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.

Meet Carmen. Designer behind Alfaro Clubiné – Waterloo and Paraguay

In a world of seemingly similar jewelry styles, it’s difficult to find a piece that wows and expresses one’s personality. With subtle sophistication and a truly good story, Alfaro Clubiné designs stand out in a crowded marketplace.  Each piece is handmade and guaranteed to get you noticed. Inspired by Canada’s natural beauty, Carmen Clubiné designs pieces that celebrate what we often miss.

Meet Carmen.

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Style maven, designer, and creative thinker, Carmen has a passion for helping others. Growing up in El Salvador, she has seen poverty, and is committed to making the world a better place. In partnership with Joel, a 23-year old deaf man living in Paraguay, the pair are creating quality jewels for fashion-forward individuals. With few options for employment in Paraguay, particularly for the hearing impaired, this social enterprise is directly supporting Joel and contributing to his community. Our purchases can make a difference, and one from Alfaro Clubiné goes a long way.

Read on for the rest of our interview.

Thanks so much for meeting with me Carmen. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?

I was born and raised in El Salvador, which is a tiny country in Central America. It’s absolutely gorgeous there. It’s tropical, and volcanic, but it’s a country with a very sad history. There’s always been wars and earthquakes. I lived through the 12 year war when I was a teenager which was difficult.

Growing up, I was very close to my father. He was a man ahead of his time, an architect with a social mission. There was so much poverty in El Salvador and he wanted to change this by improving housing. He became the architect for the poor. I was fortunate enough to get an education when I was young. I attended a British School, but I always saw these two worlds. I didn’t realize how much those experiences shaped who I was until I started Alfaro Clubiné. Helping others has always been in me and important to me.
summer deeper - SOLIt’s funny how life seems to only make sense in retrospect. You look back and you see how all your experiences have brought you to where you are today.

Exactly. Like my father, I’ve always been interested in design. But I had to think why don’t I want to just become a designer, why is that not enough? For me, there had to be more.

So what happened next? How did you end up settling in Waterloo?

I came to Canada to study industrial design and I met my husband Paul during this time. After university, we moved back to El Salvador and started our own business. It was a gift store more than anything, but I also designed baby rooms. This was a dream job! The business was thriving after the war, it was a peaceful time. I had 2 of my 3 children there. After 7 years though, my husband said we had to leave. I didn’t want to come back to Canada, but things were starting to change in El Salvador. The crime rate was rising, and it wasn’t as safe anymore. So we left, and came to Waterloo. The country we returned to though wasn’t the same. There were no jobs. My husband worked with furniture, and now all the furniture was made in China. It was a challenge to adjust, but we love Canada, and Waterloo especially, so we’re happy to be here.

Wow! What a story! How did you get started in jewelry then?  

When we came back, I decided I was going to stay home and raise our children. When our youngest was just a baby, I dabbled a bit in jewelry design, more as a way to get out of the house. I took lessons and just loved it! It was something beautiful that I did. It was only a 6 month thing though. I did a lot of freelance graphic design while the kids were in school, and when they were old enough, I took a job in London as a designer. This was about 2.5 years ago now, but the job only lasted a year.

Then I didn’t know what to do, so I went to The Working Centre which connected me with the Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program. Unfortunately they are ending the program this year, but it helps entrepreneurs start their own business. My original idea was to create a design-thinking, design-experience company, but that all changed when a good friend of ours came to visit. He lives in Paraguay and works for a non-governmental organization there.

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Around the time I was to submit my business plan, he visits and brings a pile of jewelry telling me I have to help me sell the pieces. I didn’t like the jewelry designs, they were beautifully made, but very generic. Our friend said he had met this young guy, who was deaf and didn’t have any opportunities. His own community didn’t even want him around. It was very sad. I tossed the idea around, trying to see if there was a way I could help. I really felt for this boy Joel. He lived in a small, poor town, and I knew this life myself. I had seen it growing up. I decided to change my idea. I just felt that this was what I needed to do.

What is life like for Joel?

Joel is a wonderful young man, but life is certainly a challenge for him. He doesn’t hear and he doesn’t speak. He signs a little bit in his native tongue, and he lip-reads. When our friend met him, he had a temper because he really couldn’t communicate, he was frustrated. It got to the point where everyone in their community was saying we don’t want him here, he’s crazy, please lock him up.

Was Joel trained in jewelry making?

He is actually from a family of jewelry makers. He has 12 brothers, who all make jewelry. In Paraguay, this is work done by men. When Joel was young, he really didn’t have anything to do. He did go to school for a short-time, but there was no structure in place to support his needs. Basically, they tried to teach him to sign, and when it didn’t work, that was the end of school. To keep him busy, his brothers taught him to make jewelry and work with filigree silver. He’s very skilled. Once the brothers grew up, they moved to Argentina to make a living. There are very few jobs in Paraguay. That’s when things really changed for Joel and his family. Joel, again, had nothing to do, and no one would hire him because he was deaf. He wasn’t in a good place when our friend met him. When we would skype initially, he would just look at the screen and then look down.

