SHOP TALK: Q&A with Mèreadesso skincare founder Linda Stephenson


Now, I had never heard of Mèreadesso, but when Nordstrom sent a gift box full of beauty products in advance of their big Beauty Bash on opening day March 6, I was immediately drawn to its “all in one” approach.Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 9.04.50 PM

And believe it or not, amidst a lot of fun products that my colleagues told me were top of the line, I dove for … a makeup remover? (There were so many great products in there, and my bathroom is pretty tiny, so — after I took a couple goodies — we split up the rest.) Yes, makeup remover. I had just come to the conclusion that using any old moisturizer to remove eye makeup every night around my eyes maybe wasn’t a good idea. That’s right — I didn’t even own makeup remover before!

Mèreadesso face + neck cleanser, which also promises to be a makeup remove, toner, and mask (and comes with a special cloth)

Mèreadesso face + neck cleanser, which also promises to be a makeup remove, toner, and mask (and comes with a special cloth)

Sure, there was a packaging component. (Aren’t we all, deep down, prone to marketing?) The Mèreadesso packaging was simple and clean, and it promised the world: makeup remover, toner, mask. It came with a nifty cloth that is apparently crucial to the product’s success, and it smelled light and refreshing.

I had been using the face + neck cleanser for a couple days when I heard from Mèreadesso. ‘What’s this,’ I thought, ‘this never-heard-of-brand knows I picked it, and wants to connect?’ Yes, there was a moment I wondered if the PR spies were following me home, peaking in my purse. But the more I read about the company — that it was a Canadian company, that the founder, Linda Stephenson, left a solid career working for a number of major brands to set out on her own, that it made without animal testing — the more I felt there was something worth checking out. (Plus, my skin was looking good.)

In my Q&A with Stephenson, I learned that she chose an all-in-one approach in order to attract “a new consumer that was not being addressed by traditional beauty lines and make things as efficient yet effective as possible. I wanted to design a product line for myself.”

Efficient, effective, and maybe a bit self-serving. I like it!

You can meet Stephenson, as well as Nordstrom beauty director Loredana Grama and other experts in the business at the opening day Beauty Bash — just show up at 7:30-9:30 at the main entrance to Nordstrom in the Rideau Centre.

Herewith, the rest of my email conversation with Stephenson.

Ottawa Mag: I understand you spent many years working for major beauty companies. Why did you want to start your own company?

Linda Stephenson, founder of Mèreadesso

Linda Stephenson, founder of Mèreadesso

Linda Stephenson: After leaving corporate, I consulted for seven years in product and business development. Starting my own line was the next logical step. When I became a mom, the idea for Mèreadesso was born. I had no time for any kind of skincare routine and I thought there must be a better way. I also wanted new challenges, variety, and control of my schedule.

OM: What have you learned — about business, beauty, and/or yourself — since starting Mèreadesso?

LS: About beauty, that there’s the customer out there like me that has no interest in multi-step products and this customer has not yet been recognized by prestige beauty.
About business, that the world of retail is changing rapidly. It used to be that you picked a channel — online or bricks and mortar — and stuck with that. Now you need to be everywhere simultaneously and that’s hard to do. Building great partnerships becomes the key. Being in the advance skincare section of Nordstrom is a unique and understandable way for me to reach my customer.

About myself, that I can function fairly well with an ulcer most of the time! But I do try to remind myself to not sweat the small stuff. Being an entrepreneur, I’m constantly faced with obstacles and challenges and my job is to figure out how to get through them, around them, or ignore them.

OM: I see that you have a minor in botany. What can you tell me about the ingredients in my Mèreadesso face + neck cleanser that will impress my plant-geek husband?

LS: The key ingredients that helps my cleanser work so well are the Bulgarian rose extract, aloe, jojoba, grape seed oil, and vitamin E. As light weight, non-greasy, non-sticky oils they break down makeup without needing foaming ingredients like lauryl sulphates. Lauryl sulphates are just detergents that do nothing but make bubbles and strip your face of moisture.

OM: Speaking of men, I read that your products work for men as well. Is this a big market for you? Are there new approaches to marketing that take gender into account?

LS: Often men’s skincare lines are the same formula with different packaging and fragrance. Because of Mèreadesso’s clean, unisex packaging, simplicity of use and neutral fragrance that flashes off, we’ve been attracting men of all ages! Men are our fastest growing demographic. In terms of men and skincare, the internet and social media has really opened up the skincare world to men who might be too shy to walk up to a department store clerk.

