Stylish Social Enterprises – Doing Good Through Fashion

Our purchases do make a difference. With the holiday season fast approaching, now may be the perfect time to support fabulous causes without compromising on style. My column in this month’s Community Cord discusses how.

See below.

Shop Local

I’m often asked whether our individual purchases really make a difference, and my answer is always yes. Consumers have more influence over the products that are produced, and future products that are being developed, than we may realize. With every business striving to make a profit, they look to consumer behaviour to drive their innovation, product development, and marketing decisions to increase the likelihood that us consumers will choose their products over a competitor’s.

A 2013 Business Development Bank of Canada study called “Five Game-Changing Consumer Trends” identified a “Made in Canada” advantage for businesses, as social and environmental concerns have become increasingly influential in consumer purchasing decisions.

The commercial landscape has changed for retailers and they must adapt to meet new consumer standards. Canadians do their research before making a purchase and a majority are now trying to buy local, with many willing to pay a premium for goods that boast a Made in Canada label.

As a result of these shifting attitudes, new businesses are popping up that place doing good at the centre of their business model. These are called social enterprises. From Tom’s Shoes, which give shoes to children in need, to tentree, which plants 10 trees for every purchase, shopping for a cause has gone mainstream.

It’s true that it can be challenging to see how our individual purchases make a difference, but Carmen Clubiné, a local jewelry designer, makes it clear that they can. She created her jewelry line, Alfaro Clubiné, in partnership with Joel, a 23-year-old hearing impaired man living in Paraguay who had few options for employment in his community.

“When our friend in Paraguay met Joel, he had a temper because he really couldn’t communicate with anyone,” explained Carmen. “He was frustrated, and it got to the point where his own community didn’t want him around.”

When Joel was young, he attended school for a while, but it wasn’t set up to meet his needs. As a result, he had a lot of time on his hands, and his older brothers taught him how to work with filigree silver. When they moved away to make a living elsewhere, things changed for the entire family.

“Joel wasn’t in a good place when our friend met him, but when he started working, he became a different person,” said Carmen. “For me, that was the wow moment. Alfaro Clubiné is making a big difference in the life of a man, his family, and his community.”

This is one example of a local social enterprise that, with your support, can continue to positively influence another person’s life. Many more exist in Waterloo Region, and with style and impact combined in a business, it is now easier than ever to engage in socially-conscious purchasing.

Our consumption decisions add up, and big businesses pay attention. Our purchases make a difference, and isn’t that a beautiful thing?

A Blooming Affair Fashion Show in Review

Happy Thanksgiving Canadian readers and what a gorgeous weekend it’s been in Waterloo Region. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of YOU for following the blog and sharing your shopping stories with me. It’s truly been an amazing year, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting many of our wonderful shop owners, reporting back to you on our local shop spots. This week I had the pleasure of kicking off Oktoberfest season in style at the 2015 A Blooming Affair Fashion Show, held at Bingemans Ballroom.

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There was certainly plenty of eye candy at this year’s event, organized and run by a talented committee of 13 community members. The show drew a mixed crowd of young women, sophisticated women and the occasional male companion, all looking for the latest in fall and winter fashions. The styles were hot, with some new fashion features in the show like Gadsby’s Clothing Co. Inc in Cambridge, Plato’s Closet in Kitchener, and Grace the Boutique from Stratford. While La Crème in St Jacobs always puts together a gorgeous collection, this year I thoroughly enjoyed the styles from fb and me, with their youthful and colourful, yet sophisticated designs. It’s definitely worth a visit (especially now) if you’re looking for some new fall items.

Along with the eye candy on stage, attendees were invited to shop till they dropped at Most Magazine’s Boulevard of Boutiques. With some vendors also being featured in the fashion show, it was a great way to bring a piece or two home with you, after checking them out on stage. There weren’t too many familiar faces this year in the Boulevard, an area which I feel could be improved to better showcase our fabulous fashion community. Style may be the focus of the event, but it also does good, benefiting a local charity with a portion of the raffle proceeds. This year, that partner was Lutherwood, a wonderful organization which provides mental health, employment, housing and family support services to thousands of individuals in our community.

