SHOP TALK: Visit Victoire for modern, vintage-inspired wedding dresses from Birds of North America


Earlier this year, Victoire hosted a bridal event showcasing local wedding sources as well as the Birds of North America bridal collection. Fittings can be arranged at the Wellington location of Victoire

Earlier this year, Victoire hosted a bridal event showcasing local wedding sources as well as the Birds of North America bridal collection. Fittings can be arranged at the Wellington location of Victoire

In the April issue of Ottawa Magazine, we look at how we’ve celebrated milestones from past to present. And while weddings will forever be regarded as the bride’s big day, wedding styles and traditions have gone through many transformations over the years. Lately, we’ve witnessed a shift from the grandiose weddings to more personal and intimate affairs that prove to be just as enchanting.

At Victoire Boutique, owners Katie Frappier and Regine Paquette have seen an influx of brides who’ve gone a little simpler in their wedding planning but put a lot of care in adding more unique and heartfelt touches to their special day. Earlier this year, Victoire hosted A Modern Wedding Event for the vintage-loving brides with the collaboration of talented local businesses Auntie Loo’s Treats, Sparrow Floral Design, and Heart Deco Jewellery.

The event also marked the unveiling of the first bridal collection by Birds of North America, a Canadian design label that’s been a favourite to Victoire customers. Knee length cuts, bows, and the 1950/60’s aesthetics work beautifully in this collection for the bride who wants something old, something new.

The Birds of North America bridal line features knee-length dresses in simple silhouettes

The Birds of North America bridal line features knee-length dresses in simple silhouettes


Here, OTTAWA MAGAZINE talks to Birds of North America designer Hayley Gibson about the details behind her new bridal collection.

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SHOP TALK: The Reversible Pocket Square


Rania Abdulla's Reversible Pocket Square

Rania Abdulla’s Reversible Pocket Square

As wedding season approaches, we’ll begin to see a lot of interpretations on “dressed up.” Here at SHOP TALK, we say nothing is better than a classic piece with a modern twist. Ottawa stylist Rania Abdulla has done just that with her innovative Reversible Pocket Squares.

Pocket squares that are double sided with two distinct yet complementary textiles, Rania’s creative accessories add variety to any outfit and are versatile to boot. Rania creates the Reversible Pocket Square from repurposed material in her Ottawa studio. As these brilliant accessories are made from recycled material, only a few matching pocket squares will be created and seen about town.

Show both

Show both patterns for a rich, textured look

The Pocket Square can also be worn a variety of ways — folded so that both patterns complement one another, or folded to showcase one of the two sides at a time. This accessory is a one of a kind, two for one deal — providing you an original accessory that is environmentally responsible, locally handmade and quintessentially bespoke. It is a classic piece — a small accessory with big impact.

Further modernizing the traditional pocket square look, Rania encourages her colorful creations to be worn by both men and women alike. Perfect for many occasions, her Pocket Squares can be worn tucked into shirts, jackets and dress pockets, either dressed down or dressed up. They can be worn with a casual outfit for a western cowboy feel, or for a more polished effect – Old Hollywood style. Tied onto the strap of a handbag, the squares add that European flair and a pop of colour to any outfit.

The Reversible Pocket Square is a vibrant twist on a classically traditional item, which expresses that the wearer knows quality and style – trends are fleeting, but the elegance of a pocket square is timeless.

This pocket square would

This pocket square — tied to a the strap of a handbag — would add touch of European flair. 

With wedding season and summer soirees quickly approaching, channel your inner Cary Grants and Katharine Hepburns and be sure to grab yourself a Reversible Pocket Square at her online store.



SHOP TALK: This spring, androgyny is reborn


Items from Selfridge's "Agender" line

Items from Selfridge’s “Agender” line

For years, androgynous fashion has been all over the runways. Recently, more and more androgynous pieces have been making their way to the streets, which means the closets of couples are starting to look a lot alike. In fact, the British department store Selfridges has recently revamped some of their stores and replaced their men’s and women’s departments with all unisex clothing, as part of their new “Agender” project. This bold move could look towards a trend for the future, not just in the world of fashion, but in our culture as a whole.

