Winnipeg Free Press Coverage – Young designer turning heads with her formal wear designs

The Winnipeg Free Press, April 5, 2000
Young designer turning heads with her formal wear designs

For the Free Press

A WINNIPEG bridal designer has had one of her wedding gowns featured on the cover of a magazine, created evening gowns for beauty pageants, and garnered interest from Hong Kong supporters.

And Marie Routhier is only 20 years old.

Routhier, who took one year of design at Murdoch MacKay Collegiate, is a self-taught designer and seamstress who showed interest in sewing beginning at age 4.

As a young girl, Routhier would design and sew beautiful ball gowns for her Barbies. At about age 11, Routhier took up figure skating and began sewing her own figure skating outfits.

During her teen years, Routhier designed and sewed figure skating outfits for others, and then moved on to aerobic wear, swim wear and speed skating outfits.

Eventually, her return clients began requesting she create evening gowns, graduation dresses, wedding gowns, and even rave wear.

In the last few years, Routhier, who spent about a year and a half operating her own bridal salon in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has focused mainly on unique wedding gowns.

“One day I’d love to do gowns for an awards show presentation,” said Routhier, adding that she returned to her hometown of Winnipeg last fall from Newfoundland.

Recently, Routhier was hired as costume designer for Amidst the Twilight, a 12-part mini-series to be filmed in Winnipeg this summer and produced by Tracer Films and Erasmus.

“It’s all gothic and fetish wear stuff so I have to flex my creative muscles,” she enthused. “There’s a lot of costumes to put together, and altering. As well, I’ll be sewing some from scratch.”

The highlight of Routhier’s career so far was having one of her dresses, dubbed Jade for the model who first wore it, appear on the cover of the Newfoundland Herald’s Bridal magazine in the spring of ’99.

She credits most of her success in Newfoundland to Isabelle Fry, a modelling agency owner in St. John’s who became Routhier’s mentor.

In addition to supplying models for a photo shoot of Routhier’s designs, Fry ran the Miss Teen Newfoundland contest and enlisted Routhier as the official evening wear designer for 38 contestants.

She also helped get her bridal gown on the magazine cover.

“Due to an extraordinary response to the cover of the Bridal Guide, the magazine interviewed me,” she said. This led to design contracts from further afield.

Routhier designed outfits for the reigning Miss Canada (Leanne Baird from Toronto), Miss Teen Canada International 1998, Miss Newfoundland and Miss Teen Newfoundland.

Routhier describes her style as simple, elegant, and timeless.

“I don’t like trendy. I like someone to look themselves and not “in.” I don’t like to use embellishments like lace and beads.

“Usually I’ll focus on draping of the fabric, silk flowers, hand painting,” she explained.

However, being a rising designer at such a young age was not easy to Routhier, and that’s one of the reasons she moved back to Winnipeg.

“In Newfoundland, they put me up on pedestal and I wasn’t sure I could live up to it.

“I look up to Isabelle Fry and she gave the most amazing speech about me at a big event. I thought this is flattering, but what’s going to happen when I’m 40?”

Routhier intends to continue designing unique dresses and other clothing, and producing fashions that are not found in stores.

“I don’t like doing cookie cutter dresses. Most dresses are straight cut. I do big ball gowns with bustles, and hand-painted star gazer lilies. I like working with different fabrics, and creating dresses that turn someone’s head,” she said.

Her evening gowns range in price from $200 to $1,000, and wedding dresses from $800 to $2,000.

For wedding dresses, Routhier admits to loving trains, and really making a statement.

“I love making people feel like princesses. The most popular comment is that my dress makes people feel like a million dollars, even for a day,” she said.

“It’s so gratifying just to see someone who might not normally dress like that wear one of my dresses. They walk taller, feel better and glow.”

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