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.”
The Woman’s Journal (Oregon), May 1999
Teen Designer: From Barbies to Beauty Queens
By Peggy Padgett
A woman who finds her true vocation- whether by luck, application, or process of elimination- is lucky. A woman who finds her true vocation at an early age, like Marie Routhier, is perhaps even luckier.
Routhier, owner of Marie Routhier Designs in St.John’s, Newfoundland (Canada), remembers making extravagent ball gowns for her Barie dolls when she was a small child in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is perhaps not so remarkable- many an amateur seamstress has gotten her start making outfits for Mattel’s dream queen. But Routhier has never stopped.
When she took up figure skating as a schoolgirl, she began to design skating outfits, both because she wanted better-looking outfits than her family could afford, and because she could design outfits that were more comfortable and flattering than ones she could buy. Her success did not go unnoticed. Routhier says that by the time she was 11, “People around the rink really liked what they saw and started ordering. Between the ages of 12 and 15, I was taking orders from all over Manitoba.” As well as elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.
When Routhier quit skating at 15, she quit making skating outfits as well. But some of the women who had bought her skating outfits were graduating from high school, and Routhier began designing their prom gowns. Again, the excellence of her designs caught others’ notice.
“Design was something I’d always done,” she says. “Everyone I sewed for would be impressed with what I’d do, and would subsequently tell me so. It was just the natural choice for a career.”
It’s a career that shows every sign of success. Since Routhier moved to St. John’s last year, a local bridal salon has picked up her design line, and other salons are expected ot follow suit. One of her bridal gowns was recently featured on the cover of the Newfoundland Herald’s spring bridal supplement. This would be an achievment for any designer, it’s especially impressive for a woman who will turn 20 at the end of May.
Routhier credits part of her success to Isabelle Fry, owner of a modelling agency in St. John’s. Fry has mentored Routhier, and introduced her to the Canadian beauty pageant industry. Routhier’s designs have found enthusiastic acceptance there as well. This year, she will be the official eveningwear designerfor the Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant. For the teen pageant, Routhier is custom-making gowns for the 32 contestants (using the same style but a different colour for each), as well as others in the pageant.
“It’s an exciting industry,” she says, adding, “I’m hoping that the pageants will lead up to doing gowns for awards shows [such as the Oscars], because that is partially the reason I started.”
Looking at Routhier’s designs (which you can do by visiting her website at www.marierouthier.nf.net), it’s easy to see why people are so enthusiastic about her work. Routhier says she’s been told that her gowns make the wearer “feel like a princess”, and that is certainly what these beautiful, extravagent designs suggest. Even better, Routhier’s designs work for those of us who don’t have perfect size-6 bodies. She understands how to create designs that flatter a wide range of shapes and sizes.
Routhier’s success, like all successes, has had its price. To acheive so much at such a young age, Routhier admits that she “never really got to be a teenager.” But given Routhier’s family background (which includes an abusive step father and an unsupportive mother), it’s possible that her teen years would have been problematic in any case. It’s to Routhier’s great credit that she has managed to use her gift and her ingenuity to transcend the barriers that lay between her and her dreams.
Marie Routhier, 19, Newfoundland
By Heather Skydt
When Marie Routhier was four, she began making her own skirts with her mother’s sewing machine. By the time she was 11, Marie was designing and selling figure skating costumes for friends. This eventually led to orders for graduation gowns and bridal wear. “Through word of mouth, my business grew over my high school years,” says Marie. “It was amazing.” In Grade 11, Marie took several bridal consulting and floral arts courses, then started a home-based bridal and formalwear design business. “I’ve been accused of trying to be a wonder-woman because I’m constantly taking on too much,” explains Marie. “I’m better now since I’ve learned to delegate.” Last April, Marie decided to move her business to St. John’s from Winnipeg. “Everyone here is so supportive of young entrepreneurs and there are lots of job opportunities if you make them for yourself,” says Marie. “Newfoundland is like paradise to me.” Now, at 19, Marie will be teaching the first fashion design course at the College of the North. Her latest designs can be seen at the 1999 Miss Newfoundland and Labrador Pageant, and the 1999 Miss Atlantic Canada Pageant. Check out Marie on the web at [http://www.marierouthier.com].