Overall, it was a fantastic night, thoroughly enjoyed by attendees and an excellent start to an eventful Oktoberfest season. If you’re already looking ahead to next year, be sure to mark October 5, 2016 (at least, that’s when I think it is) in your calendar for the next A Blooming Affair Fashion Show. Hope to see you there lovelies.

Meet Robyn. Owner of Le Prix – Waterloo.

Le Prix is a true gem. Operating out of owner Robyn Hobbs personal residence, the store is open by appointment only, offering customers a personalized shopping experience. Unique in its mission, Le Prix looks to help women love their bodies again while dressing in fabulous, affordable, pre-loved and new pieces from around the globe. Not only is this a fantastic place to shop, Robyn offers her services as a stylist, to help customers pair pieces together to create gorgeous looks. With future plans to travel/shop in Morocco, Egypt and India, this is one boutique your inner adventurer will adore.

Meet Robyn

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Bubbly, extroverted, and stylish, Robyn has an eye for great fashion. As a student and entrepreneur, she has learned how to find quality pieces at reasonable prices. With a passion for the environment, Robyn has combined her interest in travel, shopping, and recycling garments into a rewarding business venture.

Read on for the rest of our interview.

Thanks for meeting with me Robyn. Are you from Waterloo Region originally?

Yes, I was born and raised in Cambridge! I came to Waterloo to do my undergrad at Laurier and now I’ve been living here for about 8 years. I love Waterloo. I mean I just bought a house here!

That’s great! I know you’re very busy with Le Prix and other things…can you tell me about your life right now?

Along with owning Le Prix, I’m actually a graduate student completing my Master’s in Environmental Studies. I also work part-time at Laurier’s Graduate Students Association doing communications and graphic design. On the side, I sometimes do graphic work as well. Things are definitely busy, but now is the time to establish what we want in life, and I love what I’m doing!

I totally agree! Can you tell me a bit about Le Prix?

Le Prix is a fashion and lifestyle brand that provides pre-loved and new designer clothing, shoes and accessories from around the globe at affordable prices. I also offer my stylist services to help customer’s look and feel their best.

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How did it get started?

I started Le Prix during my last year of undergrad. I have always loved shopping, and when I became a student, it became important for me to find great pieces at affordable prices. That summer, I didn’t have a job that was working out, so my good friend pushed me to finally start the business. My friends always liked what I was wearing, so I would style them, and when I was out shopping, I would find pieces that wouldn’t fit me, but I knew would look great on someone else. Eventually friends of friends started messaging me and asking if I would pick up items for them, or if I would take them shopping. That’s when I realized I had an idea for a business and decided to start Le Prix.

It seems like it’s really taking off too.

Yes! It’s been organic growth which I am grateful for because I’ve been a student the whole time. I started with just a small clothing rack in my room, but it’s been slowly growing since then. I now have a whole room in my house for it which is great! I also got involved with Laurier Launchpad, which really helped me refine my business. The program offered so many resources. It gave me access to lawyers, accountants, marketing support, etc. Each week I worked on one part of my business plan, and then met with potential clients, changing the plan as I went. It was great! DSC_0244

How did you decide to offer clothes from around the globe at Le Prix?

Well after Laurier Launchpad, I finished my undergrad and went travelling for 3 months. I have always loved travelling, and found people really loved the pieces I picked up abroad, so I thought, why not shop for Le Prix while I’m away. That way the pieces are completely unique. I’ve shopped in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, and this summer, my mom and I went to Paris and Rome.

Wow! So when you’re abroad, where do you shop?

I honestly have incredible luck. I believe most of the time I’m simply in the right place at the right time. I will stumble upon random, one-day markets, or sidewalk sales with fantastic items. Often before I go somewhere, I will look online to see the great shopping areas, or I message bloggers in those cities to see where I should go too.

DSC_0249I bet you find some really great pieces.

Oh yes! Fashion is so cultural and everywhere I travel is completely different for shopping. I get a gut feeling about the pieces I purchase for Le Prix. There are so many different style personalities, so I shop for every one of them. I try each and every piece on myself before buying, even if it’s not my size, just to make sure there isn’t any damage. Sometimes I find that my pieces are actually ahead of the trends here in Canada because I’ve shopped abroad. I Snapchat my shopping adventures to customers, so they can feel like they’re travelling with me!

How did you come up the name Le Prix for your store?

