Fashion forward in the Capital

Mary Taggart
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Ottawa has never been known for its trend-setting fashion sense, but for those in the know it’s a capital city with distinct flare and a global consciousness.

Here, we profile four people with a long-standing date with style who have watched the evolution of their influence on the fashion scene in Ottawa. Yes, we still have a way to go – but with vibrant spring designs coming off the runways – this might just be the season to break out of the closet and show our more stylish side!

Richard Robinson 
Fashion Designer, Richard Robinson Fashion House, 447 Sussex Dr.

When did you arrive on the fashion scene in Ottawa? I opened Richard Robinson Fashion House on June 2, 1969. I was just back from Paris where I worked for Christian Dior and Yves St Laurent. I offer Haute Couture services for both men and women. In 1972, I started Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design.

What changes have you seen since then? More and more people are fashion conscious and have become fascinated with fashion.

Describe Ottawa’s style. Being Canada’s capital, social events are numerous. At those events, people like to dress up and be noticed – some with originality and others by being chic. Women are holding more prestigious positions where fashion is synonymous to image. Men are starting to dare to be different, especially the younger generation of professionals.

Describe your personal style. Classic, with a twist. The colors that I personally love wearing are black, navy and charcoal. I’m a very versatile fashion designer. I like to design according to the personality of my client and it can go from one extreme to another . . . always making them feel beautiful, comfortable and confident. I use beautiful fabrics and design, with unexpected details that make the creation unique and original.

What’s the biggest trend making its way into spring? This spring you will see a lot of sheer and soft fabrics and the color purple.

Elizabeth Timlin Personal Shopper, Holt Renfrew, 
240 Sparks Street.

When did you arrive on the fashion scene in Ottawa? I would have to say my true start in fashion was with the arrival of Holt Renfrew to our city. I was lined up the door with a resume in hand, and have never looked back!  

What changes have you seen since then? Most definitely how much more fashion forward we have become. People are more educated as to what is happening in the fashion world, with an increased desire to be a part of it.  

Describe Ottawa’s style. Ottawa style is often referred to as “conservative” but, as I have mentioned, we have come a long way. You can spot some very trendy people walking the streets of Ottawa these days!  

Describe your personal style. My personal style has always leaned towards the “tailoured” version of the seasonal trends. I have always felt more comfortable in clothes that have a clean line and a classic look.  

What’s the biggest trend making its way 
into spring? Spring 2011 is such a fabulous season for fashion. It’s hard to narrow the season down to one trend. The things Holt Renfrew “can’t live without” for spring include: the nude pump; the crossbody flapover bag; the perfect white shirt; the high colour clutch; the leather perfecto; the perfect sheath dress; the iconic trench; the perfect pant suit; delicately layered gold necklaces and the perfect wedge.

Muriel Dombret Designer/President, Clothes by Muriel Dombret, 1258 Wellington St.

When did you arrive on the fashion scene in Ottawa? I arrived in Ottawa, from Antwerp, Belgium in 1991. I wanted to make beautiful clothes in durable natural fibres that fitted my sense of aesthetic: wearable, feminine, elegant and timeless. I started selling at several craft shows and opened my own studio/store a few years later on Wellington Street West.

What changes have you seen since then? Casual Fridays meant many women have adapted their wardrobe to be even more casual any day of the week. Gone are the traditional two-piece suits and separates.  

Describe Ottawa’s style. Style is what you get when you make fashion your own. In comparison with other capitals I often sense a lack of creative style.  

Describe your personal style. Definitely a reflection of my store. I always wear  Clothes by Muriel Dombret or any of the other fabulous labels I bring in like Cavadesoi’s luxurious knits. 

What’s the biggest trend making its way into spring? The biggest trend is a return to minimalism. The focus will return to fabrics and fit. Tunics and longer, freer-flowing easy silhouettes will be seen this summer. For colors we use earth tones and big splashes of strong color like orange, watermelon and yellows. Lots of striped fabrics on clothes and scarves.

Marlene Shepherd Owner, Shepherd’s Fashions, Rideau Centre 
& Bayshore Shopping Centre

When did you arrive on the fashion scene in Ottawa? My mother and I opened Shepherd’s Fashion Accessories at 240 Sparks in December 1978. We wanted to bring Ottawa the fabulous jewellery and accessories seen in all the magazines. Costume jewellery was making a comeback.

What changes have you seen since then? During our 33 years in business, we have seen fewer independent retailers and more mass merchandisers.  Yet service and unique items are still in demand. Our entry into on-line shopping this year will also keep Shepherd’s current and available to our customers from around the world.

Describe Ottawa’s style. Classically conservative, practical, self-assured with an independent sense of style.  

Describe your personal style. My husband jokingly asks me “which shade of black are you going to wear?” I love the versatility of black; it is the predominate colour in my closet with an occasional dash of colour.  I like my clothes comfortable, simple, yet albeit quirky and well accessorized.

What’s the biggest trend making its way into spring? Either bright colours, like coral, turquoise and red, or neutrals like white, black, beiges and greys.  Tunics with leggings or skinny jeans are still hot but the wider leg pants and longer skirts are returning. The bandeau is under everything.  Jewellery is chunky; statement pieces are in rose gold, dinner rings, long earrings and tassels.

Organizations: Fashion House, Christian Dior, Richard Robinson Academy Bayshore Shopping Centre

Geographic location: Ottawa, Sussex, Paris Canada Antwerp Belgium

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