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What was it like when your started the partnership?

Communicating was definitely a challenge. There were problems in the beginning where I didn’t get him and he didn’t get me. I loved the work that Joel did, but I didn’t like the designs. They were the same as everyone else’s. I wanted him to make my designs.  I drew up some prototypes, and sent the drawings by e-mail. When the actual pieces were sent back to me, they were exactly how I wanted them. I wasn’t even in the same country as him, and he brought my vision to life. Apparently when Joel started working, he became a different person. He no longer had a temper, it was really amazing! That to me was a wow moment. That’s when I realized this was what I needed to do.

That’s amazing!

I know. By working together, we can make the world a better place. Now when we skype, he is all smiles and waving. His parents are so grateful as well. When our friend gave him cash for the pieces he made, he told his interpreter that he was going to buy running shoes. He had never owned running shoes before, so this was a huge thing. He always wore flip-flops and got hand-me-downs from this brothers. A few months ago when we were skyping I said you need to show me those running shoes, so he bends down and sticks his feet in the air so excited haha! It was so cute. Coming from Latin America myself, I have seen poverty. It’s hard to help everyone you see, but this is making a big difference in the life of a man, his family, and his community.

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Oh my goodness, what a story! He does do beautiful work. Where do you get your inspiration for the designs?

My first collection was inspired by the seasons in Canada. I just love Canada and think it’s such a magical place. Coming from El Salvador, sometimes I step back and I just can’t believe I’m in a country like this. When I designed the collection, I was looking at it through these eyes. My second collection was inspired by Mennonite gardens, and country flowers. Natural elements are what inspire me, especially around Waterloo Region. I just doodle ideas, and Joel makes them come to life. When we started though, it took me a few months to realize that some of the pieces I designed wouldn’t work. There’s definitely been a learning curve for both Joel and I, but it’s been a wonderful journey.

Do you have plans for another collection?

I do. Right now, I’m actually focusing more on creating mini designs. I have larger pieces which are just gorgeous, but I find our customers are really drawn to the smaller designs for everyday wear. Joel absolutely loves to make these as well. The experience has just been so great that it’s now my dream to work with another artist in a different country and medium. I want to help people and use design as a means to help people. Together, we can create something really beautiful.

What are people supporting by buying Alfaro Clubiné pieces?

They are providing a job to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have a job. No one will give Joel an opportunity just because he is deaf. That’s Latin America. There’s no forgiveness when it comes to that.

Thanks so much Carmen!

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Stunning, unique and handcrafted jewelry that does good can be purchased online, at the Cobblestone Gallery in Waterloo, or the Distillery District in Toronto. To stay up to date with Carmen and Joel, be sure to like Alfaro Clubiné on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

To learn more about what you will be supporting, watch this video.

To see a video on how Joel makes each piece, visit the website.

Style Lessons from Italians

Summer moments are short and fleeting. I hope you’re enjoying your time readers and are taking a vacation or two! I haven’t traveled yet, but am patiently waiting for my upcoming Turkey/Greece cruise and Roman holiday. I can hardly wait to get my hands on some new leather boots!

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I truly believe we learn a lot about ourselves through travel. It is only by trying new things, viewing the world from other perspectives, and experiencing diverse cultures, that we gain a true understanding of who we are and who we want to be. Travelling can also shape our personal style, as we are influenced by the places we visit. Just like Canadian styling differs from French dressing (for example), there are many fashion lessons we can glean from the Italians.

First, take some risks with your dressing ladies. We sometimes forget that fashion should be fun. In general, our Canadian style is much more conservative than that of the “bellas” in Rome, Florence, and Milan. A look at Street Style photographer Scott Schurman’s site “The Sartorialist” shows the classy and eccentric styles of Italian tastemakers. Be open to colour. Be open to pattern and wear what truly speaks to you.

Second, support Canadian designers. Italians are much more likely to invest in high-quality garments than we are. While their homegrown talent has already taken centre-stage, namely Prada, Versace, Armani, Missoni, Valentino, and Dolce and Gabbana, we need to encourage our fashion folks to keep on designing.

Third, be confident in what you wear. To pull off an outgoing style like the Italians do, you have to be confident! A happy, healthy, and confident you, wearing clothes you love, could make everyday a little more sparkly. Tell yourself you’re beautiful and mean it, because you are!

Backpacking Europe in 2012. Not too concerned with style. :)
                                Backpacking Europe in 2012. Not too concerned with style. 🙂

Want to incorporate the “dolce vita” into your own life? Here’s a fabulous post called 50+ lessons on how to dress like an Italian girl! I’m in love.

xx