By Justine Woolcott
Photography courtesy of Marie Saint Pierre
Marie Saint Pierre is a Montréal-based fashion designer known for her avant-garde work and highly technical pieces. She generally focuses on shape and proportion than on what is deemed to be in style for a given season. It is this attitude that has helped her become one of the most highly recognized names in the Canadian fashion industry. Her work has been seen on Coco Rocha, Khloe Kardashian, Michaëlle Jean and many other renowned personalities.
In her Exclusive with FAJO Magazine, Saint Pierre shares her philosophy, latest projects and style evolution.
JUSTINE WOOLCOTT: What was the inspiration behind your fall/winter 2012 collection?
MARIE SAINT PIERRE: Basically, I went along with the graphic inspiration that I always have in my collections. The body of the garments is very graphic, and very much about volume and impurity in architecture. I also attached pieces that are zip-ons, so you can bring the piece into something that is more about sculpture, to give it another dimension and feel altogether. It was kind of a mix between my two passions: architecture, and sculpture and organic forms. I tried to blend the two together and play with them.
What is the design process for you normally like?
We start with the fabric and, oftentimes, the fabric will inspire the shape. We drape on a mannequin and then do the pattern on the computer. We then do the first prototype in a fabric that is similar to the one that we will choose in the end and correct the pattern on the mannequin. There’s a lot of draping involved on live models and still mannequins. In the end, I like the garments that are comfortable to the wearer and are wearable. I go from the pattern to the studio mannequin to the live model.
You recently launched two capsule collections with Reitmans: a fall and a spring one. How did you become involved with this company?
They approached me to do a capsule of 10 dresses; 10 for Christmas and 10 for spring. It was such a great approach because they didn’t want to have a full collection of Marie Saint Pierre, but just the best of what we do and what women would try, which is basically multi-functional day dresses that are wearable. I did a whole series of dresses from past collections with necklaces and pieces that are removable. The first Reitmans collection was about giving women a great black dress that they could wear anywhere: to an interview, an event or a restaurant. The second collection is more about playfulness. It’s a bit more romantic and a lot more summery. It gives the Reitmans customer two different garments: one that is more colourful and feminine, and one that is a more strongly designed piece of clothing that will go from one place to another and has a timeless quality.
How do you think this collaboration has improved the recognition of your brand?
Reitmans is the biggest and strongest retailer in Canada. There’s very few homegrown brands that are surviving the invasion of H&Ms and Zaras. Reitmans is extremely strong in their market share and they are profitable. They know their customer and they know what they want. They have a product that is extremely well-priced and well done. The conditions were good for us because, in the end, I wanted to give a really good-value product that would be accessible and could be worn many times. For me, the quality of the final product in relationship to the price had to be extremely attractive. They were the only ones who could have done this so well.
How do you feel your work has evolved since you began working in the fashion industry?
I think when you are in a field of artistic expression, your work changes but it doesn’t really change that much. It’s an evolution process. Somehow you are trying to say something in many different ways, but the value of your work and what you believe in stays the same, and that is how one has a recognizable label, voice and style. I think it’s evolving towards things that are more and more difficult to do. My work is very technical: I want my clothes to be interesting technically and I challenge people. I can now force fabric to do things that it wouldn’t originally do, whether I enforce it with backing, washing, crinkling, cutting or sewing. I’ve been doing this for 25 years so, yes, I’m still interested in the fashion, but I’m looking for a new sensitivity, something that you sometimes cannot see with bare eyes. I’m intrigued, and impressed, by technology and the advancements in sewing techniques more than I am by aesthetics.
How would you describe your personal style?
I don’t have one anymore! I always dress the same way. I don’t know why. It’s like asking a chef, “What do you cook when you’re at home?” because they don’t cook. I’m so involved in the business that when it comes to me, I just try to put something on that allows me to move and is functional.
What are your future plans for the label?
We are working on the home décor side of things right now. The well-being aspect is getting me into something that is more about the person, so I’m focusing on throws and cushions. It’s being done in a very different way than it is currently done on the market. We are trying to find something that has that femininity and the comfort zone, but also has elegance. My pieces are designed to look good, but also to give you something a little deeper because they are make-you-feel-good products!
Marie Saint Pierre, spring/summer 2012