OM: How difficult it was to develop this line without testing on animals? This is something that is very important to me and I’m curious why some brands continue to test on animals.

LS: As a starting point in development, all Mèreadesso products contain ingredients that are known to be soothing, calming, and beneficial to the skin. Animal testing is usually done by companies using harsh ingredients that could potentially cause skin irritation. That’s when some companies believe an intermediary step of animal testing is required. The only animal testing we have ever done is on humans — and they were willing and cooperative!

OM: On a practical note, I have used the face + neck cleanser for about a week and am starting to see some mascara smears are still on the special cloth. How should I clean it?

LS: Just throw it in the wash with your towels! I do mine about once a week.

SHOP TALK: Escape to Paris this Valentine’s Day


Pont des arts. Photo by Kelsey Kromodimoelijo

Pont des arts. Photo by Kelsey Kromodimoeljo


Paris is known as the most romantic city in the world, with its lights, architecture, food (not to mention the ubiquitous PDA!). If you’re inspired by this famed French metropolitan and looking for a Valentine’s Day gift, then shop for some favourite Parisian must-haves here in Ottawa.


Repetto flat available at Wolf & Zed

Repetto flat available at Wolf & Zed

Les chaussures
It’s easy to spot the tourists in Paris, because strolling through the city in running shoes is a fashion faux pas for the locals. Parisians like to look effortlessly put together and favour a more classic and comfortable style — with an edge. Wolf & Zed in the Byward Market carries Repetto, a longstanding shoe brand that once crafted dance shoes for the Paris Opera Ballet and now famous for its everyday wear ballerines (ballet flats). The Cendrillon shoe has become a fashion staple and was made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the film And God Created Woman. Black is a good choice. Parisians love black. $170. Wolf & Zed, 519 Sussex Dr.


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SHOP TALK: Spread Local Love With Made-in-Ottawa gifts

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio
Styling by Sarah Fischer and Whitney Lewis-Smith
Classy Cards

Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio Styling by Sarah Fischer and Whitney Lewis-Smith

Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio
Styling by Sarah Fischer and Whitney Lewis-Smith

Alice Hinther makes quirky throwback cards that are sure to bring a smile to even the most stubborn Grinch. Composed of vintage photographs and whimsical expressions that push the envelope of civility, Classy People cards are loved by anyone who enjoys a good laugh. $4 each. Mags & Fags, 254 Elgin St., 613-233-9651.

Old Ottawa
Take time over the holidays to reflect on precious moments from the year gone by with this set of cards featuring 12 different street scenes from the city as it appeared in 1938. Old Ottawa cards are a personal project by City of Ottawa archivist Alain Miguelez; the story behind each scene, and how it exists today, is described on the back. $30. Books on Beechwood, 35 Beechwood Ave., 613-742-5030.

Buy the Book
Some say you shouldn’t gift a book you haven’t yet read, but given that these books by Ottawa authors hit shelves just this past fall, the bookworms on your list will forgive you. Get to know the seven stages of winter (anticipation, despair, sarcasm, etc.) in Scott Feschuk’s The Future and Why We Should Avoid It ($22.95), or take off to where it’s really cold with Jennifer Kingsley in Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild ($29.95). Perfect Books, 258 Elgin St., 613-231-6468.

Proulx Poster
Have you seen those striking graphic Timber Timbre concert posters tacked on telephone poles about town? They would look just as striking on the wall of a home office or child’s bedroom. Designed by Ottawa artist Ross Proulx, the posters (shown in the background) playfully depict well-known cultural references such as the Three Little Pigs and a sailboat meeting its demise on a typed page — after all, loose lips sink ships. $40. Ross Proulx,

Stock Style
Was Rudolph from Ottawa? Maybe not, but Lisa Anderson is, and she’s the brains behind these pretty cards that have been spotted at craft fairs and indie boutiques. Heart Meets Paper cards are printed on 80-pound white linen card stock and feature striking yet simple festive graphics. $4.50 each. Heart Meets Paper,

ROUNDUP: 10 Christmas Markets and Craft Shows


When coffee-lovers switch from pumpkin spice to eggnog lattes, you know it’s the holiday shopping season. This year we are seeing big transformations in the major shopping centres in Ottawa, but 2014 is also bringing more festive fun with lots of Christmas markets and craft shows appearing across the city. A trip to any one of these holiday troves will have you picking one-of-a-kind gifts and supporting local.

