Born and raised in France, Isabelle Fish practiced law in in the US, UK and South Africa before moving to Calgary in 2002 — and changing to a career in fashion retail. Another move to Toronto a few years later led to the opening of her by-appointment fashion boutique, Rue Pigalle, where she styles clients in private sessions. Rather than carrying big brands, Isabelle features a unique roster of independent European “artists and createurs” — many of whom collaborate with prestigious haute couture brands such as Chanel, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Wanting to go one step further in connecting her clients to the designers, her latest venture is taking her global again with the launch of fashion and cultural trips to Paris.
My first job ever was… Shampoo girl at the local hair salon in my small French town. I was 16. The salon was in a rough part of town and I met some pretty wild women there. I was fascinated by their stories.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to share my love for French craftsmanship and fashion. I only represent independent designers so my clients can really express their individuality through their outfits. Fashion is our second most important way of communicating with others so it matters that our wardrobe truly represents who each one of us is.
My proudest accomplishment is… That my husband and I have raised two kids who are hard working and caring individuals.
My boldest move to date was… Moving away from law to start a fashion business.
I surprise people when I tell them… That I am French. I have acquired a strong South African accent while living in Capetown and it seems to have stuck with me over the years. Most people think I am South African when they hear me talk.
My best advice to people starting out in business is… Don’t waste your time doing things you are not good at — it’s more efficient to hire people to do it. Concentrate on your areas of strength — it’s better for your sanity and your bottom line.
“Concentrate on your areas of strength — it’s better for your sanity and your bottom line.”
My best advice from a mentor was… Go for it. Paralysis by analysis is the worst.
I would tell my 20-year-old self… To be more self-aware.
My biggest setback was… To miss out on a great job opportunity in Paris in my late twenties.
I overcame it by… Moving countries, finding a great job in London and getting married. There is always, always a silver lining to what we initially perceive as a setback. It’s just a matter of finding the next right opportunity.
My favourite place to shop in the world is… To the risk of sounding parochial, I have to say Paris.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am half Greek through my mother.
I stay inspired by… Literature. I find an infinite pleasure in words. Being bilingual it doubles the pleasure.
The future excites me because… I have so much to learn. The artists and createurs I work with are all much younger than me and I try to surround myself with younger friends too. They constantly challenge me and show me a different view of the world. Learning new skills and changing our way of thinking is both terribly frustrating and exciting but that’s how we grow as individuals.
My next step is… To grow my new venture of cultural and fashion trips to Paris. The trips are informal, more like a gang of friends traveling together. I bring clients to very hidden ateliers, boutiques, restaurants and even museums. We meet designers and see how fashion is a real art — and we are true Parisians for a few days. It’s a fun, unexpected experience.