In a fateful moment of foreshadowing, Katie Frappier and Régine Paquette met in a Grade 12 economics course. "I was very impressed with Katie because one of the first things I learned about her was that she just walked into a cool boutique on Sussex and got a job," said Régine.
In the middle of university, the pair took part in organizing LadyFest Ottawa, a feminist music event that was "instrumental" to the eventual opening of Victoire. "It was the thing that really made everything make sense," said Katie. "It combined our politics, our love for girl culture and the DIY values of the punk scene we were already a part of."
Neither Katie or Régine ever planned to open a boutique, but decided to take the plunge after graduating from university with $15,000 in savings each. They pooled their money together and opened the first Victoire Boutique in 2006 on Dalhousie Street. Having both worked in boutiques previously, the pair were well acquainted with what they did and didn't like about the shopping experience. "We're genuinely interested in you being excited about what you leave with, not necessarily just making a sale," said Régine.
The two initially found designers to carry in the shop through the local craft sale circuit, the early days of Etsy and the back pages of Bust magazine. The pair kept their government jobs for two years after opening the store, before finally being able to focus on Victoire full-time. Their risk and dedication paid off, with the two employing their first team member in 2008 and opening another location on Wellington West in 2010.
Over the years, members of Victoire's staff have helped the shop grow and thrive, from Shaya, one of their first co-op students who headed the Steel Magnolias design team, to Kristina and Amber, who helped open the Toronto store on Ossington Avenue in 2013. "Everybody who's ever worked here, I would happily see walk through the door right now," said Katie.
Today, the boutique carries over 80 designers, the majority of whom are Canadian women and have been carried in the shop since its inception. "I'm so proud of what Victoire means to people," said Régine.
And while Victoire's Dalhousie Street location closed at the start of 2017, there are nothing but good things ahead for the store, namely perfecting Victoire's in-store experience online.
"To be a hub for everybody like us who lives in some city in New Brunswick or far up North who wants to participate in this, that's what the Internet gives us," said Katie. "It makes Canada feel like a small lilypad of jumps that can connect everyone."