A few notes: Marie moved back to Winnipeg before having the chance to see the CONA project through, and the Miss Atlantic Canada pageant ended up not happening.
The Evening Telegram, 3/21/99
Pageant winner needs airline ticket to go with crown
Jennifer Hunter wants to represent Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canadian pageant in Edmonton that will choose Canada’s entry for the Miss Universe Pageant, but she’s having trouble getting her wish off the ground – literally.
The 21-year-old Memorial University student has won the chance to compete in the pageant and has had photography, dresses, a bathing suit and sash donated, but she doesn’t have a plane ticket west.
Hunter, originally from Grand Falls-Windsor, has contacted different airlines and corporations only to be told they don”t sponsor such events.
“I would like to get out there and get Newfoundland noticed,” Hunter said. “Newfoundland hasn’t been represented there in a number of years.”
Designer Marie Routhier has signed onto the cause, donating Hunter’s wardrobe and helping her get sponsors.
“This is an opportunity for both of us, not just myself,” Hunter said, explaining exposure at a national competition will benefit Routhier’s business as well.
Routhier is allowing any sponsors to advertise in her upcoming fashion show.
The winner of the Edmonton competition will go on to represent Canada at the Miss Universe Pageant in Trinidad and Tobago in May 1999.
Hunter, the province’s reigning Miss Bud Girl for Budwiser beer, hasn’t given up hope yet. She still has one week to make it to Edmonton to join the other delegates on March 28. The competition will be held March 31.
One of Marie Routhier’s best known gowns was recently featured on the cover of the Newfoundland Herald’s 1999 Bridal Guide, worn by Isabelle Fry Modelling Agency’s model, Jill.
Photo by Tad McMillan
The Newfoundland Herald March 6, 1999
Meet The Designer
Due to an extraordinary amount of interest in the dress worn by Isabelle Fry model Jill on the cover of this year’s Bridal Guide, we’d like to intoduce you to the designer: Marie Routhier.
Marie moved to Newfoundland from her hometown of Winnipeg in April of 1998. Since then, the 19-year-old has been in great demand, doing everything from making gowns for each of the 32 contestants in this month’s Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant, to accepting a role as the official evening wear and swimwear design for the Miss Newfoundland and Labrador pageant in September.
The Winnipeg Sun, January 19, 1998
An old hand at 18
By Tammy Marlowe,
Marie Routhier, 19, is an old hand at weddings.
The teenage designer took the plunge last April and opened Down The Aisle Bridal Consulting, a custom wedding gown business she runs out of her home.
The teenager has been sewing clothes since her mother bought her a foam- and-yarn sewing machine when Routhier was just three or four years old.
“Even then, I’d be trying to sew with the big machine,” she said.
Barbie clothes used to be Routhier’s specialty. She eventually moved on to skating outfits, graduation dresses, and finally wedding gowns, something she has quite a flair for.
So last year, with a little creative financing from her family, she set up shop- a custom formalwear and theme wedding business.
Routhier’s designs are not the traditional lacy white gowns many women wear on their special day.
Her designs are inspired by medieval and Egyptian styles- some are blue with intricate beading, others have wide sleeves and gold trim. One of her dresses even exposes most of the bride’s midriff.
There’s nothing better than seeing the look on her clients’ faces when they see themselves in their unique wedding gown for the first time, Routhier said.
“I love when people actually get their dress and they fall in love with it.”
While most of her clients, so far, have been family and friends, Routhier says she has made plenty of contacts with her booth at this weekend’s Wonderful Wedding Show.
Four of her creations even made it into the fashion show- an important accomplishment for Routhier.
“I almost cried when I saw (my dresses). This is really my debut.”
The teenager hope to make enough money making bridalwear and co-ordinating weddings to go to medical school and become a virologist.