Canadian Fashion Connection – Poupee Rouge – Susie Kosovic

IMGP3096In 1957 thirteen year old Susie Kosovic immigrated with her family from England to Toronto. With dreams of becoming a designer, Susie dropped out of high school and took a sale’s job at Eaton’s department store. When she was 19 she met and married her husband who  supported her idea of opening a boutique and with an investment of $6,000 Susie opened Poupee Rouge in Toronto in 1964.

Advertisement from April 1967 for Poupee Rouge store within a store at Winnipeg's Hudson Bay Company

Advertisement from April 1967 for Poupee Rouge store within a store at Winnipeg’s Hudson Bay Company

Her fashions were young and colourful, aimed at the mod generation of collegiate, working girl, and young married women. In a November 1966 article for MacLean’s magazine Vidal Sassoon was quoted as saying about Susie “I spotted her at a party in Toronto last spring. I couldn’t miss her – she was wearing an exact copy of one of my hair styles and this marvelous wild dress she’d designed herself. I was tempted to call her Canada’s Mary Quant. But that’s not right because Susie has her own thing.”

The boutique prospered, attracting celebrity clients including: Joan Baez, Genevieve Bujold, and Sylvia Tyson. By 1968 Poupee Rouge had grown to two locations in Toronto, one in Montreal, four store-within-stores of western branches of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and one shop in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with plans for branch boutiques in New York and Miami.

Styles by Susie Kosovic, appearing on the front cover of MacLean's magazine, November 19, 1966

Styles by Susie Kosovic, appearing on the front cover of MacLean’s magazine, November 19, 1966

However, by the late 1960s, boutique fashions were commonly being “knocked off” by manufacturers. In an article that appeared in the Montreal Gazette in August 1968, Kosovic notes how this has become a common problem for boutique owners, including herself. In New York, Betsy Johnson also had the same issue with design pirates and ceased running her boutique Betsey, Bunky and Nini in 1969. Johnson beat the manufacturers at their own game by becoming a designer for a manufacturer of junior sportswear, but most boutique owners closed their shops and disappeared into history.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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23 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Poupee Rouge – Susie Kosovic

  1. Mary says:

    What a shame, it sounds (and looks) like her designs were wonderful, what a shame she just closed the boutique and disappeared. I guess that kind of thing has always been a problem and it probably still is now if you’re an independent designer and don’t have the might to go up agains the ‘big boys’ in the fashion industry…

    • Jonathan says:

      She may have gone on to design for another company but I haven’t been able to find any further information about her.

  2. Hari Dev says:

    I actually found a Poupee Rouge dress at Value Village a couple months back – it’s one of the cutest things I own. Absolutely stunning! I’m surprised how little info I can find out about her though. Other than this website, nothing.

  3. Hari Dev says:

    I’ve tried posting some photos but it won’t let me in the comments section. Is there any other way for me to send them to you? I’d love for you to see it!

  4. Susie Kosovic says:

    Hi there Jonathan,

    I found this article while I was trying to track down some of my old press clippings.

    I am Susie Kosovic————–YES for REAL.

    I became Susie Hayward and I am still alive and kicking.
    Strange that people thought I just vanished from the fashion scene. I went on to do many things. If you would like to contact me, use the email I have submitted. I would be happy to talk to you.

    Kind regards.
    Susie Kosovic/ Susie Hayward/Veronica Hayward/
    All of the above names are Authentic and real. They are Me.

    • Jonathan says:

      I am thrilled you contacted me. I was secretly hoping you would! I have emailed you and hope to talk with you soon!

    • Cynthia Cooper says:

      Hi Susie, I would love to talk to you about the Kaleidoscope Pavilion uniforms at Expo 67, which I understand you designed!

    • Ileana Aceto Lauriola says:

      Hi Susie,
      My mom, Elena Aceto worked at your Toronto boutique. I would love for you to contact me. My mom always talks about you.

      • Jonathan says:

        I hope you get to reminisce!

      • susie hayward says:

        Hello Ileana,

        What a surprise. Every now and then I do a search for any old press clippings that come online for Susie Kosovic or Susie Hayward, I collect them for my grand daughter who has an interest in being a fashion designer.
        Please remind me which boutique it was that your mother worked at, as I had several Elenas that worked for me over the years.
        I think it was at John Alexander, and the studio was later moved to St Nicolas street. I always loved all the ladies who worked with me as without them my designs would never have become reality. It:s so nice to hear of someone from my past.

    • Carol-Faye says:

      Hi Susie,
      I remember your shops: in the Colonnade and on Avenue Road (Yorkville).
      I’ll never forget buying dresses from the Poupee Rouge and pantsuits as well.

      What a great time to have been alive. I gave my sister a couple of the outfits and she still raves about them.
      You mean a great deal to me and hope you’re well. Cheerio, Carol-Faye

      • Jonathan says:

        I hope Susan reads this! Always great to have fans!

      • susie hayward says:

        Hello Carol,
        I am so surprised to hear from one of my customers from the sixties. Yes you are dead on, it was one of the best times to be alive and in a creative business. The atmosphere of freedom and newness was infectious. We all inspired each other to be better at what we presented to the public.
        What a nice thing to say, to know that your work is still appreciated is a very humbling thing.

        Susie Hayward.

  5. veronica hayward says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    I have been offline for quite a while. I found the new posts by accident.
    How lovely to hear from voices from my past.
    Please note my new email address.
    I will be keeping my eye on your site.
    I hope all is well.
    Take care.
    Susie kosovic
    Susie Hayward.

  6. Esther Brooks says:

    Oh my, oh my, I shopped at Poupee Rouge and even remember two of the dresses…emerald green silk mini, long sleeves and rhinestone buttons. I wore it with silver shoes in Rome. And the other was a pink plaid trapeze mini dress. Then you had a shop in what is now the manulife. And there I purchased a black made in France “duster” coat, and a grey silk pant suit that had a ruffled blouse.
    Memories to reflect on during this tragic time in our history.

    • Jonathan says:

      Susie Kosovic (aka Veronica Hayward) had another shop in the 70s that I think was in the Manulife centre. I may be wrong… but it was around there.

  7. adela dewitt says:

    The shop in the Manulife was called John Alexander and run jointly with her husband Alex Hayward.

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