Canadian Fashion Connection – Bagatelle

Tartan wool blend maxi skirt suit, c. 1973, By Margaret Godfrey for Bagatelle

Tartan maxi skirt suit, c. 1973, By Margaret Godfrey for Bagatelle, FHM collection

In the mid 1960s Montreal native Jack Margolis was a partner in a junior wear company called Juniorite that made licensed American designs for the Canadian market. By 1967 Margolis wanted to start his own company. Looking for a designer, he interviewed 22 year old Liverpool-born Margaret Godfrey, who had come to Montreal to see Expo 67 as part of a North American work/holiday tour. By the end of that year Godfrey, who was influenced by Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba London boutique look, was working as head designer for Margolis’ newly formed company ‘Bagatelle’. They focussed on producing lower-priced mix-and-match sportswear co-ordinates aimed at the youth market. Godfrey’s first success for Bagatelle was a ‘postage stamp’ sized leather mini skirt. The success of the skirt convinced Margolis to expand Bagatelle’s product line to include leather and suede clothing. This line proved to be very popular in the U.S., where a showroom was opened in New York in 1972.

Advertisement for pant suit designed by Margaret Godfrey for Bagatelle, 1980

Advertisement for pant suit designed by Margaret Godfrey for Bagatelle, 1980

Godfrey was Bagatelle’s head designer even though she continued to live in England. At Godfrey’s suggestion English-born Nicola Pelly became the Montreal-based in-house designer in 1971; in 1978 American-born designer Tom D’Auria joined Bagatelle. In 1980 Butterick included patterns by Margaret Godfrey for Bagatelle in their fall catalogue.

The leather fashion trend of the 1980s and early 1990s were profitable for Bagatelle, but like most Canadian fashion firms, times got tough in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The company was sold about five years ago and although the head office remains in Montreal, the sales office and showroom is now only located in New York. Godfrey and Margolis are no longer associated with the company – today’s head designer for Bagatelle is Badgley Mischka.