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Canadian designer behind Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau dresses 'floored' by spotlight

Last Updated Mar 11, 2016 at 5:33 am EDT

First Lady Michelle Obama, right, and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau share a laugh on the South Lawn of the White House on March 10, 2016. BLOOMBERG/Olivier Douliery.

Lucian Matis knew that Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau planned on wearing one of his dresses to the White House state dinner, but he had no idea the prime minister’s wife would bookend the first full day of the official visit to the U.S. donning two of his designs.

The Toronto-based designer was in a meeting and curious as to why his phone was buzzing incessantly. He soon discovered the answer as a flood of photos and social media posts streamed in from the welcoming ceremony at the White House on Thursday.

Gregoire-Trudeau was wearing a sleeved red dress embellished with orchids designed by Matis as she joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the event.

“I excused myself, I walked out, and I was floored. I was completely ecstatic. It was just an incredible experience,” Maris recalled in an interview.

Gregoire-Trudeau made a stylish splash later in the evening when she wore her second Matis design of the day. The cap-sleeved purple gown featured a keyhole cutout and was accented by intricate orange beading.

“I wanted to do something that (was) a classic piece, that’s elegant yet opulent in the sense of colour, so I chose the orange, fuchsia and purple colours together,” said Matis.

A photo posted by Natasha Koifman (@natashankpr) on

Gregoire-Trudeau accessorized her state dinner ensemble with other Canadian labels, including a handbag by Ela, Zvelle shoes, John de Jong earrings and a Dean Davidson ring.

Both of Gregoire-Trudeau’s dresses were from Matis’s spring-summer 2016 collection which he said is being shipped to stores next week.

Matis said it gave him “goosebumps” as he watched Gregoire-Trudeau on a livestream wearing his design at the state dinner.

“I thought she looked wonderful. I thought she looked very elegant. And it’s exactly what we were going for,” he said.

“We were going for something timeless that’s not too trendy, that’s not too fashion-forward.”

Matis was born in Blaj, Romania, and immigrated to Canada in 1999, where he studied fashion design at Ryerson University in Toronto. He launched his first collection in 2007, and has been a presence on the Toronto Fashion Week runway. Matis may also be familiar to TV viewers as the Season 1 runner-up on now-defunct design competition series “Project Runway Canada.”

“This is a guy I’ve really seen grow up in fashion,” said fashion journalist and TV host Jeanne Beker, who has followed the designer’s career from his graduation fashion show at Ryerson.

“(He’s) brilliantly talented and he really just makes a statement with the way he designs.”

Beker commended Gregoire-Trudeau’s efforts in helping to boost the profile of homegrown designers and fashion labels beyond Canada’s borders.

“She’s bringing an awareness to the type of talent that this country is certainly capable of and has been capable of for many, many years; but this is one arena that we haven’t had the chance to shine.”

Matis said he was at a loss for words at seeing images of his designs beamed around the world.

“I can’t even describe to you how thrilled I am to receive so much recognition. I work with a team and I want to make everybody proud.”


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