Location: Dallas, TX
Marital Status: Married
Education: Design School in Toronto
As a little girl, Paulette Martsolf spent hours playing with paper dolls and watching dance shows on TV, enthralled by the flowing georgette gowns. “I was off in my own little world,” says Martsolf. “But being from Newfoundland, I never thought becoming a designer was attainable. My family didn’t have a lot of money to send me away, and there were no fashion design schools there”.
But Paulette did find her way to design school in Toronto, and today she is the owner of Allie-Coosh, the Dallas boutique that carries her distinctly dramatic apparel line. “What’s really amazing is that here I am in Dallas, and women come to me for inspiration and expertise. I think, oh my God, here’s this little girl from Newfoundland. I always tell people, if I die tomorrow, just know that I am one of the happiest people on this earth.”
What made you leave Newfoundland?
My husband. I met this wonderful man on an airplane going to Newfoundland. We knew each other about two weeks before he asked me to marry him. All myfriends thought I had lost my mind, and I’m sure his friends thought the same of him. But we’ve been married for 27 years and he is the most awesome man.
How did you wind up starting your own business?
I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit. When we moved to Dallas, I worked as a designer for a couple of manufacturers to get an education in the US rag trade. I was disillusioned by the arrogance of management. In Newfoundland I worked for a labor union and learned a lot about the people who are the foundation of the company. I decided that one day I would have my own business and show respect and admiration for the skilled people who make it all happen.
What was your design goal?
I wanted to design a collection. People told me it was impossible. But I told myself, Paulette, you have got to stay true to yourself and persist. I started out with $12,000 in my pocket to build this business. One day I was saying to a girlfriend, ‘I’m really just trying to find my niche.’ She said ‘Paulette, why don’t you just look at the way you dress and there’s your niche.’
What was your style then?
My style was the same as it is now. I always like a monochromatic look. A lot of black, rust, brown, green or whatever color my hair happens to be. Simple underpinnings. I would wear black tights,a black skirt and black cami and then add something really dramatic—like a scarf or a piece of jewelry. If I did an accent piece it would have a fabulous collar or huge cuffs.
Why do you think your shop has been such a success?
I really tailor the clothes to the customers. I encourage my clients to dress to their figures. I have shapes that really work for every body type whether you’re pear shaped, broad shouldered, bosomy. We’ll determine the shapes that color and fabrics that work best for you.
Tell me who inspires you.
Issey Miyake. There’s something in his design that comes from the soul. And Karl Lagerfeld is the genius of my time. He constantly reinterprets Chanel in such a current, exciting way. He doesn’t influence my design, but he does inspire me.
What else inspires you?
Women from humble beginnings who work hard and become successful. And then in turn give back to other women.
Nana Grille. Great food, great service, but it’s all about the view. Nana’s has a wonderful skyline view of Dallas.
What about a great book you’ve read?
Meditation for Beginners. I’m into a soul searching period, just trying to teach myself to be in tune with the moment and not always worry about what’s happening tomorrow.
Do you have a favorite accessory or item of clothing?
A black pant and a tunic in my signature fabric—a washable microfiber that comes in 44 colors. I can make it work for day or glam it up for evening.
Do you have a favorite skin treatment?
I use Aveda sensitive skin cleanser and Clindamycin, a prescription antiseptic pad for my oily T-zone. For moisturizing, Clinique Super Defense with sunscreen. My favorite thing is the Clarisonic brush, which was recommended to me by a facialist for sloughing skin. I just love it. I use it on my face every other day and it really brightens my skin.
I have a little Zen room that has my hot tub. I just love to get in there, maybe have a glass of wine.
Lake Austin Spa. The best money I ever spent! Being there really inspired me to get into meditation and take care of my self.
I love so many. I do have a favorite cocktail that I created: Patron Anejo tequila with a splash of orange juice and Odwalla Energy Drink topped with a layer of Grand Marnier.
One important thing you’ve learned about money?
Always save a portion of what you earn. I always maintained a nest egg for the down times and that has kept Allie-Coosh alive all these years. I have never had to lay off an employee because of overindulgence or poor management. For me that is true success!