The glitz and glam of the fashion scene is not what pushed the founder of Montreal clothing label Betina Lou into the industry. Instead, 35-year-old Marie-Eve Emond says she always had a passion for craftsmanship.
“[I’m interested] in fabrics, how it’s made, details and colours. I was never as interested in trends or what’s in fashion,” Emond says.
Launched in 2009, Betina Lou consists of timeless wardrobe essentials that are easy to wear. The line feels a little preppy and mixes feminine cuts with more masculine materials and colours.
Today Betina Lou is sold in over 20 retailers across Canada and as faraway as Hong Kong and Tokyo. Emond’s local production also means you can find Betina Lou participating in a number of fairs such as Toronto’s Inland shopping event, the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, Montreal’s Puces Pop and most recently at Ogilvy’s Cabinet Éphèmere.
Her company’s vision has always been based on producing locally and creating quality clothes that last. “I didn’t want people to see it in a picture and say ‘it’s nice,’ but then only wear it once.”
Betina Lou is largely inspired by what Emond discovers in her surroundings, in and around Montreal, and even by what’s missing in her own closet.
Since she was a child, the Chicoutimi-native worked with fabrics and learned the craft of making clothes. Her grandmother would give her material that she would use to make clothes for her dolls.
When she was 17 years old she moved to Montreal to study fashion design at LaSalle College. Upon graduation, she worked for a number of Montreal-based fashion companies such as Mackage and Soia and Kyo, but always had a goal to one day create her own line.
I met with Emond at her workshop in Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie and talked about the importance of supporting made-in-Montreal products and some of Emond’s favourite local talent.
Which Montreal designers/labels do you admire?
Ça va de soi makes knits and classic pieces that are really great quality. I also admire Naked & Famous Denim because they’ve managed to become a big company and reach the global market. I also like a lot of jewelry and accessories designers like LaLaYeah. Their aesthetic is completely different than what we do, but it’s so current. I like the jewelry she made that was knitted out of horse hair. The Stowe also makes beautiful leather bags and I love Mimi Hammer’s retro swimwear. I can name so many others, I think there is so much talent in Montreal.
How would you describe your personal style?
My look can be a little boyish, and most of the time I’m wearing a shirt with a collar, a sweater or a cardigan. I wear a lot of high-waisted jeans and skirts. I don’t wear dresses that much, but I have a collection of about 20 little black dresses because you always need one. I’ll always choose jeans over a dress though. So my look is a bit preppy and a bit retro, it depends on the day.
Where do you like to shop in Montreal?
I wear a lot of the clothes I design because I’m a small size, XXS or a size 0, so it’s really hard to find clothes that fit me. But I do like to shop at Boutique Unicorn and Boutique Archive, they’re both nice stores. I’ll go to Boutique Archive with my boyfriend because they carry menswear. People don’t think about going to The Bay, but I like to shop there. They have a range of different high-end brands. But most of my shopping I will do during shows like Puces Pop, Souk at SAT and Smart Design Mart. I wait for those events because I like to shop local and purchase great quality. Besides that I like to shop at thrift stores for accessories like bags, shoes and belts. I’ll thrift shop at Local 23, Citizen Vintage, and Founderie.
Where do you like to go for a casual bite?
I like to go to Le Vieux Vélo and Café Fixe for simple things like good sandwiches and great soups. They’re both in my neighborhood, so close by.
Do you have a favourite coffee shop?
Well, all of the above serve great coffee too. I also like to go to Ô deux soeurs a lot. It’s quiet and there’s a lot of space, so I don’t feel like people can hear all of my conversations. You also won’t find a bunch of people working on their laptops, which is rare now. Olives et Café Noir has great coffee too and the owners are really nice.
What’s your go-to restaurant when money is no object?
When I go to restaurants I like to eat something that I won’t usually cook at home like beef or seafood. I like to go Restaurant Gus, it’s a neighborhood restaurant and I know it’s going to be good. I’ll sit at the bar and you see them cook the food and they’ll make recommendations, so it’s easy to try something new. I also like the Maison Publique for the same reason; it’s warm and inviting. They serve British food so it’s very filling. It’s not anything fancy, but it’s different.
And do you ever go out for cocktails?
Not that much anymore. I had a baby a year and a half ago so going out for cocktails is more and more rare. When I do go out I’ll tell my friends to pick the place, because I don’t know where to go anymore. I might suggest we go to Alexandraplatz Bar, but I’m not sure if it’s still considered as cool as it was three years ago.
After having a baby, what does a typical weekend look like for you?
My boyfriend and I try to get all the dull things done on Saturday, like groceries and cleaning. Then on Sunday we’ll make plans to go see people or go on an outing that will occupy our son.
Where do you like to go with your son?
My son loves to go to the park, so we’ll go there a lot. If not we like to go to places that are as kid-friendly as possible. There is Les Empoteuses that opened not that long ago. There are also places like La Tasse Gamine where I can actually manage to get a sentence or two in with a friend while my son plays. I look forward to being able to take him to the movies or even to go see the type of theater that I like. But for now, he is still too young.
From Betina Lou’s F/W 2014-15 collection.
Which neighbourhood do you call home?
I’ve been living in La Petite-Patrie since I arrived in Montreal. I work here and do pretty much everything here. I feel like everyone knows my family and me in the area. I try to shop locally and always return to the same places for groceries.
Who’s a Montrealer you admire?
I admire the owners of Frank & Oak. They don’t produce locally, but they do hire a lot of people from Montreal. Their company has grown so much and they are very big. I wouldn’t want my company to be as big, but I do admire them for being able to handle that. I’ve met the owners before and they’re a lot of fun and they’re still trying to keep things fun for them and their business. I also admire Stéphane Lafleur. Everything he does from music to movies, I admire.
Who in Montreal do you think deserves to be better known?
There are many. Everyone that produces quality craftsmanship, be it food or clothes, deserves to be better known. I feel like it’s always the same clients shopping local brands. Take Kimberly Fletcher who designs high-quality leather handbags, for example. Her bags are no more expensive than a U.S designer who produced their bags in Asia. Meanwhile her product is made here and you can see the person who made it. It’s just one example of someone who should be better known. I wish more people would make the effort to discover the great quality products you can find here.
Finish this sentence: You know you’re in Montreal when…
…when you see bikes everywhere, either on the street or locked to a fence. And also when it’s cold, but I do like winter.