Dorottya Willet Szabo adores Paris. After all, it was where she traveled with the important man in her life and like many women, the City of Love drew her in.
Her affinity for Paris is obvious from the moment you step inside her atelier. A classic Eiffel Tower stands stately to one side and serves as an instagrammable backdrop for women as they try on her beautiful creations. As your eye travels over the jewel-colored dresses lining the walls you see touches of Paris nestled about.
Dori is a designer and the owner of Paris Vogue Apparel. After spending over 35 years in the fashion industry she has a unique skill set that sets her in a category of specialists.
She possesses that chic joie de vivre one expects from a Parisienne but in fact, she was born in Hungary. Tea and treats are already waiting for the team as they bustle about getting ready for the fashion shoot and interview.
We are getting a glimpse into her fascinating journey through different cultures and countries, and are about to learn how she came to realize her dream. Dori always thought a bridal dress shop would be a good business when she decided to slow down and is thrilled to see it realized even though it launched just as COVID began. Wedding dresses are only one facet of her business though as she also dresses actors and actresses here in Hollywood North.
Doll Haute Couture Starts It All
Her first foray into the world of fashion started in her childhood creating haute couture for her doll. She remembers her mother’s angst when at four years of age, Dorrie used her mother’s favorite skirt to create doll clothes.
When she was older, she returned wine and beer bottles to fund her fabric habit. Sometimes it wasn’t quite enough though and she had to be innovative. Like the time she used the curtains which belonged to the Communist Party to sew her and her boyfriend matching shirts.
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Dori has always had an unconventional approach to life.
She started her first business in the Bahamas in 1985 by chance. Traveling with her boyfriend, she was a beach babe. Someone took notice of the daring sexy bikini held together with string she had put together and asked her to make them one. Dori remembers she sold them on the beach in plastic bags, sealed with an iron.
In 1989 Dori opened her first Vancouver men’s boutique specializing in custom-made shirts and suits. Her business flourished with three more locations opening over the next years; The Bay, Nordstrom, and Park Royal.
Then in 1991, Dori had the opportunity to design and manufacture leather garments for ladies and men. It was in New Delhi, India. The people were very poor, and Dori had the chance to give jobs to 200 people who then had the means to provide for their families. She counts it as one of the most rewarding aspects of her career. She remembers the fabric shopping was simply amazing and the range of fabric, like stunning silks, was so unlike in her childhood sewing days it was overwhelming.
With the internet serving as an industry disrupter, bespoke men’s wear offered online made the men’s clothing space untenable. So, in 1997 Dori decided to pivot to women’s special occasions and bridal wear.
Working With Stars
We see pictures of Halle Berry in her catsuit and other famous people Dori has worked with on the walls of her shop. Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Cruise are just a few. Dori speaks highly of Halle Barry and her friendliness and kindness. She found Tom Cruise was delightful to work with too.
Dori provides on-the-spot alterations, designs, and copies of designs to the movie industry. She showed me a stunning wedding dress which was identical to a Valentino. Annabeth Gish wore it in the movie Gone Mom.
Dori shares she made a suit for Michel Bublé before he was famous. He was on his way to Las Vega and said he wished it was Armani. Dori told him soon you will be famous and will be able to afford any Armani and that is exactly what happened.
COVID 19 has been brutal on the fashion industry. There is cautious optimism that the world is on the upswing and events are starting to happen. COVID has meant looking outside the box. Dori is pivoting again to work on other opportunities, embrace social media, and look at more fashion and trade shows. One approach she is finding rewarding is holding private showings and tea parties.
Dori feels personal service has become even more important to her business equation. She speaks to a recent wedding where she was providing all the groom and groomsmen attire. On the day before the wedding, at the final fitting, an issue became apparent. So she had to send them on their way without their clothes. She told them they would be delivered the next morning. After she and her team worked through the night they chartered a helicopter to get them to the island destination.
Longevity in fashion requires a responsive approach and an unwavering commitment to ensuring the client’s vision comes to fruition. Dori is a success because she makes sure the designs of women’s dreams come true.
Visit Paris Vogue Apparel website
Video Interview Credits:
Interviewer: Myriam Callot
Photographer/Videographer and Editor: Luya Tsimbalanga
Makeup: Esther Xu for Myriam Callot
Hair: Emmanuelle Schawb for Myriam Callot and Dori Willet Szabo