In fact, we love these hyper-local events that showcase one-of-a-kind, often hand made, gifts so much that we shone a spotlight on Made in Ottawa products in our Winter 2014 edition feature, “Local Love.” It was through tracking down cool vendors and exploring the local craft scene that we realized many of these business owners only sell through events like those listed below. If you love local, handmade gifts, make sure to get your hands on that issue! Many are participating in these markets — check out Ottawa Magazine tips for highlighted vendors to look for.

This photo from the Local Love gift guide in our Winter 2014 issue shows products by My Stow-n-Tow, Rekindled Lighting, Andrew O-Malley, Julie Thibault, and Becca Wallace. Photo by Marc Fowler - Metropolis Studio.

This photo from the Local Love gift guide in our Winter 2014 issue shows products by My Stow-n-Tow, Rekindled Lighting, Andrew O-Malley, Julie Thibault, and Becca Wallace. Photo by Marc Fowler – Metropolis Studio.


Capital Pop-Up Shop! Handmade Charity Show: The Holiday Edition
Nov. 22
Where: Bronson Centre, 211 Bronson Ave.,

Partial proceeds from this display of local artisanal work will go to the Ottawa Food Bank and other local charities. Love thy neighbours and bring non-perishable items for the community and you will surely be on Santa’s nice list. Admission is free but non-perishable food items are welcomed.

OM Tip: Did you (or someone on your Christmas list) see the Local Love gift guide in the Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine? It featured artists Becca Wallace, Heart Meets Paper, Littlest Bird Workshop, Split Tree Cocktail Co., and Janie & Pamalamalas will be at the Capital Pop-Up.


Joy! The 2014 OVCC Christmas Market
Nov. 22 – 23
Where: Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St.,

The OVCC’s Christmas market is self-described as “a unique mélange of traditional, steampunk and geek, all served up with a cup of good cheer.” They’ll have something for everyone, including beautiful cards from Sarah’s Card Company, made by our good friend and former Shop Talk contributor Sarah Fischer. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Look for Violeta Creations and Rekindled Lighting, who appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Ottawa Magazine, at the OVCC Christmas Market.


Home, Heart, and Handmade Indie Craft Fair
When: Nov. 22
Where: Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave.

What we love about local craft shows is the community feel, and if you’re looking for a boutique experience then look no further than this handmade fair at the Glebe Community Centre. (This indie craft show is part of the Capital Craft Crawl on November 22, along with the two previously mentioned events.) Admission is free.

OM Tip: Find Local Love featured artists Purple Urchin, Top Shelf Preserves, and High Tide Bowties at this event. 


Canadian Museum of History’s Christmas Market
When: Nov. 27 – 30
Where: Canadian Museum of History, 100 rue Laurier, Gatineau, QC,

Christmas spirit has arrived at one of our most treasured national museums, as it celebrates the season with its very own Christmas market. In its fifth year running, the marketplace will include 70 exhibitors scattered in the magnificent Grand Hall. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Local soap producer Purple Urchin will be there to help you select their deliciously scented natural products.


Nov. 29 and 30
Where: Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd.,

Shop gifts for the art lover on your list at Baz’Art, where you will find ceramics, jewellery, painting, and photography by local and regional artists and artisans, carefully selected by jury. As this is an event at the Shenkman Arts Centre, you will hear the sounds of live performers as you peruse the amazing showcase of artistic talent. Admission is free.

OM Tip: If you find all that art to be inspiring, look into joining a workshop at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Available workshops include painting, jewellery making, pottery, and a dance holiday flashmob for the Santa’s Parade of Lights!


Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market
When: Nov. 30, Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14
Where: Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park,

A Sunday visit to Brewer Park is a ritual for many, who will be pleased to know the outdoor marketplace will be heading home for the holidays at Lansdowne Park in the Aberdeen Pavilion. The old “Cattle Castle” will be transformed into a Christmas Market and beaming with festive flair, filled with holiday music, decorations and Christmas trees. More space means more vendors, who will all be competing for the best decorated stall for the holidays. Gift vendors will leave you with a lot to choose from with handmade crafts, jewellery, woodwork, toys and accessories. Of course there’s always the food, so shop for local and seasonal ingredients for your holiday feasts or purchase some ready made goods. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Come out on opening day on November 30 at 10:30 am. There will be a traditional burlap ‘ribbon’ cutting ceremony, followed by hot apple cider and holiday desserts.