I wanted to invoke a level of luxury with the name, but I also wanted it to represent affordability and fun. The original name I chose was Le Prix D’Amour which means the price of love. I chose this because I really don’t think you should have to pay a lot for clothes you love. The name was just too long though, so over time, I shortened it to Le Prix. I really love the name because Le Prix is a mix of pre-loved and new clothes, but mostly pre-loved. I care about the environment, and think repurposing clothes is key, which makes them more affordable and special then always buying new.

That’s so true. So who do you find are your main customers?

Well with me being a student, many of my original customers were students too. That’s been changing. I would say there are two: young professionals and their moms. These are ladies who no longer have young kids, they are coming back into their own, and want to have fun with their style.

DSC_0253How does the personal styling work for your business?

Currently, I function by appointment only. I have the online store as well that I ship from, but to visit Le Prix, customers call, email or text. I really want the store to feel like customers are shopping in their best friend’s closet. Not only that, then clients get my full attention and they can come alone, or with family or friends, which they love. When customers are shopping, I help them with how to wear each piece, as well as figuring out what other pieces they have in their wardrobes already that could work with the new pieces.

I also get contracted out and go to other stores to shop with clients. I do wardrobe overhauls…I used to love the shows Clean Sweep and What Not to Wear so the styling piece is a combination of those two things, only nicer.

What’s your favourite part about owning Le Prix?

I think women spend too much time hating their bodies, when they really shouldn’t. Everyone is awesome and unique, and I want to help women love how they look. There’s that little mission in there at Le Prix. I love helping clients find their style. Some already know what they like, but aren’t always sure how to pair pieces. I help customers build on what they already know, so that they like what they see in the mirror. My favourite part is helping customer’s feel good, that’s why I do what I do. DSC_0251What’s unique about shopping at Le Prix?

Well I have a 7-day return/exchange policy, which many second-hand stores don’t offer. I also do gift wrapping, and customers’ get high quality pieces at affordable prices. I shop around the world, have a fashion trunk they get to pick a free item out of when they spend $25 and Swiss chocolate as a thank you. I love my job and I love helping customer’s feel better. The one-on-one attention I provide is also unique!

What does style mean to you?

Style is expressing how you feel each day. It’s looking put together, however that means for you. Some people are boho, others’ are preppy. Style is putting yourself in pieces you feel great in. I always tell my customer’s if you don’t feel like a 10 in it, don’t buy it!

DSC_0246I completely agree! Do you have any fashion tips for our readers?

Honestly just wear what you feel good in. I personally don’t like when you can see someone’s’ bra straps in an outfit. It just doesn’t create a cohesive look. A good pair of dark denim, or black skinny pants go with everything and can transition from day to night! A blazer is also a must in a wardrobe. It can be dressed up, or down, with the cuffs rolled up. Since we live in Canada, you also need to think about what your coat is saying about you because it’s one of the first things people see. If you don’t want to wear a fancy coat, try a nice scarf and cute mittens.

Thanks so much for sharing Le Prix with us Robyn! It truly is such a fabulous shopping spot. Just to finish off, when you’re not here and at school, where do you like to go in our community?

I love the St. Jacob’s Market, especially the Mennonite cinnamon buns The Fritter Co. apple fritters. I also love the Seven Shores Cafe, Huether Hotel, Starlight Lounge and Masala Bay.

DSC_0254Are you looking for a new look? Need some help with your style? Want to shop fabulous pieces from around the globe? If yes, then a visit to Le Prix may be just what you’re after. Using her expert eye, Robyn will help you find pieces that truly reflect your personality, at budget prices. Yahoo! Be sure to follow along with Robyn’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@RobynLePrix).

The Best of Fall Trends 2015

Are you ready for fall? My column in this month’s Community Cord talks about trends for the upcoming season.

Read below.

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It may come as no surprise that fall fashion makes my heart skip a beat. With the return of layering, rich textures, and classic styling, there is no season more enjoyable to dress for. If you’re back to school, or simply coveting a fresh look, this year’s trends do not disappoint. Remember, style is much more important than fashion. Use trends as inspiration, and before you incorporate any into your wardrobe, consider the following: Do I like it? Does it suit me? Does it express my personality? While I may buy a new coat, bag or blouse, the essence of my style this season will remain the same.