“Androgyny” is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics, or a lack of gender. Rather, a sexual ambiguity. There has always been a relationship between fashion and gender: dressing yourself is a way of expressing yourself and how you’d like the world to perceive you, and your gender identity plays a large role in deciding what to wear. With the latest – and possibly boldest – wave of feminism upon us, as well as the growing discussion of LGBT activism, asexuality is becoming more than just a fashion statement.

Jared Leto wears a skirt to the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Jared Leto wears a skirt to the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

It’s always been a bit more socially acceptable for women to wear men’s clothing, but with the inspiration of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Jared Leto, men are doing it too. Some men these days are risky enough to wear traditionally feminine colours like pink and purple, floral pocket squares, or paisley-patterned dress shirts. We’ve also seen men in skinny jeans, adorned like Depp in jewelry, or with long, ombré hair à la Leto.

But women have been wearing accents of men’s clothing for years. Starting with women in the workplace donning male-inspired blazers, dress pants, and collared shirts, the trend has spread even further to baggy “boyfriend” jeans, loafers, and flannel and denim work shirts, leaving the men in our lives wondering where their clothes have disappeared to. If all of our closets begin to meld together, eventually, we might actually stop borrowing our boyfriends’ sweatshirts altogether.

This spring, androgyny’s in Ottawa. You can find genderless trends at Vincent, a women’s boutique on Preston Street. The shop carries high-end brands like Bailey 44 and Ganni. Both brands embody primarily feminine tastes, but they suggest subtle touches of masculinity, making them an excellent introduction into androgynous dressing for those who aren’t so sure.

Looks for spring include collared shirts, tailored dress pants, sporty sneakers, and the continued trend of one-piece jumpers. Colours for spring are subdued: gender-neutral shades of blues, whites, and greys are ubiquitous, and patterns are dainty and subtle. Ganni offers a line of skirts and dresses in a delicate yet distinctive floral pattern that provides a feminine edge to the masculine hues.

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A navy blue collared dress from Bailey 44


A fun navy patterned jumper from Bailey 44


A feminine collared dress from Ganni


Soon enough, we won’t need to keep stealing our boyfriends’ clothes, but what will we do when they start stealing ours?


PLUS: Vincent, and Ottawa-based boutique run by two sisters, will host a charity event for Dress for Success next month on Saturday, April 18. From 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., you can donate your used work-wear for women in need. For donating, you’ll receive a discount on a purchase that day, as well as be entered to win a $250 closet makeover.


SHOP TALK: The Perfect Indulgence for the Socially Conscious Lush


LUSH Rideau Centre 2 (1)

Good news for Rideau Centre regulars: Lush is branching out and has set up shop in the downtown shopping centre. You’ll know when you’re near — the potent smell of paradise will guide you to their new location at the bottom of the escalator on the second floor, next to Nordstrom. Lush is the perfect “treat yourself” store, and with its socially conscious products, you can feel good about treating yourself to their luxe soaps and bath products.

The British-based chain crossed the Atlantic in 1996, opening their first international store in Vancouver. There are now over 200 shops in North America, and all the products for this side of the pond are made right here in Canada. For years, Ottawa’s Lush was located on William Street in the ByWard Market, but the Rideau Centre’s recent transformation has allowed opportunity for a new shop — and maybe some new clientele too. Here’s a look at some of the qualities that set Lush apart from the rest of the beauty biz:

It’s Local, Naturally

The ingredients for all of Lush’s products come from the grocers and farmer’s markets of the Vancouver and Toronto areas, which are organic, biodegradable, and all natural. They make an effort to limit packaging (which is why the store smells so strongly), and any packaging that does exist is recyclable or compostable.

Fair Play


Lush’s Charity Pot Body Lotion $6.95 – $25.95

Lush is a company that prides itself on its fair trade, environmentally friendly, and ethical operations. Lush openly condemns animal testing and the use of chemicals and parabens, a widely-used preservative that’s been linked to the disruption of hormone functions. Furthermore, Lush works to support local charities. Their Charity Pot body lotion, made from ylang ylang, rosewood oils, and a hydrating cocoa butter, is the perfect antidote to Canada’s dry winters – and 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity. (Understanding the roots of their products might help when deciding to spend a little more.)


