How Jessica Mulroney and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau are boosting Canadian design worldwide

Text Ceri Marsh

 

You know the saying: If you need something done, ask a busy woman. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau may have had that in mind when she tapped her friend Jessica Mulroney for fashion guidance. Grégoire Trudeau’s husband, Justin Trudeau, had just became the Prime Minister of Canada and her wardrobe needs were about to grow exponentially.

Mulroney, a Toronto stylist-turned-branding-guru, jumped right in to help—even though seemingly every nanosecond was already accounted for. She’s the face of the Kleinfeld bridal boutique at Hudson’s Bay, the founder of the Shoebox Project charity, a frequent style commentator on television and a mother of three. Oh, and she’s remodelling the house she and her husband, television personality Ben Mulroney, just bought.

The women’s style tête-a-tête started with Justin Trudeau’s swearing-in ceremony on November 4, 2015 in Ottawa. Mulroney sent Grégoire Trudeau a few things to consider, including the divine ivory Sentaler coat she chose to wrap herself in that day. “I saw the Sentaler coats on Instagram,” says Mulroney of the Toronto label. “At the time, not many people knew about them. I cold-called Bojana Sentaler, the owner, to see if I could send a few to Sophie. The rest was history.” It certainly was. All the attention garnered, with images of a glowing Grégoire Trudeau looking chic and iconically First-Lady-ish, made them both realize the potential power of Grégoire Trudeau’s fashion choices.

 

Jessica Mulroney by Shalan and Paul


Dressing the wife of a world leader (First Lady, while a tempting title, does not exist in Canada) is a notoriously tricky business. As the spouse, she’s not the star of the show, yet her appearance will be carefully analyzed. She’s representing her country and must look polished, but too much so and she might come off as pampered. Grégoire Trudeau manages to radiate an ease and warmth that balance her obvious affection for fashion; Mulroney calls it “elevated accessibility.”

“Sophie’s style is comfortable but oh-so-chic. And it is a style available to so many Canadian women,” says Mulroney. When Grégoire Trudeau recently met the Chinese premier, for instance, she wore a high-impact red knit dress by Tracy Moore x Freda’s, which sells for $315—relatively inexpensive compared to most ready-to-wear dresses. (It went back into production to meet the demand Grégoire Trudeau sparked.)

Mulroney is quick, however, to make it clear she’s not dressing Grégoire Trudeau day-to-day. Distance and mutually bonkers schedules wouldn’t allow it. Besides, as Mulroney says, “She takes care of that.”


Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Sean kilpatrick / The Canadian Press


Instead, Mulroney sees her role as more of a strategist than a stylist. “I am first and foremost her friend. I get her and I bring brands to her attention that she might not have had time to see on her own,” she says. The two communicate about looks for upcoming events the way many friends do, sending each other pictures. “It’s quite casual and so much fun.”

Using clothes to communicate Grégoire Trudeau’s low-key personality is one thing—it should be noted that, like the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Grégoire Trudeau is not afraid to repeat a favourite dress—but there’s another agenda at play, too: “Our main objective is showcasing Canadian fashion on an international stage. We believe in the talent in this country and want to see it shine,” says Mulroney. This ethos extends to the Canadian-made jewellery Grégoire Trudeau wears, too, whether sourced from small boutique jewellers or prestigious brands like Birks.

When considering the impact that Grégoire Trudeau can make, it’s impossible not to think of another stylish spouse: Michelle Obama. You’d be hard pressed to find a better role model for creating a youthful, elegant image and promoting homegrown labels—from Jason Wu to Tracy Reese—while never losing an ounce of gravitas when it comes to important causes.

 

 State Dinner by Olivier Douliery / getty images

 

When the Trudeau family travelled to Washington for a state dinner thrown in their honour, all eyes were on the glamorous double date effect. Grégoire Trudeau wowed in a bold lace-trimmed gown by Toronto-based designer Lucian Matis, with a colour-matched Ela clutch and Zvelle shoes.

“She saw it and she loved it. That was it. From there the designer shared swatches of fabric to create a flawless look. It was even more beautiful in person, if you can imagine,” says Mulroney.

Earlier in the day, Grégoire Trudeau stepped out with Michelle Obama at an event for Let Girls Learn, a global initiative that promotes girls’ education. It’s a cause dear to both women. Their affection for each other was on display that day, too, with Obama gushing, “She’s my soulmate!” Mulroney says that Grégoire Trudeau wanted to feel young and vibrant for the appearance and again reached for a Lucian Matis dress. The eye-popping red and fuchsia shift dress, Aldo clutch and hot-pink Zvelle pumps hit an optimistic note.

 When she’s not wearing bold colours, Grégoire Trudeau gravitates to a palette of black and ivory, such as the sleekly tailored Pink Tartan tuxedo she wore to the Catalyst Awards in New York in March—a Mulroney favourite. “It was sleek, edgy and cool. The red lip was the perfect touch. She’s so versatile in her looks, and this is the perfect example,” she says.

 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and First Lady Michelle Obama by Olivier Douliery / The Canadian Press


Still, there’s nothing quite like a royal visit to take things up a notch. When Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge touched down in Victoria this fall, two adorable heirs in tow, it’s safe to say the world was watching. It’s also safe to say the planning that went into those outfits for Grégoire Trudeau went beyond the casual emailing of dresses between friends.

 “We knew Kate would be in couture and wanted to show a different side of fashion,” says Mulroney. To coordinate with Kate’s royal blue shift dress by British star Jenny Packham, Trudeau wore a purple form-fitting sheath by Éditions de Robes, a small Montreal label. Her matching fedora by Toronto’s The Saucy Milliner was a wink at Kate’s more traditional Lock & Co hat. Images of the photogenic couples hit every news, style and entertainment website around the world. The payoff for Canadian design was just as Mulroney and Grégoire Trudeau had hoped: Éditions de Robes owner Julie Pesant is “still trying to fill orders from the U.K. from her independent boutique!”

 

Royal Visit by Sam Hussein / getty images