What can you expect to see in our local boutiques? Here’s a look at fall trends.

Return of the 70’s: This decade returns year after year, in a slightly different way. Full flare hems, colourful suede, and crafty details like patch-work jackets are driving the looks for fall. If 70’s styling is your thing, pick up some genuine articles locally at vintage boutiques like Auburn Vintage.

Eclectic looks: Mix floral prints with edgier pieces, for a high-class meets bad girl look. This trend is all about making you stand out in crowd.

Suede and Fringe: Tweed is out and suede is in. These pieces take on every form from fitted equestrian-style pants to classic blazers. Adding fringe to a look will take it to the next level.

Romanticism: Embroidery, high collars, velvet and lace took the runways by storm. Dark, haunting romantic pieces, with gorgeous detailing are right on trend.

As is typical for fall footwear, it’s all about boots. This year’s crop consists of mid-calf, Sorel-style boots, snake-patterned knee-highs, and leather or suede over the knees. A structured tote bag is the most stylish accessory this season as well.

For colours, we’re seeing grey (pearl, charcoal, and dove shades), pink in all its forms, purple (iris, and amethyst), and pops of yellow taking centre stage. For a limited budget, but large style boost Fashionista.com suggests adding these 5 pieces to your wardrobe in a trendy form: wrap dress, turtleneck, pleated skirt, high-waisted pant, and midi dress.

Fashion is fun, but above all else, clothes should be used to enhance your personal style. When I look at trends, I view them as a source of ideas rather than a strict set of rules to follow. Not all trends work for every body type, which is perfectly okay. There is no benefit in wearing something trendy, if it makes you uncomfortable in your own skin. Highlighting your best assets is the goal of proper dressing.

You can be fashion-forward, and only incorporate an element of a trend into your wardrobe. For example, if you love florals, but don’t want to wear them head-to-toe as suggested, buy a bag, shoe, or blazer. Style is about knowing who you are first, and then dressing accordingly. For more details on fall trends, bookmark www.style.com, a fantastic source for the latest runway looks, fashion stories, and street style photos.

Photo via Stylecaster.com

Trip in Reflection – The City that Stole my Heart.

Bonjourno readers, I hope you’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks. While fashion may be my passion, I also love to travel and am excited to share a few photos from my recent vacation with you. My mother and I went on a 7-day Greek Island and Turkey cruise, followed by a stay in Rome – the city that stole my heart.

Check these out!

Island of Santorini – Oia, Greece.

The island of Santorini is completely picturesque. White-washed buildings with blue roofs dominant the landscape in Oia, a place you must add to your bucket list.

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Kusadasi, Turkey.

Ruins upon ruins awaited us in Kusadasi. In the morning, we visited the house of the Virgin Mary and collected holy water. In the afternoon we took in the sights at Ephesus, an ancient city built in the 10th century BC and visited the Basilica of St. John. We had the opportunity to watch a Turkish carpet-making demonstration, while sipping delicious apple tea. Each region in Turkey has its own style of carpets, which are absolutely stunning, although out of our price range.

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Bodrum, Turkey.

This gorgeous coastal town is much more laid back than Kusadasi. A visit to Bodrum Castle and a little shopping in the market is how we spent our day.

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Island of Crete – Chania and Georgioupolis, Greece.

Our tour took us to the ancient ruins of Aptera, a significant place in Greek mythology, before travelling through quaint, and charming towns to Chania. The pictures do not do this place justice, Chania was once known as the Venice of the east.

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Rome

What more can I say, I love Rome. The food is amazing, the sights impressive, and the shopping wonderful. The city comes alive in the evening, with floodlit lamps lighting up darkened alleys leading to bustling piazzas. We walked and explored, and drank wine and ate. We visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museums and Ostia Antica (Rome’s ancient port). While Florence may be the heart of Italy’s leather production, you can find gorgeous pieces in Rome as well at reasonable prices.

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There is something truly magical about this city. It is romantic, lively, bustling, and peaceful all at the same time. It’s a place where you can feel completely alone, only to stumble into a piazza full of life. If you get the chance to travel to Rome, take it. You definitely will not be disappointed.

Do you have a favourite city? What are your favourite travel destinations readers?

Adventure is out there.