Report by Danielle Waters.
Ottawa is often seen as the fashion-forgotten capital, nestled between the hubs of Montreal and Toronto, with its legions of government and IT workers. Trying to break into the Ottawa fashion conscience are Bridget Remai and Christina Ballhorn, who have introduced Flock Boutique on Wellington Street.
Flock is one of the very few stores on the scene this are wholly owned by women and catering to women. The designers are 95 per cent Canadian and come from all over Canada, but the store tends to focus on small-scale women designers.
“Within that, we do try to carry as much local stuff as possible, and we try to keep the store about half-local in terms of the number of designers,” says Ballhorn.
In this day and age of small boutiques, it is not always easy to find designers and, more importantly, original, independent and creative designers.
Ballhorn explains: “In terms of finding people over the years – there has been a change. At the beginning, many of us were doing a lot of reaching out to designers, but now we have been really lucky in that designers who we carry let their other designer friends know about us. So many people are contacting us that way.”
The environmental aspect is also strongly reflected in the products at Flock.
“We have a lot of designers who do some of the up-cycle clothing, so we have many things that are being reused…it is nice to see things come back in a new way instead of ending up in landfills,” says Ballhorn.
This, of course, is great for those of us who are environmentally inclined; and many of the products at Flock were made with exactly that in mind. The concentration is really on re-using articles and reclaiming them, but Flock also has products made out of environmentally thoughtful items, such as eco-fabrics like soy and eco cotton, as well as bamboo.
“As far as jewelry is concerned, we do have some recycled leather pieces and reclaimed wood, so it definitely is a consideration, and by its very nature it creates a one-of-kind piece that is nice to have; an item that has enjoyed a previous life and now has a rejuvenation,” says Ballhorn.
So what does it take to succeed in this market? “You have to be able to think on your feet and adapt to things that change. I guess you definitely have to be stubborn – we were too stubborn to let ourselves fail, for example. Being enthusiastic and enjoying what you do, loving clothing and loving handmade things, and kind of being an advocate for that is also very important,” adds Ballhorn.
As Ballhorn and Remai settle into their new clothing home on Wellington, we can also look forward to new exciting workshops in a dedicated space starting up in the new year.