Marie Saint Pierre on the Power and Pleasure of Fashion

Photograph by Max Abadian.

What the Montreal-based multidisciplinary designer remembers, observes and energizes right now.

With over 30 years at the helm of her eponymous brand, Montreal designer Marie Saint Pierre has been aware of the many ups and downs of the fashion industry. But the tenacious designer, who’s dabbled in developing men’s clothing and home décor pieces in addition to running a successful women’s clothing line, gives the impression that she hasn’t seen it all. and stay ready for anything. “Fashion is very proactive in changing itself and changing its settings,” says Saint Pierre, citing the advent of the Internet as an example of a time when his business went through a major turning point. The ability of consumers to see the latest runway looks in real time instead of waiting for them to be published in a magazine has had an impact on the nature of runway productions as well as the momentum with which clothes are made. . “There have been many times the industry has been deeply shaken,” she notes with a hint of inflappability that only comes from experience.

What has remained a constant is Saint Peter’s commitment to dress the originals: powers that believe in the potential of clothes to transmit strength, sensuality, sophistication and more. His pieces, all produced in a Montreal factory space, have subtly evolved each season and focus on unifying luxurious engineering craftsmanship with classic elevated designs.

“When I started my career, I wanted to find a niche with clothes that were defined not only by aesthetics and uniqueness, but also by performance and well-being,” she says. “I try to combine all of these elements in our collections – to allow women who go to work every day to feel good about what they wear but also to feel the technicality behind and to be extremely comfortable. . Saint Pierre – who collaborated with Canadian swimwear brand Shan on a range of athletic pieces – was one of the first to embrace sportier fabrications like scuba-style jersey and knitwear, permeating his designs. a go-anywhere attitude.

mayor saint pierre
Photograph courtesy of
mOntreal curio.

Saint Peter says she has received letters of gratitude from fans around the world – artists, bankers and beyond. “Lawyers have told me they never lost a case when they were wearing my clothes,” she laughs. “When I see people wearing my clothes, it allows me to see the rooms from a different perspective. It’s really interesting and that’s what I’ve grown to love the most about my job.

The designer says she’s always thrilled when she wakes up in the morning with ideas, adding that her brand has seen a shift to a more seasonal approach over the past two years; Maison Marie Saint Pierre also operates on order to reduce waste associated with mass production. Detaching and her team from the fast-paced traditional fashion calendar has allowed Saint Pierre to stay focused on the company’s three most important Ps: people, planet and profit. “And I added a fourth P, which is a pleasure,” she notes. “I think it’s very important these days: to feel happy about something.”

And this notion fits very well in the philosophy of Saint Peter as regards his work. “I call it ‘experiential luxury’,” she says of the unique connection between self-expression and style. “If people can embrace the privilege we have as human beings of being able to express ourselves in ways other than words and behavior – through clothing – that’s a very sophisticated way of communicating. That’s why I keep doing it; otherwise, I would try to save the world in another way.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a designer?

“You have to have a purpose. Know what you are looking to bring to market. If it’s just another beautiful piece of clothing, I don’t think it’s enough at the moment. 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 have to find the “Why?” of what you do and have confidence that the idea will support you over time and all the effort you need to put into building a brand. “

What is your earliest memory of style?

“My mother is coming back from Europe. At the time, not everyone was traveling, but my parents were lucky enough to be able to do so and they have been to Paris several times. My mother would buy Courrèges and, later, Yohji Yamamoto. She came back with the newest clothes and I remember opening her suitcases to see them. I wasn’t interested in the clothes from the pictures in fashion magazines – I was interested in the fabrications. With Courrèges, I saw the novelty in the fabrics; it was very futuristic and mixed with the more philosophical approach of Japanese designers in the 70s.

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

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

“The 1920s, when we ditched the corset and went into fashion rather than costume. I think that’s where the transition happened; things started to be done differently. Madeleine Vionnet was such an important figure in the fashion industry, although she is not well known. She transformed the way fabrics were cut with the bias cut – it’s the greatest invention you can dream of in fashion. He freed women from heavy clothing. And she was a sewer lawyer; she created the first union for them. Women were really at the center of the fashion industry. And then all of a sudden they kind of disappeared. It has become a male-oriented industry.

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

“My favorite piece is the coat dress, because it is so relevant to what we experience today in terms of the absence of boundaries between masculinity and femininity. You can decide if it goes more with your masculine side or your feminine side. And you can wear it in different ways. It is a very powerful garment; I have always done them in my collections. They transcend function but also fashion.

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