In 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.
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.
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.