The New First Ladies in Fashion
The designers, performers and entrepreneurs who are changing the world.
Marie Saint Pierre
Meet Quebec’s first lady of fashion.
In the 30 years since founding her eponymous line, Marie Saint Pierre has become an icon in Quebec. She has earned such honours as the Order of Canada, the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards Outstanding Achievement Award and a YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She spearheaded efforts to promote the province’s fashion industry and mentored design talents like Denis Gagnon, Siphay Southidara (known professionally as Yso), Philippe Dubuc and UNTTLD’s José Manuel St-Jacques and Simon Bélanger. In the early aughts, she even launched Opération Sous Zéro to provide children in need with winter outerwear. Saint Pierre knows she is a role model in Quebec society, but when it comes to fashion, her first love? “Some people don’t know I exist,” she says.
Of course, the accolades say otherwise. So did the recent Montreal showcase of her debut collection for men, where hundreds of fans packed her downtown boutique to see menswear pieces that bear her distinctive look: precise cuts, luxurious fabrics and cool. “Being relevant 30 years in is probably the hardest thing,’’ says Saint Pierre, when asked what achievement she is most proud of. “To continue to believe in what I do? It’s very hard.”
Saint Pierre now has three boutiques: two in Montreal and one in the Wynwood Art District of Miami. There are 30 employees in design and development, and Maison Marie Saint Pierre is one of the few true luxury houses in Canada. “It’s not a shop; it’s a house,” says Saint Pierre. “It comes with a lot of obligation in an industry where it’s easy to go fast. Many cut corners.”
“She is proof that Canadian design has meaning in our country and abroad. She is a locomotive for the new generation of designers,’’ says Dubuc, now president of the Conseil des créateurs de mode du Québec (CCMQ). When Saint Pierre was president of the CCMQ, she initiated the Cabinet Éphémère project, a travelling pop-up shop of Quebec designers. One of the designers she mentored was Danielle Martin, of Martin Lim. Martin says that the most important lesson she learned from Saint Pierre was how to balance a collection between design and commercial viability. That kind of mentorship is something Saint Pierre takes very seriously. “The only advice you can give is ‘Be true to yourself,’” she says. “Because it’s going to be difficult, so you may as well do it in a very authentic way.’’ —Eva Friede
Ahrendts is currently the only female executive at Apple.
If Angela Ahrendts is proving anything, it’s that fashion girls can hack it with tech types. The 56-year-old fostered a successful career in fashion that culminated in a stint as CEO of Burberry, where she helped make the brand cool again. Then, in 2014, Ahrendts was named senior vice-president of retail at Apple, where she launched the Apple Watch and focused on grooming customer service. “If the end result is that someone winds up believing they can do something out of the ordinary, well, then you’ve really made it,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2010. From 2013 to 2015, Ahrendts, who hails from New Palestine, Ind., made Fortune’s list of most powerful women. She is currently the only female executive at Apple and one of the highest-paid female executives in the United States. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. —Carly Ostroff
She’s likely the first knitter activist!
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has the world of knitting in stitches. The 48-year-old Toronto-based knitter, writer and blogger has written an astounding eight books on the subject. It’s with a sense of humour and warmth that she makes this niche art form accessible to her rapidly growing following. In 2004, she established Knitters Without Borders to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders. Her challenge asks fellow knitters to take one week to ponder their needs versus their wants (coffee, lunch out, even wool) and refrain from spending and, at the end of the week, donate those savings. So far they have raised more than $1.1 million for Doctors Without Borders. Still, for all the attention, Pearl-McPhee prefers not to take any of it too seriously. “No matter how well you knit, looking at your work too closely isn’t helpful,” she writes in her book Things I Learned from Knitting. “It’s like kissing with your eyes open: nobody looks good that close up.” —C.O.
We’re obsessed with the first South Korean crossover star.
If you don’t know who CL is, you need to update your feeds stat. Whether she’s sitting front row at Jeremy Scott, partying with the #WangSquad or chilling with Method Man in the music video for her first English solo, “Lifted,” this badass South Korean rapper/singer/superstar is poised for global pop domination. —Nancy Won