Victoire - Katie & Régine
What passion drove you to your business?
The wonderful thing is that was 12 years ago, and that passion is still driving us every day! Katie & I have both always loved fashion, but even more so fashion retail. We loved how important the way a space was merchandised, and how the products were curated, the type of sales help you got when you went into different shops, as well as the hundreds of other small details that go into getting your vision across when you are creating a truly unique experience. And we felt like there wasn't a shop that existed that personified our perfect shopping environment - so we decided to create it! We were pretty young when we first opened our shop, and so we were quite budget-conscious (and we still are!), so we wanted the things we sold to be special, made ethically (ideally in Canada) and of excellent quality, but to still represent good value. We wanted our shop to be inviting and intimate, in contrast to what we perceived to be many boutiques' "exclusive" or intimidating atmosphere. We also wanted to stock a range of prices in our shop so that everyone feels welcome, even just to browse and get inspired.
How did you guys become business partners?
We've been best friends since our last year of high school, which is when we met. From the get-go we were co-conspirators. Going to shows together, then working together putting on events through Ladyfest Ottawa, which was a feminist music & arts festival that we helped run for a few years before Victoire. Through our experience doing that, we realized that we worked well together and had complimentary skill-sets, but mostly that we like to have fun while still working really hard. So we decided that upon University graduation we would take the leap together and try and open a small women's boutique. That was in 2006, and now we have 2 locations and a e-commerce site!
Do you remember the first item you sold?
I don't remember the very first thing, but I do remember selling the first "big ticket item" we had probably a few days into us being open. I was so excited & simultaneously nervous that I actually forgot to charge the customer!
Tell us about your neighborhood. What role does Victoire play in the community and what drew you to it?
Our approach to business has always been one of collaboration & partnerships. I think probably coming from a DIY background, where everyone is just learning as they go, and supporting one another to thrive, has alot to do with it. It's just innate for us to work that way, and we find it extremely fulfilling. So wherever we've opened our brick & mortar locations, that cooperative community vibe has been so important. In the last year we have started (along with others including the women behind our neighbours Wheelhouse), an organization called "The Guild", whose goal is to foster collaborations and knowledge sharing among small business owners.
Wellington West has been a great neighbourhood for us to be in. When we opened here 8 years ago, it was still a pretty residential neighbourhood, though there were some businesses who were hugely influential in what the area has become (Clothes by Muriel & Thyme and Again to name a couple). It has grown so so much since then. You could honestly get most of your needs met just by walking the strip and supporting local businesses at the same time. I would wager that Wellington West has probably the highest concentration of small businesses selling local or Canadian products, so we couldn't be happier here.
How has the business grown from day one until now?
Well aside from now having 2 locations in 2 different cities & an e-commerce site, we've grown from just being Katie & I to now having an amazing staff of 8, who contribute to our business in so so many ways. It's been great seeing our reputation as offering the best of Canadian designers grow outside of the cities we're in as well, we now sell to faithful fans of Canadian-made fashion across the country! We are honoured to have built a brand that people identify with and value. It's such an amazing community of creative-minded people, whether that means creative makers or creativity supporters!
How do you choose which designers/brands to work with?
Absolutely everything that we stock is something that Katie & I love. We're a bit stubborn that way :) We don't stock things based on trends, or what we *should* be stocking. If we think it's special, then we hope our customers will too. We have a mantra at the shop that is the core of our buying strategy: We are creating a wardrobe to reflect your ethics, your ideas and your beauty!
Has your personal style changed since opening up your own Boutique?
Something we both firmly believe with regards to style, is that the most important thing is to experiment, and not have any fixed or rigid ideas about what "your style" is, or what items you can or can't pull off. Fashion is supposed to be fun (so we hate any dos/don'ts, or "rules"). So even if you don't leave with that jumpsuit, it's still a good idea to try it on and experiment because it's really beneficial to see yourself in new shapes and colours and just continue to be excited about the next outfit possibilities around the corner. I would say that we are continuously inspired by vintage clothing, music, arts & culture, but most important is to keep an open mind. We are both (alongside our customers) very complex-minded women; some days we are dressed in a statement of emotions, sometimes in a way to take up space and power, sometimes to story tell....we dress with intention and heart.
Buttertarts: Raisin or plain ?:)
Raisin! Though if we're talking sweets, we'd take a chocolatine from Macarons et Madeleines any day (and we do most days actually, ha!)
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
Our business is our work, our hobby, and our creative project. It's such a source of energy that "unwinding" isn't a daily need. Our staff are such wonderfully attentive and dedicated co-workers we are very grateful to not have daily stresses to walk away from. We get lots of opportunity to meet new people in the shop and travel to our designers, we are just constantly being fueled by it all. However with all that said, I will say we both appreciate long baths with snacks!
Favourite place for coffee or tea in the city?
Macarons et Madeleines just a block up from us is a fave...We are truly obsessed with every single one of their baked goods. We are so blessed to have such delicious and authentic french pastries in our city! We're there pretty much every day - either before work, or on our walk home after school with the kids.
Favourite restaurant in Ottawa?
Cafe my House is a completely inspirational experience that makes fine dinning a playful time, we are so lucky to have it in our city! Town is also a fave, we've been regulars since they opened and absolutely love their perfect mix of casual fine-dining. The music is always good, the food is amazing, the servers are exceptional, and the owners are the best.