TORONTO – Award-winning Canadian designer Pat McDonagh, whose legendary fashion career spanned more than half a century, has died. She was 80.
In a phone interview with The Canadian Press, McDonagh’s brother, Michael, confirmed his elder sister’s passing early Saturday morning in Toronto after battling terminal cancer.
The eldest of four children, Patricia McDonagh was born in Harpurhey in North Manchester, England on St Patrick’s Day, 1934.
She studied at Loreto Convent, Moss Side followed by a period spent at Manchester University before making her foray into fashion as a model in the late 1950s, appearing in magazines and on TV working in both Paris and the U.K.
In 1960, McDonagh married Granada TV director David Main. After having two kids – Louisa and Dominic – McDonagh opened trendsetting boutiques in Horwich and Worlsey, Lancashire. After her husband took up a post at the CBC, McDonagh made the move across the Atlantic to join him in 1966 where the couple welcomed a third child, Kate.
Not long after arriving in Canada, McDonagh opened her first shop in downtown Toronto and then started designing her own unique creations. She distinguished herself by crafting glamorous garments showcasing innovation in textile techniques. As the business grew, she opened a factory, and her creations were sold in Canada, as well as by New York’s Bloomingdale’s, Bonwit Teller, Henri Bendel and other stores across North America.
McDonagh was one of the co-founders of what is now known as the Fashion Design Council of Canada — the previous owners and producers of Toronto’s Fashion Week.
Among her many accolades were The New York Times award for design excellence in 1992, best shoe award from the Bata Shoe Museum in 2000, and a lifetime achievement award from the Fashion Design Council of Canada in 2003.
Among the notable women who wore her designs was Michaelle Jean. While serving as governor general, Jean wore a military-inspired, McDonagh-designed coat to welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to Canada in 2009.
McDonagh was a regular presence in showcases for charitable and awareness-building causes.
She was among the designers who participated in the recent Dare to Wear Love fashion show in Toronto. The event raises funds and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports organizations providing care and support to women, orphaned children, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS.
In 2007, she was among the designers who showcased creations with conscience in an environmentally themed runway show held during Toronto’s Fashion Week that was organized by Fashion Takes Action.
McDonagh said at the time that it was important for fellow designers to use their talents for a greater purpose.
“I think we’re given the glory of walking down a runway and everything that goes with it, but I think at the same time that as a designer you have a responsibility to use that platform to do something a little more than showing off.”
McDonagh is survived by her three children, her brother Michael, sister Bernadette, and three grandchildren.
Michael McDonagh said funeral arrangements are in the process of being made and that McDonagh’s body will be laid to rest in England.