Today marks the fiftieth birthday of Marie Saint Pierre, one of Canada’s most exciting and influential designers. She established her namesake brand, Marie Saint Pierre Designs Inc. in Montreal in 1987, and quickly became known for her subversion of classic wardrobe staples with experimental designs. Saint Pierre’s work mingles with the avant garde but remains classic, timeless, and oh-so wearable. It was this fresh approach to design that lead her to be the first Canadian to show at Collections Créateurs in Paris in 1995. Now twenty-four years into her career, Saint Pierre is an accomplished designer commanding local and international respect.
Saint Pierre’s designs are clean and minimalistic, focusing on sharp tailoring, layering and draping. Favouring a monochromatic palette, she tends to avoid the use of print or patterns in her designs. However, Saint Pierre experiments with bold hits of colour, like the traffic-stopping pylon orange Oristano coat and accessories found in her Fall 2011 collection. An unconventional use of textiles also feature prominently in her work, with natural fibres coexisting with hi-tech fabrics in edgy, beautiful harmony. She draws inspiration from her surroundings in Montreal, especially influencing her strong outerwear pieces which are stylishly appropriate for the city’s infamous winters. These are the clothes that appeal to sophisticated, modern women: futuristic creations offering strong, elegant silhouettes.
By cultivating a distinct design aesthetic and presenting her collections through high-profile runway appearances, Saint Pierre has paved the way for other Canadian’s to achieve global success. It’s not difficult to draw parallels with young designers like Erdem Moralioglu and Mark Fast, who show in London, and Jeremy Laing, who shows in New York. Their unique design characteristics have allowed them to take their respective cities by storm.
It is a testament to Saint Pierre’s skills that she has been able to build her brand and reputation from her home-base in Montreal. Production of her designs are completed either at the design headquarters or is outsourced around Quebec. She also supports the industry by continuing to show at Montreal Fashion Week, drawing attention to the event and complimenting the creative talent that presents each season.
As a designer, Saint Pierre has remained true to her roots, harnessing the creative energy of Montreal to develop her company, most recently adding bridal, accessory, and home collections, as well as a signature fragrance. She has collaborated on design projects, lending her skills to the creation of uniforms for cultural institutions such as the Musée D’art Contemporain de Montréal, and to a collection of evening dress for Reitmans for the coming holiday season. Saint Pierre is heavily engaged with charitable work, establishing the Sous Zéro fund in 2004, which is dedicated to providing warm clothing for women and children in need in Montreal. In 2007, Saint Pierre’s accomplishments in both design and philanthropy were recognized by her home province when she was awarded the title of Chevalière de L’Ordre National du Québec.
Marie Saint Pierre broke the mold early on in her career, and has since lead the way for designers at home and abroad. Through it all, she has maintained a sense of self and a respect for her Canadian roots; she is truly an inspiration through her artistic and philanthropic endeavors. Here’s to a spectacular fiftieth birthday, and to many more years of innovation and excitement to come.
Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on Marie Saint Pierre.