You may not have heard of Montreal-based Fashion Designer Marie Saint Pierre, a lauded pioneer of Canadian fashion, but if you are an avid devotee of fashion, you really need to. For over 30 years MSP built a loyal following with her fierce creativity and consumer-centric collections. Her hand-draping techniques and the use of scuba fabric are part of her recipe for success. With flagships in Montreal and Miami, she’s keenly aware of her clientele’s needs and makes that a priority. I visited Marie at her Tribeca, NYC pop-up in early November—a lifetime ago considering our current pandemic isolation.
Hello, it’s so nice to meet you and see your pop up shop because although I’m a veteran fashion editor, I somehow didn’t know about your collection so I personally feel like you are a discovery.
I suppose we are “low profile” in a way, but our clients are very faithful to the brand for over 30years. So, we’re lucky to have such an amazing clientele. This is our second “pop-up” in New York. We used to be at the shop Takashimaya, on their main floor until they closed. Since then we were lacking that kind of platform to showcase the clothing in New York. The pop-up is for our loyal following and to introduce our brand to women who don’t know us.
See MSP’s spring collection here
I see you use neoprene/ scuba fabric quite a bit in your designs, can you speak a bit about that?
I’ve been using neoprene for 30 years, way before it became so common—it’s easy to care for— you can wash it yourself and just dry it flat. So you don’t need to use all the chemicals that are used for dry cleaning. The pieces are long-lasting and they weigh nothing so you can easily add them to your carry-on—they are great for travel. Also, the fabric is ultra-functional in terms of temperature— it moderates with your body temperature. My clients love that they feel good wearing the pieces and they work for a very active, 9 to 9 schedule. It’s kind of a four-seasonal fabric.
Where is your collection produced and what is your process?
Everything is produced in Montreal with 60 employees with whom I work on various aspects of the business. Most designers will call a pattern maker to make a pattern from a sketch. I design everything on a live model and make changes and adjust details on her. We have 25,000 square feet of design studio and manufacturing space. We work with the best mills in Italy and are very conscientious about the environment. A lot of our fabrics are made with fewer chemicals and less water than what is traditionally used. We never communicated the sustainable aspect of our business but we are starting to put that on our labels to inform our customers. Sustainability is so embodied in the brand that we forget to talk about it.
Do you show during any of the Canadian fashion weeks?
Not anymore, I just lost the spirit for that part of the process. I used to do fashion shows several times a year in Montreal, Toronto and another major city like Paris or New York. But I started to question why we were doing that, especially because of the big investment. But it was a lot of fun for me. I sometimes thought I would have liked to be a movie director—I had the capacity to do that; I did the soundtracks, the lighting, hair, and makeup direction—I loved all that. I would go on for days and nights without sleeping working on this wonderful story. And now times have changed and it’s hard to compete with houses that have multi-millions of dollars. It’s not about the creative process anymore. It’s about how much money you have and who is in your front row. That’s when I lost my spirit for fashion shows and decided to invest in fabrics and the design of the pieces.
What is your design and business focus now?
To have a strong point of view. Women should feel beautiful in the pieces and the design should be creative but not overwhelming. I take a kind of connoisseur view on things. The details are very important but the clothing needs to be comfortable because, it’s no mystery, they are meant to be worn.
***MSP has masks for sale on her site which may become a staple of our fashion uniform in the near future. She is also in the process of creating PPE for hospitals in Canada
See MSP’s web sitehttps://shop.mariesaintpierre.com/us_en/new-arrivals