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Marie Saint Pierre on the Power and Pleasure of Fashion

Photo by Max Abadian.

What the multidisciplinary designer from Montreal is currently remembering, observing and energizing.

Montreal-based designer Marie Saint Pierre has been at the helm of her eponymous brand for more than 30 years and has seen the many ups and downs of the fashion industry. But the stubborn creative who, in addition to managing a successful women’s collection, has also dealt with the development of men’s and home accessories, gives the impression that she has not seen everything yet and is ready for anything. “Fashion is very proactive in changing itself and its parameters,” says Saint Pierre, citing the advent of the Internet as an example of a time when their business was very central. Consumers’ ability to see the latest runway looks in real time rather than waiting for them to be published in a magazine has impacted the nature of runway productions as well as the dynamics with which clothing is made. “There have been many times when the industry has been shaken to the core,” she notes, with a hint of imperturbability that is only the result of experience.

What has stayed constant is Saint Pierre’s commitment to dressing originals: powerhouses who believe in clothing’s potential to convey strength, sensuality, sophistication and more. Their pieces, all made in a Montreal factory, have subtly evolved each season and focus on blending luxurious technical fabrications with upscale classic designs.

“When I started my career, I wanted to find a niche with clothing that was not only characterized by aesthetics and uniqueness, but also by performance and well-being,” she says. “I try to combine all these elements in our collections – so that women who go to work every day feel good about what they are wearing, but also feel the technology behind it and feel extremely comfortable in it.” Saint Pierre, who with worked together on a range of sporting goods for Canadian swimwear brand Shan, was an early devotee of sportier fabrications such as diving jerseys and mesh, adding an ubiquitous stance to their designs.

Maire Saint Pierre
Photo courtesy of
curious mOntreal.

Saint Pierre says she has received thank you letters from fans around the world – artists, bankers, and beyond. “Lawyers told me that they never lost a case while wearing my clothes,” she laughs. “When I see people wearing my clothes, I can see the pieces from a different perspective. It’s really interesting and that’s what I’ve learned to love most about my job. “

The designer says she’s still excited when she wakes up in the morning with ideas, adding that over the past two years her brand has shifted towards a more seasonless approach. Maison Marie Saint Pierre also works to order to reduce the waste associated with mass production. By separating herself and her team from the relentless traditional fashion calendar, Saint Pierre was able to continue to focus on the three most important business areas: people, planets and profit. “And I added a fourth P, which is pleasure,” she notes. “I think that’s very important these days – feeling happy about something.”

And that notion fits in very well with the Saint Pierre ethos when it comes to their work. “I call it ‘the luxury of experience,'” she says of how self-expression is uniquely linked to style. “When people can accept the privilege that we as humans have of being able to express ourselves through other means than words and behavior – through clothing – it is a very sophisticated way of communicating. That’s why I keep doing it; Otherwise, I would try other ways to save the world. “

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a designer?

“You have to have a purpose. Know what you want to bring to market. If it’s just another nice piece of clothing, I think that’s not enough right now. We have a story that gives us the opportunity to look at amazing clothes from the past. And people can buy great second-hand clothes. The market is full of amazing products. You need the “why?” of what you do and trust that the idea will get you through the time and effort it takes to build a brand. “

What’s your earliest style memory?

“My mother is coming back from Europe. Not everyone was traveling at the time, but my parents were fortunate enough to be able to do so and they went to Paris many times. My mother bought Courrèges and later Yohji Yamamoto. She came back with the latest clothes and I remember opening her suitcase to see her. I wasn’t interested in clothes from pictures in fashion magazines – I was interested in the inventions. At Courrèges, I saw the novelty in fabrics; It was very futuristic and mixed up with the more philosophical approach taken by Japanese designers in the 1970s. “

Photo by Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

If at any time you could live for its fashion, which would it be?

“In the 1920s, when we got rid of the corset and came into fashion instead of costumes. I think that’s where the transition happened. Things started to do differently. Madeleine Vionnet was such an important figure in the fashion industry, despite not being very well known. She changed the way fabrics were cut with the bevel cut – that’s the greatest invention one can dream of in fashion. It freed women from heavy clothing. And she was an advocate of sewers; She created the first syndicate for them. Women were really at the heart of the fashion industry. And then suddenly they disappeared. It became a male-oriented industry. “

What is your idea of ​​an essential piece of everyday clothing?

“My favorite piece is the coat dress because it is so relevant to what we live today that there are no boundaries between masculinity and femininity. You can decide if it suits your masculine or feminine side more. And you can wear it in so many different ways. It’s a very strong garment; I always made them in my collections. They transcend function, but also fashion. “

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