Macleans – Abashed

Macleans Magazine,

Canada notes

Jan 17, 2005


The Newfoundland flag flap entered its third week with no real sign of a truce between flag-lowering Premier Danny Williams and PM Paul Martin. In fact, a group of Labradorians intent on raising the Maple Leaf to its full glory had to build their own flagpole when compatriots cut the ropes on the official one in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The most audacious pro-Newfoundland protest, however, goes to fashion designer Marie Routhier, whose Unabashedly Canadian line of flag-bedecked swimwear is worn by Olympic medallists. A big fan of the premier, the Nfld.-based Routhier is pulling her swimsuit line. For good measure, she’s also changing her surname to Johnston-Routhier stemming from the distant relative who wrote the original lyrics to the national anthem. As for the main protagonists, Williams says the flag won’t stay down forever, and he’s ready to try one more time to negotiate a deal on offshore oil — but only with the PM. Ottawa, however, is adamant: no talks while the flag is a political pawn.

The Globe and Mail – Fashion happens on the way to the wharf

The Globe and Mail, Saturday, August 28, 2004


Fashion happens on the way to the wharf

BAULINE EAST, NFLD. — People are always asking me if I ever tire of fashion in my life — if the pressure to dress and look a certain way ever gets to me; if I ever long to disappear to a place where sweats and flip-flops reign supreme, and where you’re judged infinitely more for the sincerity of your smile than any sartorial statements you make.

But I’m not conscious of choosing to holiday in this tiny Newfoundland outport for any of those reasons. Fact is, it’s simply one of the most beautiful spots on Earth to me — a precious little community on the edge of the world, untouched by time and pretension, where ocean views take your breath away and an amazing puffin reserve is only a short boat ride away.

It’s here that my dear Toronto friends, the Ayoubs, vacation each summer, in their cozy home overlooking the village wharf. For a couple of years now, they’ve arranged for me and the girls to stay at a small, splendid house just up the hill, whose generous owners live most of the year in upstate New York. It’s my idea of heaven, and even though the locals all seem to know me from FashionTelevision (or “Tit TV” as the fishermen like to call it), none of them would ever dare, or even care, to ask me what Kate Moss or Karl Lagerfeld are really like.

So there I was the other day, just coming down the hill from a leisurely hike along the spectacular East Coast Trail, a pair of cutoffs over my still-wet bathing suit (couldn’t resist taking a dip at the waterfall) when the Ayoubs’ vivacious 16-year-old daughter, Ariana, came rushing over to tell me her that her 19-year-old brother, Lucas, had been recruited to star in some swimwear fashion shoot, currently under way at the wharf.

Incredulous that anything of this nature could possibly be going on in this sleepy place, I scurry down to the shore to see what all the fuss was about. The site was surreal: Lucas, an enterprising young hunk who’s been running a mini burger stand in Bauline all summer with his Acadia University roommate, is sitting at a picnic table in a green, white and pink skimpy pair of swim shorts (think Speedo meets the old Republic of Newfoundland flag), was surrounded by three babe-acious models in matching bikinis.

Lucas, his rickety “Burger Boys” stand long forgotten, looked like the cat who swallowed the canary. Two photographers were snapping away.

Gerry Colbert, the gregarious owner of Ocean Adventure Tours, which boasts a humble tour boat and a charming B&B down the road, introduced me to an affable young woman in a bandana. “Jeanne, meet the designer!”

“They told me you were here, and I just couldn’t believe it!” the bright-eyed mastermind behind the shoot gushed.

Marie Routhier is a 25-year-old Toronto expat, who’s been designing since the age of 11, and who’s dabbled in everything from bridal gowns to skating costumes. She started designing bathing suits about two years ago, and is quick to tell me that she’s a member of Mensa, and that her Québécois grandfather wrote O Canada.

Marie has just moved her business to a small place called Paradise, just outside St. John’s, where “the air is so nice and fresh, and the people are so kind and helpful,” but largely, she says, “because Toronto retailers and the fashion media have ignored me.” Now, she’s taken matters into her own hands, and set up her own website (

She has been cruising around the vicinity these past few days, taking shots for the site, and while it wasn’t a problem finding female models to help her out, males were another story. “None of the guys we knew would pose in a swimsuit,” one of the models told me. “But when we got here and saw Lucas at the burger stand, and then checked out his legs, we knew he’d be perfect!”

Apparently, there was no problem persuading this strapping Burger Boy to strut it.

Marie dragged out a duffel bag stuffed with spandex. Soon, the girls and I were rifling through the stash of bikinis, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the assorted colours and styles. “Here,” Marie said, cajoling me to try one on. “This would look great on you.”

