Books & Nooks believes in strong commmunity ties and supporting local business and entrepreneurs. Local Spotlight! is a new series we will be running on our MishMash blog. Please message me if you would like to be featured.
I had the opportunity to interview a great friend and entrepreneur Melanie Girard. Melanie is the owner of CDN Retro, an upcoming fashion design house with local roots.
Q: Why did you move to France?
I met my future husband through friends one night in Ottawa. He was on tour playing soccer for team France when he invited me to watch one of his games. When it was time for him to leave I didn’t think I’d ever see him again but when he got back to France he sent me emails everyday and sweet letters in the mail for an entire year in hopes that I would come to France. I finally did go to France and we reconnected. I was only planning on staying for a month but I ended up loving it and i got accepted into a reputable design school; France became my second home.
Q: Did you have any struggles and what do you do in France?
At first, I struggled with the language, it took so much energy to talk to people in French all day. Sometimes I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to and that was very frustrating. But now I speak it fluently.
I graduated from a Fashion Design School in Paris called Studio Berçot. It was very competitive, and the teachers treated us like merde. They were preparing us for the cruel world of fashion. Lots of people cried during the program, some even dropped out but I guess I’m a sucker for pain, anyone working in this industry must be.
The same struggles applied with working for major Couture Houses, it was competitive and challenging, it was very late hours in the studio, but it was pure magic to be in the iconic buildings in Paris doing what I loved most. I worked in Public Relation for John Galliano / Christian Dior Group. I also worked for Sonia Rykiel and Nina Ricci.
Somewhere in between school and work Nico and I got married, I was only 22. We were so young living like grownups and two years later I had our first child, then our second. I left Paris and my budding career to support my husbands’ career in pro soccer and to raise our family out of the big city. My husband must travel a lot for his work, sometimes we travel with him, I spend most of my time with my kids, traveling, and there’s a lot of living out of a suitcase. We move quite a bit between soccer clubs and transfers.
Q: Why did you decide to get into fashion?
As a child clothes and costumes were a big part of my imaginary world. I loved and still love to express myself through clothes. I remember from a very early age drawing and dreaming up all the outfits that I wanted to create or own.
Q: What is CDN Retro about?
The word retro stems from the French word rétrograde, meaning backward or behind. In fashion Retro is referred to a style from the recent past. Cdn is short for Canadian. CDN Retro is about revisiting styles from the past and giving it a more modern look. I create clothes that I want to wear. We do everything locally. We buy fabric that’s made in France or England. I work with a pattern maker from France and our production company is in Toronto for the Canadian Stores and we have one in France for the French stores. We’re also working on a Vintage Collection that’s coming soon. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and treasure hunting with my sister and sister-in-law to bring you the most amazing vintage pieces.
Dream, dream, dream and set daily goals.
Q: When do you expect to launch a full line?
I’m a big believer in slow fashion, slow everything really. I like minimalism and I like to take my time to create clothes. There’s too much pressure on designers to come out with massive collections every two to three months and I think that we consume way too much anyway. So, I make clothes in small quantities but with amazing quality and attention to detail. Good tailoring is so important to me, the clothes go through at least four fittings before they are approved for production. I try to be as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible.
Q: Where do you want to take this clothing line?
It would be great to get the clothes into more boutiques in Canada. I would like to see more shops supporting Canadian designers, especially when the clothes are made in Canada.
Q: Do you want to venture out in anything else besides clothing?
Actually, I specialize in lingerie and I studied corsetiere and costume history. Eventually I would love to create my own lingerie line, but it’s very technical to do, I would need a big team with the right machines.
Q: Any advice to give to woman who want to start their own business?
I’d say to stay focused on your goal. It’s so easy to get distracted by the many things you need to do to start a business. Dream, dream, dream and set daily goals. Write them down. I always carry a little note book / sketch book with me, wherever I go.
Assumpta and I have been friends since we were 12. We only went to the same school for a month before I had to leave but in that one month we became very close and we have maintained our friendship ever since. We’ve had some years of non communication because life just gets busy sometimes but we always pick up where we left off and I love that about us.
Thank you Assumpta for being such a good friend all these years. I cherish our friendship. Merci beaucoup!