Photo by Stephan Villanueva @ www.stephanvillanueva.com
For most native Calgarians on the menswear scene, Paul Eli AKA @hipstagramlul needs no introduction. But for anybody who doesn't know, Paul is one of the most prominent and widely known menswear model to come out of the Calgary area as well as one of few to reach an international level. Working for Sophia Models International, Paul has modeled runway shows and brand campaigns for a wide variety of people including Wings & Horns, Wood Wood, Modern Menswear, Tiger of Sweden, and many more.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, circumstances conspired against us and I wasn't able to book my own photoshoot with Paul, so he provided me with various other awesome photography. Paul recently moved to Calgary from his native town of Red Deer, Alberta, giving regular people like myself the opportunity to meet and hang out with him more between events, and to get the following interview. In it, Paul discusses the past, present, and future of menswear in Calgary and throughout Canada, as well as his own path to getting involved with the scene and coming up in the men's fashion world. Lastly, be sure to check out all the photographer's websites after for some incredible YYC and nationwide menswear photography!
When and how did you first become involved in the Calgary menswear scene?
I first became involved in the Calgary menswear scene through my ventures as a model. I was living in Red Deer (studying) when I started modelling and in a sense - "blogging" about menswear through various social media outlets - such as Instagram. In the early stages of my career I was primarily focused on street wear and had not yet been introduced to (if you ask me) the finer side of men's fashion - menswear. It was not until late 2014 that I experienced my first runway show (Western Canada Fashion Week), in which 'menswear' was the focus.
I would say the most pivotal point in my transition from street wear to 'menswear' would have came when signed with local model agency - Sophia Models International, which gave me an outlet to work for various brands and stores which at heart thrive in the menswear market. In March 2015 my admiration for menswear was elevated when I was taken on as a Menswear Specialist at Leo Boutique here in Calgary - a great menswear store which focuses on both traditional menswear as well as more fashion forward brands out of both North America and Scandinavian countries.
How would you compare Calgary’s menswear scene to other major Canadian or American cities you’ve visited and worked in?
Compared to other major Canadian or American cities I've visited I find Calgary's menswear scene to be more traditional and less fashion forward. Although there are certain individuals/groups and brands/stores who push the envelop for men's fashion in Calgary, for the most part I believe Calgary's menswear scene to be a little more on the conservative side compared to cities like Montreal, Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. However, with that being said, the last year the menswear scene in Calgary has been much more forward and I'm very keen to see our future! One designer I highly recommend checking out and keeping up to date with is Spencer Badu (Calgary). I had the pleasure of working for him at this year's Park Show and he is doing some amazing things for the fashion scene in Calgary.
In the past three-five years, what do you think the biggest changes in our local menswear and men’s fashion culture have been? Who are some of the biggest local influencers in making these changes?
To be completely honest with you, I have next to no knowledge of how Calgary's menswear and men's fashion culture have developed over the past three to five years. I'm still quite new to this industry as a whole. With that being said, I'm confident in saying that social media and fashion blogs have helped push Calgary into being a more 'fashion-forward' metropolitan city. Calgary may be slower to progress than larger fashion centres, but we are making progress and it will be nice to see what comes in the next few years.
As far as local influencers, there are so many people that come to mind. First off Jon and Cornelia Wiebe of Leo Boutique have been at the fore front of Calgary's fashion scene for over a decade and I feel as though they've done a terrific job introducing Calgary to some rare labels which have previously not been seen in Calgary (such as Our Legacy, Ch., Han Kjobenhavn and Maison Kitsune). As far as bloggers go, my favourite influencer would be Lauren Larsen of Ensemble Style (personal shopping + styling) who does a terrific job of increasing the awareness of men's fashion throughout the city. I've worked with Lauren on numerous photo shoots and projects and she brings to the table an arsenal of skill with a keen eye for men's fashion - from a woman's perspective.
What do you think needs to happen in Calgary for our menswear scene to reach the level of other major Canadian fashion centres like Toronto?
Although I believe it all comes down to preference, personally, I think men need to think outside the box and be more confident with their style. There is no "to the book" styling guide; men just want to be comfortable both physically and mentally. I'm a firm believer that publications (Branded Magazine) and the work of fashion bloggers will inspire Calgarians to try something new - something they will feel comfortable in both mentally and physically. The next few years are going to be quite exciting.
Where do you see the Calgary menswear scene going in the next few years?
As previously mentioned Calgary's menswear scene is developing and I feel as though it is in the transitionary period between being business conservative (traditional) and becoming more fashion forward. It's really tough to predict, but if Calgary continues on the path she's on, it won't be much longer before we start making some serious noise in the men's fashion scene!