Overcome by the excitement of the moment, drunk with the preposterous notion of taking part in a semi-glamorous fashion shoot on the wharf of our beloved Bauline, I suddenly found myself in the nearby craft-store washroom, squeezing into a red and white Canadian flag-inspired tankini, complete with big honking maple leaf appliquéd across the bust. In another fit of temporary insanity, seduced by the supportive cheers of what seems like half the community, I actually emerged from the washroom in this outrageous swimsuit! And now, Marie Routhier’s website will have the pictures to prove it. So call me a fashion tart.

Marie handed me her card. It reads “Designer of Champions.”

“If only our Olympic swim team had been wearing these suits!” I lamented. I left the wharf, a giddy smile plastered on my face, amazed that even in an unlikely place like Bauline, a girl can have her fashion moments.

NB from Marie: Sir Adolphe Basile Routhier is apparently my great, great Grandfather, according to my dad’s side of the family (estranged)

The Express – Bathing Beauties in Bauline

August 25 – 31, 2004 – The Express

Cover Story
‘Bathing Beauties in Bauline’
Designer sewing roots – and swimsuits – in Newfoundland
By Ashley Bursey
For the Express

Never in a million years did Marie Routhier think that she would meet up with one of Canada’s top fashion icons in Tors Cove.

During a recent photo shoot to the area, the unimaginable because a reality for the young designer when she came face-to-face with Fashion Television’s Jeanne Beker, an entertainment reporter with a basis in the fashion industry.

“Did that actually just happen?” Routhier wonders shortly after, still in shock over her encounter – and exchange of business cards – with the famous fashion journalist.

The two chatted for an hour or more on the picturesque wharf that is home to a boat tour.

Beker, who began a broadcast career at CBC in Newfoundland, returns frequently to the island for quiet summer sojourns. With many friends in the Bauline area, she loves the secluded, scenic atmosphere of the small community on the southern shore.

Today, however, her excitement at meeting fellow members of the Toronto “fashion incubator” is apparent. Beker laughs easily, throwing around ideas for her next column in the Globe and Mail.

“Bathing Beauties in Bauline,” she giggles as she fingers one of Routher’s custom-made swimsuits. With her digital camera at the ready, she has already begun dreaming of images to accompany her column.

Routhier, who has been design custom spandex-inspired figure skating and synchronized swimming costumes since age 11, recently began recruiting workers and salespeople for a new line of swimsuits.

The home base of IQ Sportswear Incorporated will be none other than Paradise – a long ways away from her native Winnipeg.


She cites Winnipeg as an “old boys club” with respect to the business industry, and says she found it difficult to launch an enterprise as an innovative young woman.

“When it all came down to it, it was good for my business to move here, just for the economics and everything,” Routhier explains. “There weren’t very many resources for starting out or expanding…the environment here is perfect for young business people.”

Routhier’s new business is a follow-up to a popular line she has already begun to sell. The Unabashedly Canadian line features the Canadian Flag on a variety of bikinis, tankinis, sportswear and one-piece swimsuits, as well as being available in a Speedo-esque style for interested males.

Each piece is hand sewn and stitched, with a double lining for extra protection.

Despite being made of white spandex, Routhier insists the pieces are durable – even the whitest of white won’t suddenly become washed-out or see-through in the water.

“The good thing is that our’s are fairly indestructible,” she says. “They last quite a bit. If they can survive some of the athletes, they can survive anyone.”

A background in tailoring and sewing has given added boost in the competitive world of custom spandex suits, be they for figure skaters or synchronized swimmers.

“I was a figure skater in a poor family,” she says. “I learned to make my own costumes because we couldn’t really afford to buy them, and it kind of went from there.”


After making several costumes for herself, she began taking orders from fellow skaters. Eventually, gymnasts began calling for her suits. Her business, built from the ground up, took its cue from her initial seamstress training.

Self-taught, Routhier confesses to dropping out of high school due to a lack of interest in academia.”I tried doing a year of fashion tech and design in high school, and that didn’t work out too well,”* she says.

The courses she was required to take just didn’t pique her interest. Creating costumes and custom swimsuits was an original, creative way to explore one of her marketable talents – and it didn’t require a high school education.

Although Routhier returned to school a few years later and obtained a diploma, she has opted out of University, wishing instead to involve herself in the creative and entrepreneurial processes involved in launching a new business.

“I didn’t learn anything,” she says of her high schools days – her self- taught techniques seem to have launched her further than a stifling classroom did.

Despite her initial distaste of classroom learning, Routhier hopes to return to school some day.

“It’s my hope now that I’ve got employees and that I can wean myself off the work,” she says. Her staff – a small, “scientific, outside-of-thebox” set of thinkers – is “a really great team of employees,” she says.