Urban Craft Market Holiday 2014
When: Dec. 6
Where: Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave.,

A favourite show amongst the hip and modern is the Urban Craft Market that is promising the biggest and best show yet with its Holiday Edition. The craft bash will showcase more than 50 indie craft vendors from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and beyond. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Find out more about Urban Craft vendors  Dapper Beard Oil, Heart Meets Paper, Becca Wallace, Janie & Pamalamalas, Purple Urchin, Split Tree Cocktail Co. and Top Shelf Preserves in our Winter 2014 issue.


Christmas in the ByWard Market
Every Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 6 – 22
Where: ByWard Market,

The ByWard Market is a bustling marketplace all year round but it really comes alive for the holiday season. Celebrate the season outdoors with free wagon rides and hear the sounds of joy from the Christmas carollers at the corner of William and York. Admission is free.

OM Tip: You’ll find many vendors outside but don’t miss exploring the ByWard Market Square for some local gifts at Eclection and Tickled Pink (also a good option if it’s -30 degrees!). 


Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale
Dec. 11 to 21
Where: EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr.,

This massive craft show is the perfect place to pick up some unique gifts for your loved ones, as there will be over 200 artisans in display. Offerings include jewellery, fashion and accessories, visual art, bath and body products, and more. Admission is $7

OM Tip: Don’t be left out in the cold! Originals is closed on Dec. 15.


The Shopify Holiday Market
Dec. 12 -13
Where: Shopify HQ, 150 Elgin St.

Have you been curious to see the new Shopify office? Well here’s your chance to check out the new digs, as the Ottawa e-commerce company is having its very own Christmas Market. Several Shopify e-stores will be selling face-to-face, including Strut Jewelry, Darling & Dapper, Tealee, The Beard Co., MainStreetKnits, High Tide Bow Ties, Darling Yes, and Scrub Inspired.  As this is a high tech bunch, they will accept credit cards at the booths with their iPhones and iPads.

OM Tip: Take advantage of the Christmas wrapping booth. Wrapping is on the house but donations for local charities will be accepted.

Kelsey Kromodimoeljo is the Sales Coordinator for Ottawa Magazine and loves the ins and outs of working for a magazine. In her spare time, she can be found exploring the local food and shopping scene. Follow her on Twitter @kelseykromodi.

SHOP TALK: Lifeline Skin Care at Holtz Spa

This week, SHOP TALK welcomes guest blogger Ashleigh VanHouten. Ashleigh is a freelance writer and editor, as well as the force behind lifestyle magazine, milieu.

I recently attended a press event at Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market for a new skincare line and facial treatment (lucky me!). Holtz spa is wonderful: if you go for a facial, do yourself a favour and ask for Klara. She’s been in the business for decades and her sense of humour is just as awesome as her treatments. Under her knowing hands, I experienced my first facial treatment — complete with the always-uncomfortable extraction process — that didn’t make me think the aesthetician secretly hated me.

Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

The luxurious lobby of Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market. Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

Holtz Spa is now only one of two places in Canada to offer a new facial treatment using products from California-based Lifeline Skin Care (part of the International Stem Cell Corporation, a leader in stem cell research). The product uses proteins extracted from stem cells — and while that may set off some alarm bells in your head, it’s actually not in the least controversial.

The creams use proteins extracted from embryonic-like stem cells made from unused, unfertilized donated eggs (not from human embryos; no life is created or destroyed). This is possible based on a process pioneered by Dr. Elena Revazova, who figured out how to create stem cells without fertilizing the human egg through a process called parthenogenesis. I’ll try to explain this without getting too technical: they chemically stimulate the egg into thinking it’s fertilized so nourishing proteins can be extracted, but since no male components are ever introduced to the female egg, life is never possible. This new technology advances the field of regenerative medicine — and the parent company is hoping to use it to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease; revenue from Lifeline Skin Care go towards this research.

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SHOP TALK: Spooky chic outfits for fall

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine.

Photo by - Christian Lalonde. Styling by Sarah Fischer.

Photo by – Christian Lalonde. Styling by Sarah Fischer.

