Marie Saint-Pierre, Local Designer

In this series, our collaborator Carolyne Brown meets the Local Talents—flagship stores in the heart of Rockland Centre. These interviews are all about sharing, sincerity, and proximity. We invite you to enter their world and discover who they are.

Let’s meet Marie Saint-Pierre, Owner of Maison Marie Saint-Pierre

How did you become an entrepreneur?

You don’t become an entrepreneur, you are an entrepreneur. I think I was very young when I started dreaming up business ideas. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. It’s not something you can learn, it’s a vocation. You have to be independent and caring, have some conviction and confidence, and believe that you can take over the world.

How did your business start?

I graduated from LaSalle College in 1986 and I was trying to find small design contracts. It was a somewhat dark period for fashion in Montreal. In 1987, I was working as a consulting designer, but I wasn’t busy enough; so I decided to design some coats on the side. I presented my three designs to some shops that bought them and that’s how it all started. It was really about trying something out, but I made some good sales. I didn’t know anything about the business, I was quite naive about how the industry worked. I think I sold 50 of those coats, and that allowed me to get a tiny workshop in the basement of my house. When the coat season was over, I wondered what to do. I decided to make a small collection of about ten cotton pieces and I got a bigger workshop in Old Montreal. Then, I installed my second-hand machines, build my own workshop, and decided to invite my clients to purchase directly from the workshop. I built my company as the events unfolded. After the spring collection, I put together a business plan because since I had rented a place and signed a lease, I had to monitor my income.

Why did you choose this field?

I was clearly interested in design, I really liked architecture and fashion. My mother had a very keen sense of fashion, she was very stylish and trendy. I admired her choice of clothes; I discovered textiles through the clothes she bought and then developed a passion for fabrics. The foundation of my passion for fashion stems from raw materials, followed by my values. I wanted to work for women, to be someone who would promote female entrepreneurship and female confidence. Movement was also very important to me. I wanted to do something that would get people moving. I liked the idea of women changing the world with clothing that is beautiful, different, but also very powerful.

What makes your brand stand out?

What sets me apart is that I work with technical materials, and design functions and have a highly personal vision of fashion. I know that I am a leading designer of technical materials (stretchy and high quality) used for suits and jackets. My vision is also to make pieces that aren’t "throwaway fashion", but that is timeless and worn from one generation to the next.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career as an entrepreneur?

Every day in this industry is a challenge. It’s an extremely difficult industry, you work a year in advance, you finance collections and resellers, competition is fierce, and there are a lot of big fashion houses with incredible marketing power. The product used to be the most important aspect of a brand—today, it’s marketing. Communication comes first, the product really comes second. For my part, I’ve always wanted to create an infrastructure and expertise in Montreal, with an emphasis on quality. My clientele is very sophisticated. I dress extraordinary women, from all over the world, who do great things. I love to mesmerize through clothes because very few brands do that. People use clothes more as a promotional tool, as a marketing model to sell every possible accessory.

Tell us a funny anecdote or event from your entrepreneurial journey.

This is an anecdote of someone very dedicated to her work; I gave birth to my child and 48 hours later I was going to New York to do a fashion show. While I was in labor, my team was in New York sending me photos. My delivery went so well that I left in the morning and came back in the evening. I was lucky to have an easy child.

What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?  

Flexibility. You have to be able to adapt to change. Everything has changed since I started; things are so different in terms of production, the way we sell, etc. You have to be agile, and athletic with your business.

What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?

Flexibility. You have to be able to adapt to change. Everything has changed since I started; things are so different in terms of production, the way we sell, etc. You have to be agile, and athletic with your business.

What keeps you passionate about your field?

Creation. To be able to push things further, to make sure that Marie Saint-Pierre is a brand that continues on to the second generation, and to inspire young entrepreneurs. I think it’s about staying consistent, and especially about my customers who keep me where I am.

What do you hope that people remember about your company?

Most of my clients tell me that I have become part of their lives and that I have supported their rise, and their success and helped them through happy and difficult times. Many of my clients wear Marie Saint-Pierre clothes because they have to do important things.

What are your most popular products?

I have very loyal customers who purchase a lot in my collections, but obviously, our suits are the best sellers. They are made of materials that keep you sweat-free and they are easy to care for.

What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?

Know yourself well, and know what truly makes you happy.  

What is your best-kept secret?

Reaching inside myself, seeing what makes me happy, finding what motivates me to keep going, always staying close to my values, not compromising myself, and being a free spirit.

What could we wish for you in the future?

Sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized everything I had built up, in some way; there is a lot to rebuild, a lot of work to be done. We lost a lot of our feathers during this period—so what I wish for is the continued loyalty and longevity of our clients.