Routhier is hopeful that she can add another name to the list quite soon. And, once that happens, she plans on a university career centered around microbiology.

“Kind of a jump in careers, hey?” she laughs


Jumping careers is one thing, but jumping locations is something entirely different. Originally stationed in Missisauga, ON, Routhier admits moving her product to the slightly fashion-backwards island of Newfoundland had much of the Toronto fashion community giving her flack.

But her love for the island and its people, as well as her brand new design ideas, has given her the confidence that Newfoundland is truly home.

“I stepped off the plane (in Newfoundland) and it felt like home,” she says, reminded of her long-ago first trip to the island. Despite having parents of Irish heritage, Routhier had never been to the island before.

“I had heard it was a peninsula! I knew nothing about it,” she acknowledges. “I had never even heard a Newfie joke before I came here.

Years later, she has grown to love her newfound home.

“I love the water, more than anything – it’s so open,” she says.

Referring to Winnipeg, she adds: “The air is so stagnant, and it’s so flat. It’s very claustrophobic. Here, you can see the rest of the city, and if you can’t, you can just walk and have a better view.”

Her love for the province and its Irish history has resulted in unique swimwear styles – one featuring the Orange, White, and Green of the Irish flag, and another displaying the increasingly popular Pink, White, and Green Republic of Newfoundland flag.

“I wanted to start marketing the Newfoundland flag stuff,” she says. Although her store won’t be open till May, she already has sales reps scouting for prime locations.


The spandex suits, which can be custom-sewn and fitted, are an intriging take on the growing popularity of the Republic of Newfoundland merchandise. T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, and hats have all becoming commonplace amoung St. John’s locals. Why not add swimsuits to the mix?

“A lot of people are really excited,” she enthuses. “The big comment I get is ‘there’s nowhere here to get swimwear’. The fashion seasons are really set.”

In a city where commercial merchandizing appears to be the norm, distinct fall-winter-spring-summer clothing blocks don’t really allow for year round merchandise of any one variety. Routhier’s store – which will also sell competition suitsm fitness suits, and sportswear – promises year-round products for a varying clientele.

“If someone wants a sparkly top to go to the club, they can call up and order it,” she says. “Honestly, I love dealing with spandex. Now that the company’s so big, we have clients around the world…”

Around the world, yet she continues to live in Newfoundland. Her choice, however,has more to do with the quality of life here than anything else, she says.

“The people here are so nice,” she smiles.

(Editor’s note: The article’s author was involved in a photo shoot for Marie Routhier’s products over the weekend.)

* NB from marie: Just to clarify : I dropped out of a fashion technology and design program because of a LACK of academic focus at that particular school, in favour of her highly academic high school. The decision to temporarily drop out of high school was on account of too heavy a workload, NOT a lack of interest in academics. Though I didn’t always have the levels of intellectual stimulation I would have liked (it got boring at times) I loved high school, and look forward to furthering my education. Make no mistake – I’m a nerd, and proud of it! The “not learning anything” applied to my year at a fashion vocational course – NOT my high school!


Mississauga Business Times – A fashionable way to make money

Mississauga Business Times

A fashionable way to make money
Fashionable wear can make a bold statement at the beach or in the boardroom

June 26, 2004

It’s only with a chuckle that Marie Routhier accepts the mantle of Canada’s “Queen of Spandex”. But as the proprietor of the Mississauga-based Canadian Swimwear, this 24-year-old has built up a serious reputation as a custom designer/seamstress to the stars – synchro swimmers, figure skaters, body builders, professional wrestlers, and Olympic athletes.

And this year she brings her expertise to the masses with her ready-to-wear, “Unabashedly Canadian,” line of ladies’ swimsuits ( It promises a better fit and enhanced durability. There are no less than 30 items to choose from – from the assymetrical cut-out one-piece suit, to the string bikini – all featuring a Maple Leaf/Canadian Flag design, in red and white.

They’re fun, flashy, and decidedly form-fitting. And, Routhier says, she offers higher quality than comparably priced competitors.

“It’s a very athletic-looking swimsuit, the way it’s contoured. It’s very flattering for the female,” she explains.

Mississauga firms are making big inroads into the fashion industry, whether at the micro (Canadian Swimwear) or macro level (Olsen Europe), and summer is the time to offer business executives some casual, alternative wear.

Meanwhile, Routhier is working hard to make her mark in a competitive field.

“Basically, my suits are fully lined. It’s a heavier, higher-quality lycra. They fit really well, and hold you in. Most suits sag when they get wet.”

This Winnipeg native began sewing her own figure skating costumes at age 11, and was soon custom making for others. Since then she has diversified her talents – sewing in Spandex, writing books on fashion, doing seminar tours, and taking courses in bridal consulting, and floral arts. Her goal: to become a scientist.