Lush has a wide range of high-quality products: from skin care to hair care, to makeup to their famous luxurious bath bombs. But Lush is not just for the ladies – they offer a line of natural and rustic-scented men’s products as well. The Kalamazoo beard and facial wash ($9.95 – $22.95) is a two-in-one stop for the busy bearded man on-the-go.

Personal Touch

Many of Lush’s products have the unique aspect of identifying the creator of each product. Connecting buyers to the hands who have made their product is what makes the Lush experience unique and personal. Their website also highlights the company’s transparency, featuring “How It’s Made” videos, full lists of ingredients, and facts about the natural ingredients they use. (Did you know citrus works as the perfect morning mental boost? That’s why they add it to their shower gel.)

Perfect Timing

Lush always offers a special item or two to suit the season. With Easter right around corner, treat the Funny Bunny in your life with an adorable bath gift basket ($48.95), which includes Lush’s Hoppity Poppity Bath Bomb. Not feeling festive? Their vegan Stepping Stone foot scrub ($4.50) is the perfect way to prep your pieds for sandal season.



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,

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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SHOP TALK: Tights, pants, and breaking the rules

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven.

I still have a clipping from a paper years ago posted on my cubicle wall bringing attention to the Tights are Not Pants manifesto, which aims to put a halt to the epidemic of pantslessness under the guise of leggings.

“Let’s be clear. The wearing of tights as pants is an abomination.” 

Since then, the discussion about tights vs. pants has continuted — often to hilarious ends.

On the one side, the anti-pants-as-tights crowd says “People don’t wear pantyhose as pants, so why is it now acceptable to wear leggings as pants?”

Pardon the pun, but the argument has legs. If they are tight and show off everything, well, you are going to have people staring at you because you are letting everything hang out. Why not keep your assets covered for others’ imaginations? (For more on this debate, and how yoga pants figure into the continuum, check out this article about yoga pants banned at one Ottawa school — and don’t miss the comments section!)

However, if leggings look like pants — and have pockets on the butt and are thicker than a regular tight, then I’d say this is the limit.

But to each her own! Which is why we took notice when we received work that Canadian retailer Reitman’s is partnering with local fashion celeb and The Social‘s fashion expert Erica Wark on a tour called “Breaking the Rules with Reitmans: The Leggings Edition.”

On their tour, which comes to Reitman’s at Bayshore on Thursday, October 16, Reitman’s announces that “leggings aren’t just for the gym anymore” and their plans to rewrite the rulebook on the dos and don’ts of selecting and styling fall’s favourite fashion essential.

And I gotta admit, Erica is rocking this grunge look!

Erica Wark lays on the layers for a cute grunge look

Erica Wark lays on the layers for a cute grunge look

And so we opened our style sensibilities to other possibilities when it comes to tights, and considered the following:

Erica’s Guide to Breaking The Rules: The Leggings Edition

1. Touch & Feel: Not all leggings are created equal and it all starts with the fabric. The Reitmans leggings are made with thicker ponte fabrics which means they CAN be worn as pants. The haute grunge of the 90s is back: embrace it.

2. Lay on the Layers: Don’t be scared to toss a skirt — or even a dress! — over your leggings.

3. Stop, Drop & Roll: The almighty roll is not just for denim. These leggings are meant to be cuffed so toss on a bootie and adjust that hem for a more casual day look.

4. Rock the Crop: Sporting a legging doesn’t mean long tees are required. Change it up and try a chunky sweater or blouse for a sleeker, chicer style.

5. Let the Shoes Shine: From flats and boots to pumps and mules — the art of the legging is its ability to go with a range of footwear. Bonus? Pack a second (sexier) pair to take a look from day to night.

Love how this outfit lets the shoes shine through.

Love how this outfit lets the shoes shine through.

I like it. The dress + tights definitely works to open up outfit possibilities. Never even considered the roll! The crop, well, maybe it’s not for everyone. And anything that lets shoes shine through is a winner!

For more on tights, pants, and breaking the rules (or playing it safe) head to Reitman’s at Bayshore on Thursday, October 16. Erica’s Shop’n’Style party will focus on the Reitmans leggings collection while highlighting fall’s hottest trends. The post-work cocktail parties — complete with tipples and nibbles — will give customers access to an exclusive shopping experience with Erica, as well as special in-store promotions.

October 16, 6 pm to 8 pm
Bayshore Shopping Centre, 100 Bayshore Dr.