Step out of the shadows in this statement jacket. Made of Italian silk twill bonded to Italian wool, the J. Crew floral coat will bring warmth and drama to your fall wardrobe. Plus, the neutral colours of ivory and black work well with autumn’s dark palette. $1,114. J. Crew, Rideau Centre50 Rideau St., 613-563-7349.

Featuring trendy cut-outs and a gold-coloured back zipper, these leather Louise et Cie Sarimenta pumps ($200) are an excellent investment for the fall season. Pointy toes and a slim 3½-inch stiletto heel will make them your go-to date-night shoes. For a day-to-evening bootie, look to the Vince Camuto Klayton peep-toe ($180). Simple yet on-trend, this glamorously structured shoe is embellished by the statement zipper. Town Shoes, Bayshore Mall100 Bayshore Dr., 613-596-2378, and two other Ottawa locations.

This versatile Montgomery coat by Maestrami is made in Italy exclusively for Ottawa retailer Armen. The toggle fastenings and dark navy colour lend the coat a casual, rugged look. And with 80 percent wool, this is one topper that will work well into the colder months. $650.
Armen, 100 Murray St., 613-244-3351.

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MOST WANTED: Bespoke Pens


This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine.


Bespoke pen by Silver Hand Studios. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Think of it as bling for the aesthete. In an age of anonymous keystrokes, a prestigious writing implement wields subtle power: a real pen-and-ink signature, performed with a flourish, carries genuine weight. Indeed, a pen of such superior quality adds gravitas to any encounter, emphasizing that you’re smart, successful, and ready to deal.

Chris Manning of Silver Hand Studios has been designing custom and limited-edition pens for close to a decade, combining traditional and modern techniques to create his architecture-inspired works of art. Moved by the sculptural details of a wooden staircase railing in a 15th-century Nuremburg home, Manning designed this Gothic Overlay pen. He has made a series of 10 in Argentium silver and one in 18-karat gold. (The artist never makes more than 11 pens in any series, ensuring that owners are guaranteed entry into a very exclusive club.) Says Manning, who makes a few dozen pens a year, mainly for clients in the United States and Europe: “This isn’t just a gorgeous pen, it also writes beautifully. You don’t fight with it — it floats across the paper.” Time to cultivate a jaunty new signature.

$1,250 ($7,500 for the gold)

SHOPPING: Third World Bazaar brings artisan handicrafts to Manotick

Kelsey Kromodimoeljo is the Sales Coordinator for Ottawa Magazine and loves the ins and outs of working for a magazine. In her spare time, she can be found exploring the Ottawa food scene while aspiring to eat less meat. Follow her on Twitter @kelseykromodi

Photo Daniel K. Ng

Photo Daniel K. Ng

Ottawa prides itself in multiculturalism —  it basically exemplifies the societal notion we have of the Canadian cultural mosaic. Rather than forging a one-dimensional melting pot, we tend to maintain our traditions and promote our origins.  Although cuisine is the aspect we see this in most prominently, often we miss out on the fantastic arts of these cultures. It is a shame, because artisan work is still very much thriving in many developing countries.

My own personal trips to Bali and Java, Indonesia gave me the chance to visit artisan workshops and see up close the intricacy and incredible talent behind the handmade and one-of-a-kind arts and handicrafts. Wanderlust folks travel far and wide to collect these unique works of art. Here in Ottawa, the annual Third World Bazaar gives us the chance to take in amazing international finds.

The Third World Bazaar is run by the world-travelling Bakker family who purchase fairly traded treasures from developing countries and sell their eclectic collection in a Manotick barn. This annual Bazaar, which celebrates its 11 anniversary this year, opens for several weeks in the fall and displays a splendor of products from countries including Turkey, Peru, Mexico, and Indonesia. The barn is set up to look like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Discover for yourself the beautiful collection of home and garden accents, furniture, art, and musical instruments from around the globe. You are bound to find an eye-catching piece for the mosaic of décor in your home.

The Third World Bazaar runs for seven weekends — each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Oct. 3 through Nov. 16.

Entry is free, and a donation to Habitat for Humanity gets you a coffee.  The Bakker family also accepts non-perishable food items for Shepherds of Good Hope, and sell pumpkins and apple cider to support Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Click on the thumbnails for a slideshow of images from Third World Bazaar.

SHOP TALK: Tights, pants, and breaking the rules

SHOP TALK: American Girl Boutique opens in Rideau Chapters