Her gowns have been worn to such events as the 1999 Canadian Search for Miss Universe Pageant, and the 1999 Canadian Model and Talent Convention. In 2002 she moved to Mississauga, where she soon picked up contracts with several synchro swim clubs. Last year’s national synchro swim team claimed silver at the PanAm Games wearing Routhier’s creations. She’s currently the official designer for Synchro Swim Ontario.

Ironically, a descendant of Sir Adolphe Basille Routhier (author of our national anthem), she’s proud of her strictly Canadian-made line. Her marketing likewise features Canadian modelling and imagery – right down to a fun fashion shoot done in the heart of winter, outside of the Canadian Parliament buildings.

O Canada!

She feels it’s time Canadians had some patriotic gear of their own. “You can buy so much Stars and Stripes stuff everywhere – and the Union Jack,” she observes. “It’s kind of weird, we adopt somebody else’s culture. I just always found that strange.”

Her flagwear has already proven popular with custom order clients. And now general consumers are starting to respond.

“The big comment we’ve had so far is, a lot of people get them when they travel overseas,” she says.

Routhier did a 15-minute fashion show at the Fitness & Model Expo this spring at Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Her flag swimwear was on sale at the national synchro swim championships in early May at the Etobicoke Olympium.

One of the more reliable brands of women’s fashions, Mississauga-based Olsen Europe, has been caught up in the spirit of sun, sand, and surf with its 2004 collection.

Lush tropical blooms, leafy palm trees, exotic wildlife, and native cultures have all found their way into this season’s designs, which are delivered in brilliant hues of mandarin, hibiscus, apricot, and oceanic blues and greens.

There’s bold stripes on everything from shoulder-baring knits, to flirty capris, to slouchy shoulder bags. There’s also pop inspired prints in graphic colours, and vintage washes, ornamental embroideries, and lacing and beading, creating texure and detail.

Olsen Europe suggests that women can find boundless energy in looks that are sexy and chic.

“We have been wearing lot of dark clothing in the last couple of years, and see this trend in colour as being fun,” says Sabrina Messina, Olsen’s public relations officer. “We’ve been very black and grey – especially in business.”

“Pink is a hot colour for this season – all shades of pink are a hit, this year more than ever. We’re seeing a lot of pop colours. For years, we never wore yellow.”

Famous for ladies knits and sportswear that you can “wash and wear for years to come,” this German company dates right back to 1901.

Its North American head office was lauched out of Mississauga in 1995 (at 5112 Timberlea Blvd.) and now numbers over 50 employees. Among other places, Olsen Europe’s bright red-and-white logo can be found at 19 The Bay locations across Canada.

With a price point that’s moderate to high, its demographic is brand-conscious women in the 35-and-up market who are looking for a combination of quality, fit, and fashion. Many of these women are successful in business.

“It’s classic, but it has a little bit of trendiness in there,” Messina says.

“Now we’re breaking away from that, to incorporate colour – and you can still have an impact on your employees. Into summer, it’s all about colour, fashion, and style.”

She notes that Olsen’s weekend wear can be jazzed up to double as evening or formal wear. Likewise, its accessories (handbags, scarves, etc.) can be used to add a sense of luxury to something like a basic T shirt and skirt.

“Spring and summer definitely, you’ve got to break away from the winter blues. If you’re not one for colour, just try to incorporate two or three colours max, just to be used to it,” she adds.

“And, I think a lot of women take good care of themselves these days and can wear a little more revealing clothing. Hemlines are at any length – it’s not just one length anymore.”

Meanwhile, the cutting-edge “Sligo” line of golf shirts – manufactured by Mississauga’s Canadian Wearables Group – brings a more fashionable option in golf apparel ( It reflects the higher percentage of younger people now taking up the game.

Sligo partner and director of sales, Shawn Aucoin, says it was designed for both golf, and apres golf. Its bright colours (lime green, baby blue, etc.) and neat lines make it primarily “a thin person’s” shirt.

“It’s multi-purpose, rather than just golf specific – if they’re going to spend $100 for a shirt,” he says.

“It’s kind of going against the trend, a bit. The only available (previous) option was to buy the same stuff our dads would wear. I wouldn’t wear anything else my father wore, so why on the golf course?”

Available for the past year, Sligo has attracted a small niche market – in pro shops, off-course golf stores, and menswear shops. It features more of a tapered, Euro cut than your standard golf shirt.

“It’s basically a fashion forward, technical golf line,” adds Aucoin, an assistant pro at Devil’s Pulpit Golf Course. “All of the fabrics will stretch, and there’s moisture wicking in them.”

