It’s not easy to sum up three decades of a rich career innovation in just a few lines. I remember Marie Saint Pierre the young woman with flamboyant hair busying herself during her first fashion event. I think of her early shows; made with pieces of string; no detail left to chance – perfection reigned supreme from the hair and accessories to the soundtrack, which was always astounding. Today, the name Marie Saint Pierre is synonymous with luxury, elegance, and creativity. 

By Stéphane Leduc
Photographer Leda & St. Jacques

Looking back on your journey – particularly having read Madeleine Goubau’s wonderful book Marie Saint Pierre: en 30 tableaux – it is clear that no matter what challenges or setbacks you face, you are always ready to fight. I have such a wonderful fan club. I dress exceptional women who put their lives into my hands. There are women who travel around the world wearing Marie Saint Pierre. I’m with them through strategic moments, conferences, job changes, when they receive awards, and walk the red carpet. Now that’s love. It really feeds me and gives me a lot of energy, because it makes me realize that I don’t do this work for nothing. That I don’t just claim that people appreciate me, that there really are people who find a form of well-being in my clothing. Many people tell me I am gentle with women, while fashion is often so restrictive.

You’re one of the few people in Canada who have been able to find the delicate balance between art and business. Was it difficult to achieve? Were there hard choices to make? Life pushes us to focus on strengths that are sometimes contradictory. Finding the balance between family, and work, having kids—it’s often during these moments that you get to know yourself. It’s interesting to ponder this type of question, which helps us grow, and not within the recipe to please other people. Especially during the moments when everything seems to be going wrong, your collection is too creative for people at that specific time, or what you’re offering isn’t fresh enough. Sometimes, sales people tell me “Marie, you have to stop creating. You need to stay with the pieces that people love.” Most companies have trouble finding something creative to say, and at Marie Saint Pierre, it’s quite the opposite. There are too many new pieces. However, we were able to develop an identity not only with our look, but with the way our clothes feel. I never get to the end of my stories—someone has to stop me.

I really enjoyed Janice Zolf’s documentary Revealing Marie Saint Pierre, which explores the formidable bond you had with the painter Jean-Paul Riopelle from a very young age. How was this relationship significant? Jean-Paul and I were very similar. It was the case from the moment we met, even though I was a child. He thought children were turbulent, but the first thing I did was go sit on his lap and start talking to him because I thought he was intriguing. It’s as though we had known each other forever. We were the same: not searching for success, rather, looking for something real. He liked to paint, but didn’t like exhibitions, and I’m the same. I like fashion, but the rest is more of an obligation. Riopelle wasn’t even part of the art curriculum at l’Université de Montréal and I sometimes feel like I’m not part of Montreal’s fashion industry. Even though I am very active, and I am setting things up for the next generation. He always told me I’d find Quebec too small.

Riopelle would have been very happy to know that you’ve finally opened a boutique in Miami’s Wynwood Art District. It’s a happy choice for Maison Marie Saint Pierre. We’ve had a wonderful welcome and already feel like a part of the Wynwood family. We’re really becoming an anchor tenant because we are the first luxury boutique to have opened in the neighbourhood. I really wanted to be on the main street where everything started across from Panther Coffee, Joey’s and close to the Wynwood Walls. People wondered what I would do over there, and why I didn’t go to the Design District. I like the energy of the area and I meet a lot of artists: people who have things to say, who have processes, and who are vulnerable—true artists.

Despite the obligations of your profession, and the fashion whirlwind that demands one constantly renew themselves, would you say that you are in a good place in your life? Completely! I get up in the morning and give thanks. I’m in a good place. My company has grown to a good size. I can allow myself the luxury of having a wonderful team, and I did it by myself, without having grants at arm’s length. We created a framework in Montreal that did not previously exist; a framework that will be very important. Marie Saint Pierre will have a legacy moving forward. We train people, we create workshops, we are doing things that aren’t being done anywhere else in Canada. It’s important to do it while running the company on a daily basis. We created it not because we wanted it, but by necessity, like Cirque du Soleil, which created its own framework. It’s a story we are currently writing about becoming the first luxury house in Canada.

If you had to start over, would you do things differently?One thing is clear: I wouldn’t be in the same field! I’d never do it again. I’d do something else, maybe sculpture.

Photography Leda & St. Jacques (Courtesy of Marie Saint Pierre).
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