Andrée-Anne Généreux, mother of identical, four-year-old triplets, has grown used to being peppered with questions whenever passersby spot her and the girls ambling through their River Heights neighbourhood.
Do triplets run in the family, they openly wonder? How long was her pregnancy? Was she big?
Not that she’s aware, though both of her in-laws do have twin siblings; 34 weeks and three days, "but hey, who’s counting?"; and, "Are you freaking kidding me? I was huge," she responds with a laugh, each and every time.
More and more, however, comments directed her way are along the lines of, "Where did the girls get those gorgeous dresses?" or "That jumper! You have to tell me who makes it."
That’s when Généreux who, along with her husband Cameron Dobie, also has two other daughters, age six and seven — that’s right, five girls in total — informs them the designs are hers, all hers. Also, if they’re interested, here’s a business card for Triplets & Co., her home-based enterprise that turns out fetching, all-cotton fashions inspired by the carefree look of the Swinging Sixties.
"The girls are a bit like walking advertisements," Généreux says, tousling the hair of Georgia (Or is that Maxime? Or Alexandra? We’ve lost track.), speaking loudly enough to be heard over the cacophony created when the sisters take turns showing a visitor crayon drawings they profess to have made just for him.
"It’s a little harder to see what they’re wearing now that the weather’s getting colder. But I recently came up with a line of what I think are super cute berets, and am also putting the finishing touches on my first, hand-sewn parka, so for sure, I couldn’t ask for better models."
OK, here’s a question: as a mother of five, wasn’t Généreux, 31, busy enough without adding a clothing line to the mix? The answer to that begins 25 years ago when, as a fashion-savvy six-year-old growing up in Gatineau, Que., she sat down to watch golf with her dad one afternoon, and spotted the late Payne Stewart teeing it up. Besides being a two-time U.S. Open champion, Stewart, who died in an airplane accident in 1999, was renowned for his flashy wardrobe on the course, all ivy caps and patterned knickers.
"The very next day, I went to school with my socks pulled up to my knees with my trousers tucked inside, trying my best to look like Payne Stewart," she says. "Later, in elementary school, I fell in love with the styles of the ‘60s. One time my mom helped me make a pair of bell bottom jeans using wide pieces of scrap fabric for the cuffs. A few of my friends teased me but one girl loved them so much she begged her mother to go to the mall and buy a pair for her, too."
A 50- and 100-metre freestyle specialist who just missed making the 2008 Canadian Olympic swim team, Généreux accepted a full scholarship to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas at the age of 19. In 2010, following a particularly gruelling practice, she and her teammates treated themselves to an afternoon relaxing around the pool at a hotel resort close to university where, as it turned out, Cameron, her future hubby, was vacationing with friends.
"We were 15 girls in a row and I was at the very end," she says. "Cameron, who’s hard to miss because he’s so tall, six-foot-seven, sat down next to me. When he mentioned to a server that he’d forgotten his sunscreen and could she bring him some, I said nonsense, use mine instead. The next thing I knew we were talking, laughing and finally, exchanging phone numbers. We did the long-distance thing for a year, before I moved to Winnipeg in 2011."
Généreux found out fairly early in her third pregnancy that they were expecting triplets. After they brought the girls home, she was so worried she was going to mix them up that she marked their ears with one, two or three dots, using a black Sharpie. For the next 18 months she spent every waking hour, pretty much, attending to the needs of their five daughters. She eventually enlisted help during the day, feeling it was important for her state of mind to have a couple of hours to herself once a week. She’d always had an artistic side so every Friday afternoon she headed to a spare room in the basement to draw, paint… anything that would allow her to express herself in a creative manner. In one corner of the room was an untouched sewing machine, a housewarming gift from a few years earlier. One day she plugged it in and proceeded to make a baby blanket, incorporating some of her illustrations in the design.
She enjoyed the process so much she began sewing shorts and dresses for the girls, using all-natural, repurposed material as much as possible. You can probably guess what happened next. First, friends and family members began requesting similar items for their kids, too. Then, after honing her skills by taking a pattern-design course at Red River College in 2018, she established Triplettes et moiselles, which she quickly rebranded Triplets & Co., because the former was "a mouthful if you’re not French."
Triplets & Co. made its official debut in July at the St. Norbert Farmer’s Market. Explaining over and over again that no, she is not a triplet herself, she posted an oversized picture of the girls in front of her table, to let customers know who the true stars of the show are. Her retro-looking fashions, each more colourful and playful than the next, come in six sizes, for girls two to eight years old. She purposely makes things to be loose-fitting so kids won’t grow out of them too quickly, she says.
"Clothing is expensive enough without doing the fast-fashion thing, getting rid of something the second it doesn’t fit," she continues, adding she can’t remember a time growing up when she owned more than two pairs of jeans, one of which she’d don for seven days straight before tossing it in the laundry basket and switching to the other pair. "There’s no reason if you have a beautiful piece (of clothing) you can’t wear it a while, even if you’re a child."
With only the two older girls presently in school — the triplets don’t start kindergarten until next September — Généreux is content for the time being selling her clothes through her website (www.tripletsco.com) only. Does she ever dream about getting her designs into retail outlets somewhere down the line? Sure, that would be fantastic, she says, noting to date she’s fielded orders from across Canada, and a few from the States, as well.
"I don’t know if you’re familiar with young kids fashion nowadays (we aren’t, our son is 23) but a lot of it is very sombre colours, very neutral," she says. "That’s not me, never has been. And based on people’s reaction when they spot something I’ve made with bright, pink roses or sunflowers, I’m not alone."
Oh, one more thing; know the adage like father, like son? Same thing with mothers and daughters. The other day, Généreux’s second eldest, Charlie-Rose, was getting ready for school. When she emerged from her bedroom, Généreux noticed Charlie-Rose had converted her pants into knickers, by pulling her socks up the same way she had, when she was her daughter’s age.
"I don’t have any pictures of me doing that and I never told her about it, so it’s interesting how she came up with the idea all on her own," she says, grinning from ear to ear. "The second I saw her I was like, ‘aren’t you the coolest kid in the whole wide world?’"
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.