Established in 1990, Canadian Wearables also makes the “Granite Ridge” line of fashion-forward Polar Fleece, Micro Fleece and Micro Fibre products for the green grass, resort, and corporate markets. In the fall of 2004, this line will be expanded to include seam-sealed garments, waterproof fleece and performance golf shirts.

“It’s more of a resort type of line for the pro shops,” says Chris Fisher, national sales manager for Canadian Wearables.

“We carry the Polar Fleece (for warmth and comfort), and the Micro Fleece, which is stretchy – a lot of people like to walk, or play golf in it.”

National Post Coverage – O Canada Meets Haute Hoser

National Post, May 1st 2004
O Canada meets haute hoser
Patriotism runs in designer’s family

By Nathalie Atkinson and Adriana Ermter

Perusing the racks of emerging designers at the Toronto Fashion Incubator breakfast during fashion week, we saw several new collections well worth the early wake-up call. Such as Unabashedly Canadian, the debut ready-to-wear collection by seasoned athletic costumer Marie Routhier. Her flag swimsuits are a patriotic antidote to our southern neighbours, who put those Stars and Stripes on everything from beer coolers to blankets. Unabashedly Canadian is O Canada meets haute hoser: Finally, those with a penchant for patriotism can proudly (if irreverently) wear the Maple Leaf at the beach, and on their derrieres.

In a charming genealogical twist, Routhier also appears to be a descendant of Sir Adolphe Basille Routhier, author of the original French lyrics of our national anthem. She began sewing her own costumes at the age of 11 because her single income family couldn’t afford expensive custom skating outfits, and moved into evening wear and bridal gown design before returning to her first love, spandex. The author of “Sewing for Skaters and Gymnasts and Dancers… Oh My!” and “The Skating Dress Style Book”, Routhier designs for gymnasts, pro wrestlers, champion body builders and olympic athletes, who have crowned her the Queen of Spandex. Her suits were on Canada’s national synchro team at last year’s Pan Am Games (They won the Silver medal) and she is the official designer of Synchro Swim Ontario, working on the teams spangled, eye-catching custom suits.

This month, Unabashedly Canadian launches in stores, and through Routhier’s web site . After more than a decade of dexterity working with spandex, nipping, tucking, cutting fabric, and fitting bodies into sleek custom costumes, Routhier boasts that her suits are free of unsightly saggy bum, wedgies, and other swimwear malfunctions. (Detailed size charts and measurement guides online also help ensure a good fit)

Priced from $45 for separates to $140 for a sexy cutaway one piece, the playful mix and match tops and bottoms are emblazoned with colour-blocked red and white Canadian flags.Sewn Maple Leaf pieces are appliqued, not printed, so they won’t crack and fade. Each Nylon-Spandex sporty tankini and bandeau, halter, string bikini top, thong, boy cut short, and classic high cut brief is also well and fully lined, so before you ask, the white Lycra is definitely not see-through when wet (Sorry, guys)

Toronto Star – Spandex queen makes snug, sexy fit

Toronto Star, June 26 2003
Spandex queen makes snug, sexy fit

Most women would find a full body wax less painful than shopping for a swimsuit.

Marie Routhier completely understands.

The former figure skater’s physique changed dramatically after a car accident six years ago sidelined her with a back injury.

Routhier redirected her passion for the sport into creating costumes for skaters, wrestlers, synchronized swimmers, body builders and fitness competitors. Now she’s making a splash with men and women of all shapes and sizes who are simply frustrated with store-bought suits.

“It’s a matter of fit and choice,” Routhier believes. “If someone has a long body or their hip size is different than their chest, this is the answer.”

From full-coverage maillots to skimpy bikinis, custom orders are all sewn to the client’s exact specifications, no matter what their proportions. Figure concerns can be camouflaged and the design options are limitless.

She’s done striking Canadian flag one-piecers, a funky boy-leg camouflage-print suit and a racy Toronto Maple Leafs-theme bikini. An Inuit-inspired collection with glacial and Northern Lights motifs was designed for the gold-medal winning national synchronized swim team. And Routhier did a series of superheroes for the Guelph synchro team.

“I hand-painted the Hulk’s abs on to nylon tricot spandex. That was really fun,” she chuckles.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old. It’s like breathing to me,” Routhier says in her topsy-turvy Mississauga home/studio. Throughout her teens, she made costumes for herself and her skater friends, experience that proved key.

She learned not to use invisible zippers in her sports designs because they might pop and she guarantees her seams will not rip. “When I was skating, I was vicious on seams. I really abused my costumes because my style was more athletic than ballet. If it can stand up to me, it can stand up to anything. Even my wrestlers never have a problem.”

