Rock-and-roll meets tea-party boutique, Victoire, turns 10 this month. In June 2006, Regine Paquette and Katie Frappier left University to open up the shop. Their goal: offering an accessible and friendly boutique experience with a focus on Canadian creators.
Fast-forward to today, with two Ottawa locations (the ByWard Market and Wellington West), and a third in Toronto (opened with the help of Indiegogo) on trendy Ossington Street, the girls have become quite the authority on fashion from our nation (and nation’s capital).
Victoire celebrates year-long with exclusive pieces from some of their most popular designers: Birds of North America, Valerie Dumaine, and Betina Lou, to name a few. We sat down with Paquette and Frappier to talk fashion, entrepreneurship in Ottawa, and being rebel girls with good manners.
How did you go about sourcing your designers in the beginning?
The core idea behind Victoire has always been to have a very edited space around the tag line “clothes for rebel girls with good manners.” With this frame of mind, we began approaching designers who embodied this balance of transgressive and traditional, with looks that worked for feeling confident at work and partying on the weekend. There was a long list of amazing young Canadian designers not being sold outside of their hometowns. We approached them with a very clear vision of our shop and then it grew from there. The design community in Canada is pretty tight so word spread and now we get approached by designers weekly. We are very proud to say that many of the designers who came on board in those first few seasons are people we continue to work and grow with today.
Has the style of merchandise changed as you’ve matured with the store?
We like to frame Victoire as selling the “vintage of tomorrow.” Pieces that are made well, with a unique design element that ensures it will stand the test of time. We delight in spotting people around town wearing pieces bought many seasons previous, it’s such an affirmation that we’re selling pieces that people treasure for years.
With this core value, yes our style has evolved as we have grown because we now have the physical (and cyber) space to include many more pieces from many more designers. We are often asked by people “what is your shop’s age range?” And we can honestly and proudly say, “15 to 75.” Our shop is not about trends or a fast-fashion mindset. Here, we sell pieces you can feel uniquely yourself in for many years to come. We sell little treasures that reflect your inner self to the outer world.
What do you mean by “fast-fashion?” How is that different from what Victoire offers?
“Fast-Fashion” is a term used to categorize clothing made in devastating conditions in countries very far from here by people (often women and children) … The clothing is made fast, bought fast, and then disposed of fast. The devastation it causes is the reason we have devoted 10 years to shining a light on clothing made ethically.
You sell many Canadian designs. How many Ottawa designers do you carry?
Victoire sells primarily Canadian-made (about 90 percent). We have made room for a few expats who work in other parts of the world (such as the USA, Ghana, and India) as well as a few independent designers who we adore (personally and creatively). In the shops, we sell about 15 or so Ottawa designers. It’s so exciting to have a mix of designers who run their creative business on the side of their other work, or those who are newly involved in the boutique scene. Meeting new designers and exposing them to our customers is such a joy and a huge part of our sustainability.
What has been the most notable moment during your 10 years (if you can choose)?
The success of our Indiegogo campaign to open in Toronto was so heart-warming — to see so many of our customers believe in us and literally help us make that idea a reality with their contributions. We’re very proud of our accomplishments as business women, so being named in Elle Canada‘s list of “Boss Ladies you Need to Know” was noteworthy. Also, having Sophie Trudeau and Coeur de Pirate as repeat customers has been fun.
Where should readers go to see when new merch for the anniversary is released?
As of Saturday, June 11 all three shops, as well as online, are selling the first of our 10-year exclusive designs: A delightfully quirky banana one-piece bathing suit made by the cult Toronto designers, Minnow Bathers, whom we have been working with for about seven years!
Victoire Boutique, Byward Market, 209 Dalhousie St., and Wellington West Village, 1282 Unit B. Wellington St. W.