Quebec-based costume designer Josée Savoie knows the world of figure skating inside and out. As one of the world’s leading designers for ice skaters, she is very much in tune with what they need in costuming because she herself was involved in the sport from an early age.

“I was fascinated by figure skating from the time I was a young child, and I learned by watching other kids at the rink across the street from my first home. My father urged me to take lessons but I was too shy. So I watched other girls taking lessons and I never missed the final ‘show’ that a class would put on at the end of the season. I practiced the moves on my own and did so well that when I was nine and moved to another neighbourhood, the new girls I met who skated wanted to know who I took lessons from. So finally, I did take lessons, starting at age nine and I skated until I was 17. Skating was my life.”

Savoie was keen to teach figure skating and did so nationally from the time she stopped skating competitively. It was during this period that she picked up her first sewing machine and taught herself to make costumes.

“I had an aunt who worked for the Singer sewing machine company so I asked her which machine I should buy. And you know, right from the beginning I knew exactly how to sew. It was so easy for me that it was almost as if I had done it in a previous life. I began to design and make my own clothes. After I had been sewing for a while, I decided to make dresses for my top students and really enjoyed it. Then I did some contracts for the Montreal Ice Ballet, and other teachers began asking me to design for their students. My business grew by word of mouth and it didn’t take long before everyone in the skating community knew that I was making costumes.

Today, young people from the United States, Europe, and Asia proudly wear costumes designed by Josée Savoie. Her work is widely known across Canada, and skaters who cannot make it to her home-based design studio in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (near Montreal) can order costumes online at: www.joseesavoie.com.

About one-third of Savoie’s customers are male and she designs for skaters in all four competitive disciplines: singles (men’s and women’s), pairs and ice dancing. Skaters often come to her with their music and a description of the theme of their program so she can design a costume that complements those elements. “From all of that inspiration I come up with some sketches that I share with the skater and we go from there,” she explains.

Savoie has developed her own creative techniques to enhance costumes, including the use of air-brush painting on fabric, and the addition of Swarovski crystals. “The crystals add a very special glow to the fabric. The outfit becomes like a piece of jewelry and shines so beautifully when the skater is under the lights,” says Savoie. One costume can feature over 2,000 crystals! Of course, all the work is done by hand by Savoie, with the help of her assistant. Every costume is unique.

The most gorgeous costume in the world would, of course, be worthless in the demanding world of figure skating if it didn’t fit like a glove and maintain its shape under the rigors of the sport. Working in four-way stretch fabric, Savoie marries aesthetics to comfort for perfect fit and performance. Her skaters keep coming back for more, and several have been with her for over 15 years.

Although Savoie has been approached by athletes in other sports and has done some work for rhythmic gymnasts and circus athletes, she tries to limit her work to the world of figure skating. “It’s my world, I’m passionate about it and I really love it.”

It’s sometimes hard for Savoie to believe that the little girl who was too shy to take figure skating lessons went on to skate competitively, teach nationally, and be recognized as a world-class designer of skating costumes. She has clearly found her own unique brand of magic and it’s not the least bit illusory, unless you are a spectator thrilling to the combination of beauty and grace presented on the ice by the best figure skaters in the world.

Josée Savoie

Arts & costumes  —  Artistic Designer for ice skating costumes

Figure skating conjures up a world of illusion, where astounding athleticism marries dance. Both on the ice and at the podium, graceful and highly skilled figure skaters are immeasurably enhanced by costumes that speak to the skater’s unique magic.

Artistic designer Josee Savoie

Canada’s Queen of Ice Costuming Brings Her Gifts to the World

By Paddy Kamen