In addition to her custom designs, Routhier offers some ready-made styles including a Pride Day collection. The rainbow flag bikinis and pink triangle trunks for men are priced from $67.50 to $75 with 10 per cent going to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research. Custom swimsuits usually ring in between $100 to $150.

Orders for both can be place through Routhier’s Web site, http://www.queenof Or call 416-732-8783.

Newfoundland Herald Coverage – Young fashion designer set to travel province

Young fashion designer set to travel province
By Janice Keels

At the tender age of 22, Marie Routhier is making a name for herself in the fashion industry. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Routhier now calls Newfoundland home.

As a child growing up in Manitoba, Marie was involved in figure skating – an expensive sport, to say the least. Being from a poor family, Routhier’s mother could not afford the prices being charged for the practice dresses and competition costumes. As Routhier explains, her mother tried to make an outfit for her to wear, but she’s quick to add that her mother’s no seamstress.

Self Taught

“My mother made this god-awful dress, with an exceptionally long skirt. There was no way i was going to wear that in public, so I taught myself to make the skating costumes that my family could not afford”

It didn’t take long before her fellow skaters were asking where she bought her costumes. They were all astounded when she’d reply “I made it myself”.

The rest, as they say, is history. Before long, Marie Routhier was taking orders for skating costumes, and from skating costumes came orders for graduation gowns, evening gowns, and wedding gowns.

It was during this time that the young lady envisioned opening her own home-based designing/sewing business in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moved East

“I took courses in Bridal Consulting and Floral Arts,” explains Routhier. But as she explains “Winnipeg is not friendly to young people opening businesses.”

“They are not eager to help out. The support is not there, unlike Newfoundland, where they bend over backwards to try and help you start up your business and keep it going.”

Routhier moved to St. John’s in 1998 and started making a name for herself.

“I was doing great, my name was getting out there, and things wee really starting to work out for me”

Then tragedy struck. Routhier was in a car accident which took her off the ice forever, and sidelined her business here in Newfoundland. She found herself heading back to Manitoba.

“I couldn’t sew, I couldn’t work, I lost everything. I headed back to Winnipeg to recover.”

Changed Gears

Not being able to what she loved best – designing an sewing – Routhier was in limbo. In an effort to make ends meet while recovering, Marie wrote “Sewing for Skaters and Dancers and Gymnasts… Oh My!”. This was Routhier’s first book, and it was released online in July of 2000. Her second book soon followed. “The Skating Dress Style Book” was released online in December of 2000.

“Both books are currently enjoying international sales as the only books ever written on the subject of skating costumes,” Routhier says excitedly. “Over the next year or so, I’m planning on releasing another three or four books.”

While recuperating in Winnipeg, Routhier longed to return to her new island home. “I knew when I first came here that this is the place I wanted to call home. I love it here, and I haven’t even seen much of the province.”

That’s about to change. As Routhier explains “If I wait until I can take a vacation to travel the island, it will never happen. I’m too busy.. So I’m calling this a working vacation.”

The working vacation that Routhier refers to is the tour she will be taking across the island in January to meet with graduates and brides-to-be.

“I will be accepting appointments with brides and grads, to discuss and fulfill their gown needs. I will conduct one-on-one sessions, interviewing prospective clients to get a feel for their personality, and will design on the spot.”

Routhier will take the grad/bride’s measurements on the spot, and the gowns will be created in Mount Pearl, where she currently resides. A subsequent tour will be booked at a later date to conduct fittings, do any alterations, and deliver the final pieces.

Busy Schedule

“A lot of my clients have driven into the St. John’s area from very far away, just to get a gown.. I’m talking eight or ten hour drives. While that’s very flattering to me, I thought I’d do this tour as a service to brides, grads, and skating moms across the island. Specifically in the case of skating costumes, there really aren’t all that many places that a person can go. As a former figure skater myself, I know how expensive the sport can is. Having readily available outfits, rather than making a cross-island trip, should really help. Same for the brides that either travel to St. John’s, or go away for gowns. Weddings are expensive enough as it is, without factoring in road trips to buy gowns,” states Marie

Routhier is really looking forward to the trip, having never been to several of the communities on the itinerary.

“I’ll be taking a day off in Rocky Harbour, because I’ve never been to Gros Morne. I’ve heard so much about the fjords and views and everything, I’m really excited about the opportunity. I’ve driven across the island a few times, but never really strayed off the TCH. I’ll be visiting places like Fogo island, Moreton’s Harbour, Bonavista, Marystown.. It’s going to be a lot of fun!”

