Born in Montréal, 1939
1963 - 2005
Evening dress (detail), Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, M2007.149.4 © McCord Museum
Michel Robichaud is considered a key figure in Quebec and Canadian fashion. From the launch of his very first collection in 1963, a cornerstone of his work was his made to measure clothing based on the Paris haute couture model. His longstanding involvement in the world of fashion also extended to ready-to-wear and accessories, as well as uniforms.
After studying in the women’s fashion division of the École des métiers commerciaux de Montréal for a year, he received a grant and went to study at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. After an internship at the house of Nina Ricci in Paris, and then as assistant to Guy Laroche, Robichaud acquired experience and discovered the fascinating world of haute couture. Returning to Montreal, he opened a couture house at 1400 Pine Avenue. With the support of his wife Luce and financial backing from urologist Dr. Alfred Lavallée, he presented the 13 models of his first spring collection on February 13, 1963, and then began launching two couture collections a year.
His reputation was confirmed when American actress Elizabeth Taylor visited Montreal in 1964 for her wedding with Richard Burton and ordered several models from him.
His growing renown and experience designing flight attendant uniforms for Air Canada the same year earned him the mandate to design the official hostess uniform for Expo 67, which was presented to the media in October 1965. He went on to create six other uniforms for the event, and was Montreal’s best known designer during the period surrounding Expo 67. His list of loyal clients included many Quebec personalities from the worlds of politics and the arts, such as Mrs. Jean Lesage, Mrs. Robert Bourassa, Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, Corinne Côté-Lévesque, Denise Pelletier and Yvette Brind’Amour.
Dress, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, M2007.149.3 © McCord Museum
Evening dress, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, M2007.149.4 © McCord Museum
Cocktail dress, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, M2007.149.6 © McCord Museum
Dress, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Marie-Claire Boucher Drapeau, M2007.149.5.1-2 © McCord Museum
In 1966, “Quebec Fashion Travels,” a European fashion tour sponsored by the Quebec Ministère de l’Industrie et du Commerce, enabled Robichaud to present a collection with Marielle Fleury in Paris, Brussels, London, and Milan. That same year, the designer began expanding his couture business, first with a fur collection, then with a ready-to-wear collection the following year in collaboration with Auckie Sanft, one of Quebec’s largest manufacturers.
In 1968, he opened a boutique on Montreal’s Crescent Street, where he sold his couture, boutique and ready-to-wear collections all under one roof.
The shop stayed open until 1978. In 1973, he launched a perfume, Brunante. Robichaud was commissioned to create other uniforms, notably for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, the companies Via Rail and Hydro-Québec, and even for the Montreal Urban Community Transit Commission.
Canada Pavilion Hostess Uniform, Expo 67, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of the Canada Pavilion, M9184.108.40.206 © McCord Museum
Canada Pavilion Hat, Expo 67, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of the Canada Pavilion, M967.85.4 © McCord Museum
Canada Pavilion Host Uniform, Expo 67, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of the Canada Pavilion, M9220.127.116.11-2 © McCord Museum
Indians of Canada Pavilion Hostess Uniform, Expo 67, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Diane Diabo, M918.104.22.168 © McCord Museum
Telephone Pavilion Hostess Uniform, Expo 67, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Ruth Boies, M2007.109.1.1 © McCord Museum
Expo 67 Hostess Uniform, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Sybilla Mannsfeldt, M2012.50.1.1.1-3 © McCord Museum
Ensemble, Michel Robichaud, 1967. Gift of Madeleine P. Pelland, M2001.54.1.2.1-2 © McCord Museum
From the late 1970s through the 1980s, his ready-to-wear encompassed a full range of women’s and men’s clothing, as well as hats, ties, scarves, stockings, belts, costume jewellery, and gloves. In 1987, he created the Robichaud Diffusion collection, which was sold across the country exclusively at several Sears Canada stores.
In 1974, Robichaud was elected the first president of the Fashion Designers Association of Canada. This presidency was only one of the many positions he held in the 1970s and 1980s, which earned him a reputation as an ardent champion and spokesperson for Quebec and Canadian fashion. To celebrate his 25 years as a couturier, a biography entitled Michel Robichaud: Monsieur Mode by Nicole Charest was published in 1988. This milestone was also celebrated by the Montreal Fashion Group. In 1993, to mark his 30 years as a designer, he donated his collection of clothing to the Musée de la civilisation à Quebec. Several pieces from this collection were featured in a 1995 exhibition mounted by the Musée Marsil: Michel Robichaud couturier. Retour sur les années 60 = A 60s Retrospective. The Fondation de la mode de Montréal celebrated Robichaud’s 30-year career at its annual fundraising gala. The designer also received the Méritas Acadien award in 1993 from the Fédération acadienne du Québec.
FASHIONING EXPO 67 • Michel Robichaud
Michel Robichaud, interview conducted for Fashioning Expo 67 exhibition, November 2016 © McCord Museum
In the 1990s, Michel Robichaud continued to create exclusive custom-made clothing in the haute couture tradition, and to design uniforms. He also began a career as a teacher of fashion illustration and design in 1995, at the École supérieure de mode of Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM). In 1997, he stopped making custom couture work and began teaching future fashion designers at Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. Robichaud, who has received both the Ordre du Québec and the Order of Canada, retired in 2005.
Baril, Gérald. «Michel Robichaud. Entrevue», dans M. Choko, P. Bourassa et G. Baril, Le design au Québec, Montréal, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2003, p. 280-283.
Beauregard, Yves, Alain Duchesneau et Jocelyne Mathieu. «Vingt-cinq années de carrière. Entrevue avec le couturier Michel Robichaud», Cap-aux-Diamants, vol. 4, no 2, 1988.
Charest, Nicole. Michel Robichaud. Monsieur mode, Montréal, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 1988, 163 p.
Cooper, Cynthia. Michel Robichaud couturier. Retour sur les années 60, catalogue d’exposition, Musée Marsil, exposition présentée du 18 janvier au 9 avril 1995, 6 p.
Dumont, Monique. «La révolution tranquille de la mode» (Marielle Fleury et Michel Robichaud), Elle Québec, no 34, June 1992, p. 56-58.
Laurier, Marie. «L’homme aiguille», Le Devoir, 15 February 1993, p. B1. (Entrevue avec Michel Robichaud, aussi dans Normand Baillargeon et Michel Allard, 1995. Les entretiens du Devoir 1990-1994. Arts et littérature, Sainte-Foy, Presses de l’Université du Québec.)
Meehan, Hilda. «Montrealer Rushes Clothes to Liz Taylor», The Gazette, samedi 23 May 1964, p. 8.
«Michel Robichaud : Capes-corolles, savantes découpes, couleurs choc», Photo Journal, June 1963, p. 39.
Nuovo, Franco. «Les créateurs québécois», Hommes, no 1, Spring 1986, p. 13-23.
Taurignan, Jean. «Michel Robichaud, couturier», Vidéo-presse, vol. 14, no 9, May 1985, p. 14-17.
Thellier, Marie-Agnès. «Michel Robichaud, président directeur général de Michel Robichaud Inc.», Revue commerce, vol. 83, no 7, July 1981, p. 32-37.
Cynthia Cooper, McCord Museum
© McCord Museum 2020