This Canadian designer proves that he's ready for success with a collection that's sexy, sharp and full of life.
As a boy who liked to draw, Arthur MendonÃ§a sketched clothes and starships. With fashion being more doable than interstellar space travel - if only slightly so - he became a designer. He launched his label in 2002 and received a welcome as quick, warm and enthusiastic as any young Canadian talent had previously known.
From the uncomplicated gown in gold jersey (the first piece ever shot by a magazine) to the curvy skirt and gold bustier (the first of many outfits worn by Nelly Furtado, including the royal-blue jersey dress at this year's Grammy Awards) to the little dress in gold sequins (worn by pop star Mya at last year's Fashion Cares gala in Toronto, where she took to the stage and issued the order "Stand back and watch this chick"), MendonÃ§a has been true to his code. He has made a motto out of "bold, polished and sexy," which is how his official bio describes his designs. Just as consistently, his default setting is an endearing air of wonder and a shy laugh.
But in MendonÃ§a's seemingly soft nature, there is also flinty resolve. Determined to succeed internationally, he is represented by sales agents in New York who are in contact with buyers globally and has a publicist on retainer there as well. In the United States, he has 10 accounts - and wants more. Having already braved Los Angeles Fashion Week once, scoring an acclaimed "terrific" from Women's Wear Daily, the 32-year-old MendonÃ§a was on the February calendar of fall 2008 shows in Manhattan.
MendonÃ§a's studio is located in his native Toronto in a post-and-beam loft building in a part of town that has been branded a village and pitched to types that think themselves creative. For his own personal image-building, MendonÃ§a doesn't go for blatant marketing.
His muscular frame speaks for itself, and you wouldn't know that the cardigan, T-shirt, jeans and boots he wears are by Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith, Levi's and Costume National unless you asked.
When you do ask questions, MendonÃ§a's answers are matter-of-fact. He responds to both fleeting and deeply felt matters with a remarkable evenness of temper that reveals nothing more than what was intended. Where's that barking coming from? "Through the window, from a dog out in the laneway." Is MendonÃ§a Catholic, as his Portuguese parents raised him? "I have a hard time with any religion that doesn't accept me and my partner."
His partner is David McCullum, and he and MendonÃ§a have been a couple for 14 years. McCullum, who works in mutual funds, is good with money. "I tend to get carried away," admits MendonÃ§a. "I'll need 10 fabrics and come back with 20." Does McCullum have a say in visual decisions? "He likes to think he does."
Not that McCullum himself doesn't have an eye for fashion. Several Christmases ago, he gave MendonÃ§a a cardigan by Dolce & Gabbana that he still wears almost every day.