Routhier’s schedule begins January 13 at Nageira House Bed and Breakfast in Carbonear, before heading onto the following destinations: January 14th – Island View Hospitality, Clarenville; January 15 – Poplar Inn Bed & Breakfast in Grand Falls-Windsor; January 16 – Corner Brook’s Bell’s Inn Bed and Breakfast; January 17 – Hotel Port Aux Basques; January 18 – St. Anthony; January 19 – Shears House Bed & Breakfast, Rocky Harbour; January 21- Hull’s Riverview Bed & Breakfast, Springdale; January 22 – Garden by the Sea bed & Breakfast, Moreton’s Harbour; January 23 – Quiet cannon Hotel, Fogo Island; January 24 – White’s Bed & Breakfast, Bonavista; January 25 – Dock Point Bed & Breakfast, Marystown; January 26th – Rosedale Manor Bed & Breakfast, Placentia, and January 27 – Gander

The Express Coverage – Designing Woman

The Express, October 31 2001

Designing Woman
Marie Routhier is answering her calling in St. John’s


Marie Routhier’s future was set when she was 11 years old, after her mother came home with an unsightly skating dress.

“My mom bought me a $90 skating dress and it was ugly,” she recalls. “I didn’t like it at all. I told her that, but she said we couldn’t afford anything else. So I learned how to sew and started to make my own dresses.

“People would ask where I got them, I told them I made them myself and they would ask me to make them something as well.”

Routhier knew she was onto a good thing when they were paying her $30 for something she made in half an hour.

As she got older, so did her clients and the kind of dresses they wanted. She graduated from skating dresses to prom dresses and then wedding dresses.

It was a good business and, at 18, she was getting recognition for her designs and finished product.

However, Routhier, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, was unhappy in the city and was looking for a change.

“Winnipeg is very anti-youth. You don’t get any respect if you’re young — it doesn’t matter how talented you are. It’s not a very happy environment if you’re 18 years old and trying to start a business,” she said.

However, Winnipeg is a long way from Newfoundland. The city also has a thriving fashion industry. A designer, with proper training and a willingness to pay dues, could eventually make it.

Routhier didn’t want to wait. Following what she calls an ‘If you build it, they will come’ dream, she packed her belongings into her car and headed off to Newfoundland.

Her family thought she was nuts, but she hasn’t regretted it for a second.

“I was born a Manitoban, but I’m actually a Newfoundlander,” she said.


Routhier, now 22, has enjoyed success since her move to St. John’s.

It might seem surprising, given the instability in Newfoundland’s economy at times, that a designer would prosper in the province. However, Routhier says is doing quite well.

“Business has been really good. I find people here are a lot more open-minded. They would prefer having a custom dress done instead of getting a knock-off.”

Instead of following the latest fashion trends, Routhier says she works with customers to find out what style looks best on them.

In fact, despite working in fashion, Routhier actually doesn’t like the industry all that much.

“I find there’s way too much emphasis on trends. The way I do things is based on a person’s personality. I meet with the person, I interview them, find out their favourite pastime and then I design around that. It’s not big in the fashion industry.”

It seems to be working for her. She used to have her own store, but closed it after a car accident knocked her out of action for a year.

When she started to work again, Routhier discovered that she liked working without a storefront.

And it hasn’t slowed down business. In fact, she’s preparing to go on the road in November.

“What I found is that a lot of customers were coming to me from far away. They were coming from Corner Brook, St. Anthony and other places. That’s a long way to come for a dress.”

So between Nov. 15 and Nov. 26, she’ll be traveling to Carbonear, Corner Brook, Fogo Island, Placentia and other communities to meet with people and help design their dresses.

It’s also a chance to see more of her adopted home. So far, she hasn’t had a chance to see the province outside of St. John’s.


Despite getting her start in figure skating dresses, its grad and wedding dresses that are big business these days.

Routhier says she’s competitive when it comes to wedding dresses with other stores, estimating the average one costs about $1,000.

However, she was surprised by the demand for grad dresses.

“Grads are a much bigger deal here than they are in Winnipeg. There you go to a ready-made store and spend $80 on a gown. Around here, people come in and say ‘I don’t care about the budget, just make me the best looking one at the grad.’ ”

Between her dress business, and a series of manuals she’s self-printed on how to make skating dresses, Routhier is doing well.

Even her mom, who thought she was crazy to come to Newfoundland, changed her mind after a visit.

“She didn’t understand why I came here, but after visiting and seeing the place and how well I’m doing, she’s ok with it now.”

Home Business Report Magazine Coverage – Marie Routhier Designs

Home Business Report Magazine, March, 2001

Marie Routhier Designs

By Eva Weidman

With someone like Hauge doing all the planning, the bride can turn her full attention to her wedding dress. It’s said that every bride looks beautiful, but the bride with a wedding dress designed just for her looks extra-special. It’s that feeling that Marie Routhier seeks in every one of her bridal gown designs. “I love the idea that I can make someone feel like a princess for a day,” she says. “That is the comment I most often hear.”

