By Katherine Ellis
Photography by James Park
With multiple events — including vintage sales and anniversary parties — Victoire boutique owners Katie Frappier and Régine Paquette know how to treat their customers. And after seven years, their loyal followers can’t seem to get enough of what the boutique has to offer or of the owners themselves.
“We are the [kind of] store where people who love us, love us a lot and we are really grateful for that,” says Frappier. “We work really hard to keep them happy and satisfied and to evolve with them, getting to know their needs and [preferences]. It’s very important to us.”
Coining the term “rock ’n’ roll tea party” to describe their aesthetic, Frappier and Paquette carry items that range from very feminine, soft pieces to rock ’n’ roll (anything from tough brass jewelry to skinny jeans). These pieces balance sensuality and toughness, reflecting two sides of Ottawa-based Victoire, explains Frappier.
Covering “the whole spectrum of somebody’s life,” customers can find anything from work outfits to 5 à 7, party clothes, formal dresses and weekend apparel.
More than 80 per cent of Victoire’s stock is designed by Canadian designers, some of whom Frappier and Paquette have been getting to know for years. “We want to highlight young Canadian designers because that’s what we love, that is our vision.” Each relationship with potential designers, as well as mentors, other businesses or even neighbours, is approached in a “what can you teach me and what can I teach you” way.
Long-time contributors include Montréal-based Valérie Dumaine and Hayley Gibson from Birds of North America. “There are so many lines that come and go, and so many trends. It is really important to us to have a business that is based on something more than that, something that is more concrete. If you get to choose what you do, you might as well choose to do it with people you really like,” says Frappier.
The two entrepreneurs are always on the hunt for new designers. When selecting them, Frappier and Paquette determine if they fit the Victoire aesthetic, which includes (when possible) visiting the designers in-person at their studio, examining the sizing of the garments, the colours and materials, the quality of the pieces and the price. “We try to have a very affordable price point. We definitely see our customer as somebody a lot like us — somebody who isn’t fashion obsessed, but who has more of a desire to live her life in beautiful clothing,” says Frappier.
With no background in fashion — Frappier studied human rights and women’s studies, while Paquette studied commerce — the entrepreneurs credit their business growth to the mentors they have had along the way and to their ability to transform and evolve with their brand. Over the years, they have started a blog (where customers can exchange style ideas by sending in pictures of themselves wearing Victoire pieces), opened an online store and a second boutique in the trendy Westboro neighbourhood. Currently, they are looking at the possibility of opening locations in other cities. The most recent endeavours also include creating a line of custom-made T-shirts and continuing to design jewelry from repurposed vintage pieces.
“We really like working hard, and we both don’t want to feel stagnated,” says Frappier. “There wasn’t one moment where we were like ‘this is what we are going to do and this is how we are going to do it.’ The business is always transforming, and we have to transform with it.”