August 13, 2018 / Luxury Lifestyle

Style City: A Fashion Designer’s Guide to Montréal

Pioneering designer Marie Saint Pierre could live anywhere, but she chooses Montréal—a city of bon vivants and European charm—as the base for her busy atelier


As the first Canadian designer to present a collection in Paris in 1995, Marie Saint Pierre is a fashion pioneer. Nearly a quarter of a century later, she’s a national treasure. When Saint Pierre isn’t producing seven ready-to-wear collections a year from her atelier in Montréal, Quebec, she’s busy accepting awards such as the Order of Canada (the second highest honor for merit in Canada), and visiting her boutique in Miami.

Montréal-based designer Marie Saint Pierre has two boutiques in the city, one in Miami, and has plans for more shops to open in San Francisco and Chicago. Banner image: Westmount, one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods. Photo: Getty“Montréal is my home town and I continue to live here because of the European lifestyle,” says Saint Pierre, whose collections favor luxurious fabric and edgy, linear design. “We are blessed with four distinct seasons and year-round festivals. Plus, we have some of the best food in the world.” 

Drawn by Montréal’s international flavor, out-of-town clients fall under the city’s spell, according to Louise Rémillard, president of Profusion Immobilier, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Quebec. “There are no tax penalties for foreign buyers in Montréal, unlike Toronto and Vancouver, so we’ve seen a 20 percent increase from last year in sales of homes over $CDN 1 million,” says Rémillard. “Our economy is pretty good and our politics are stable. We’ve seen many French, Belgian, and Asian buyers, along with Montréalers ready to upgrade or convert their inheritances into real estate.”

The Westmount area of Montréal has a good “walk score”: there's no need to take the car to shop on Greene Avenue, Sherbrooke Street, or Victoria Avenue, and many residents walk downtown three seasons a year.Rémillard also credits the city’s exceptional private school system—provided by the likes of Lower Canada College, Selwyn House, and Imagination Daycare—for attracting young families who like the heritage homes and spacious new condos.

“There may be a lack of inventory, but there is high confidence in Montréal’s luxury home market,” she adds. “Twenty-five percent of homes have sold for over the asking price since January 2017. Now, sellers are getting multiple offers, which is quite new—although Westmount [an affluent suburb] has always been a safe investment. You’re sure to recoup your value.”

Related: Discover Montréal's Historic Westmount Manor

The Quartier des Spectacles hosts more than 40 festivals annually, is home to over 80 performance spaces, and offers some of Montréal's most upscale accommodation and dining options. After dark, the area comes alive with buildings lit up with projections by local artists. Rémillard’s clients are impressed by the city’s Quartier des Spectacles, the downtown outdoor venue for festivals and landmark restaurants like Joe Beef and Fairmont Bagels. Is it any wonder Saint Pierre—a foodie and bon vivant—built her powerhouse brand in Montréal?

Dining out
“I order the daily special at Montréal Plaza by chef Charles-Antoin Crête, who makes really creative dishes and delicious tartares,” says Saint Pierre. “Another one of my favorite places to eat is Damas for traditional Syrian gastronomy. They have vegetarian sharing plates, authentic moujaddara (a dish of rice, fried onions, and spices), and wonderful beet mutabbal. The ambiance is beautiful, too, with Middle Eastern décor and modern accents.”

The deep burgundy color scheme, sumptuous chairs and banquettes, and long, sweeping curtains create a warm, luxurious space in which to enjoy Toqué! chef Normand Laprise's innovative cooking. Photograph: Bénédicte BrocardFor fine dining, she reserves a table at Toqué! to savor chef Normand Laprise’s celebrated French cuisine. When she feels like Japanese food, Saint Pierre heads to Mikado, a local institution. “Sitting at the bar is super fun. I appreciate the kitchen’s attention to detail. Their sushi and sashimi is meticulously constructed, like a work of art. Even the tableware is handmade.”

Saint Pierre is a champagne enthusiast who likes a glass of Huré Frères at Le Serpent in Old Montréal. “I’ll sip a glass of Veuve Clicquot or Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée, but I also like to champion the smaller champagne producers, too,” she smiles.  

Related: See 7 of the World's Most Stylish Restaurants

Glory in the Golden Square Mile
As well as her 12,000-square-foot atelier in the Chabanel district, Saint Pierre has a stand-alone boutique in the Golden Square Mile downtown neighborhood, so she knows the best haunts in the city center.

The Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion in the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is dedicated to decorative art and showcases over 900 objects, including furniture, glass, silver, textiles, ceramics, and industrial design. Photograph: Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion, level 1. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Marc Cramer.“I like to people-watch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and shoe shop at Holt Renfrew and Browns,” she notes. “The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts—or the Musée des Beaux-Arts—is just around the corner from my boutique, and it never fails to present out-of-the-box exhibitions. It takes fashion seriously and paid homage to Jean Paul Gaultier by mounting a large-scale show in 2011 that toured the world.”

From her boutique, Saint Pierre enjoys spotting local up-and-coming design talent: “I’m very excited about the jewelry made by LLY Atelier,” says Saint Pierre. “They use precious metals in a modern, sculptural way. It’s raw and new.”

This light-filled three-bedroom condo in the prestigious ORO development has beautiful hardwood floors throughout, quartz countertops in the open-plan kitchen, and is conveniently located in the heart of the city.Saint Pierre is also a champion of Lambert et Fils, a high-end lighting design studio in Montréal. “Their lamps are so poetic—totally unique,” she says. “I like that they’re entirely conceived, manufactured, and assembled in town.”

Related: Discover 7 New Cultural Hotspots

Located in a quiet cul-de-sac in the prestigious Westmount area, this five-bedroom property has a beautiful view of Saint-Joseph's Oratory, stunning interiors by Scott Yetman Design, and generously proportioned rooms. On the market with Profusion Immobilier, the exclusive affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate in Quebec.Designer downtime
When she’s ready to unwind after her fall collection, Saint Pierre heads to Spa Strøm on Nuns’ Island or Bota Bota in the Old Port. “Bota Bota is on the water, quite literally, so it’s a unique experience,” says Saint Pierre. “Their Nordic baths have special views of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and Old Montréal.”

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  • Style & Fashion

Joanne Latimer
is an award-winning Montréal-based journalist who has written for The New York Times and The Globe and Mail