At 21, Routhier is an exceptionally talented young designer. She’s designed dozens of graduation gowns, wedding dresses, costumes and evening gowns for beauty pageants from Winnipeg to Newfoundland. It is her wedding gown designs that have captured the most attention, however. In fact, one of Routhier’s designs recently made the cover of Newfoundland Bride magazine. She says she prefers a simple look, not a lot of lace and beads or “cookie cutter” designs. “I want the person to wear the dress, not the dress to wear the person,” she says. “The dress shouldn’t be more noticeable than the bride.”

Routhier started designing her own skating costumes when she was 11 because her mother couldn’t afford the $90 training outfits. Other mothers started to notice the outfits and asked where they could get them, launching Routhier’s design career. When the young figure skaters got older and were looking for graduation dresses they turned back to Routhier, and are now calling her once again for wedding gowns.

Creating a one-of-a-kind wedding dress takes more than satin and lace. Routhier’s first step is to talk with the bride-to-be. “I meet with the customer to see what she looks like, what her body type is. Most important, we talk. I find out what her personality is like, and I then design the dress from those impressions.”

Although she has been sewing since she was four or five years old, Marie says that sewing is the least favourite part of her work. It is the creation of something new and different that interests her. “I never really planned to be in the fashion business until I took a fashion technology and design program in high school,” she says. “My real strengths in school were science-based courses, but I find a good understanding of mathematics is a real plus in design.”

For the upcoming year, Routhier plans to show her work at a number of wedding fashion shows, and will launch a how-to-sew book on the Internet. She is also planning a move to Newfoundland soon. “Believe it or not, I’ve found that the best way to design a wedding dress is to sit and watch icebergs,” she says. “That is where I’ve come up with my best work.”

Mississauga News – Queen of Spandex finds time squeezed by eager customers

Queen of Spandex finds time squeezed by eager customers


It was a love of figure skating that started Marie Routhier on the road to becoming the Queen of spandex.

Since moving to Mississauga in August, She has seen her outfits for synchronized swimmers and professional wrestlers skyrocket. For instance, Routhier says she made more money at her business in October than she did in all of 2001.

Marie Routhier is a one-woman sewing machine who turns out custom designed Spandex and Lycra wear. The Spider-man suit was made for a super heroes routine by a synchronized swimming team.

When her family in Winnipeg couldn’t afford the razzle-dazzle costumes she needed for competitions, she started sewing them herself.

A year later she was taking orders from other skaters and by 16 the self-taught seamstress was sewing wedding gowns.

“Scratch a spandex sewer and you’ll find a mother who had to learn how to make costumes to outfit a child in skating or dance or gymnastics,” she said. “In my case, I was the child who needed costumes.”

By 18, Routhier had moved to St. John’s, Nfld., and was operating her own business specializing in wedding gowns when back injuries from a car accident in 1998 ended her skating career and forced her into bankruptcy.

During her recovery at home in Winnipeg in 2000 she wrote a manual called Sewing for Skaters and Dancers and Gymnasts — Oh My in hopes of making enough money to pay a phone bill. That book has become the definitive primer for spandex sewing. She followed it up with a design theory manual called The Skating Dress Style Book and book profits allowed her to move back to St. John’s and start her sewing business again.

By the time she moved to Mississauga in August 2002 the 23-year-old found professional wrestlers were seeking her out for exotic ring costumes.

“I would sew for wrestlers over brides any day,” she said. “Wrestlers are a lot nicer and more appreciative than some brides. So when I moved to Mississauga, I decided to sew spandex full-time and get out of bridals.”

Routhier has designed two pairs of PVC stretch vinyl wrestling pants for the wrestling character played by Streetsville video store manager Dave Rector.

“Marie does good work,” he said. “The pants suit the character I play when I’m wrestling. And Marie goes to wrestling shows and makes herself known to guys like me wrestling on the independent circuit so we know where to go to get a costume made.”

Recently, Routhier moved her business to a new location at 3050 Confederation Parkway, Unit 202. There she sews, does fittings, and fills the fabric, book and costume orders generated by her websites, which she designed herself and which bring in most of her business.

Making custom costumes and swimsuits from an assortment of 380 Lycra fabrics is still the mainstay of her business, but the ambitious Routhier plans to open a store selling the special fabrics and supplies for spandex sewing.

“The store is my safety net,” she said. “A few months before the car accident, I turned down disability insurance. When you’re 18, you can’t imagine you’ll ever need it. “Now I’m thinking long-term and putting together a business that will support me if some day I can’t sew. I’m planning to write more manuals and give seminars and sewing lessons.”