none can compete with the unique vision and finely-honed prose of Margaret Atwood. At the age of 77, an adaptation her dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale – set in a fundamentalist Christian dictatorship - is the year’s most talked-about television drama.
The novel has also flown back into the bestseller charts, resonating with readers dismayed by unfolding events in Trump’s America. Not bad for a novel that’s 30 years old. Atwood’s work has always been informed by her upbringing in the intellectually-open, cosmopolitan cities of Ottawa and Toronto, and she continues to produce novels that challenge and inspire.
Helping the stars shine
You may never have heard of fashion designer Mikhael Kale, but you have probably seen his work. Since singer and all-round role model Beyonce started wearing his pieces, Kale has hit the big time, and deservedly so. The young designer has built a reputation for creating wearable pieces of art made of contrasting materials – think studded leather teamed with delicate organza. His silhouettes are often striking, but it’s the detailing that really sets his pieces apart.
A dress may be festooned with 50 chiffon rosettes, for instance, each featuring 25 petals and trimmed with silver chains. Kale says he values the intimacy of handcrafting clothes.“It's really easy to lose momentum as a designer unless you’re really involved in the actual making of things.”
Providing the soundtrack to your life
Never been a fan of Canadian music? That’s what you think. Whichever way your musical tastes lean, you are like to have one or two Canadian artists on your playlist. Any of these ring a bell: Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Weeknd, Alanis Morrisette, Justin Bieber? They are all members of the “Oh, I didn’t realise they were Canadian” club. Much of their music reflects the landscapes in which they grew up.
The country twang of many of k.d.lang’s recordings, for instance, reflect the rural lifestyle of Alberta, where she grew up. Leonard Cohen’s music reflects the mores and milieu of his hometown of Montreal. His best-known song, Hallelujah - which has been recorded by more than 200 artists in a number of languages – was inspired the diversity of devotion he experienced as a Jew growing up in a Catholic community. K.
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