Nokomis, We’ll Miss You

When I heard the news that Edmonton’s Nokomis Clothing would be closing at the end of January, I was more than a little sad. The store has long been one of my favourite places in the city to find both clothing and inspiration. Owner Jessica Kennedy states that economics are the reason for Nokomis’ closure, the recession making it no longer feasible to keep the store open and running. Nokomis is known for stocking exclusively Canadian made and designed clothing — including its own house line up until Fall 2009 — and in its eight years of existence, it has become a fixture in the Canadian independent fashion scene. The store has provided an artistic, friendly place for independent Canadian designers (and publications like WORN) to reach the Edmonton market.

Nokomis, you will be missed. Thank you for being so great at doing what you did.

- Hailey Siracky

Nokomis: A Dreamy Little Corner of Edmonton

Walking into Nokomis is always a bit like stepping into a storybook for grown-ups – if you’re the kind of grown-up who lives for tea parties, fairy tales, quiet corners, and playing dress-up.

Tucked into the century-old Griffith Block in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona, the store is full of artfully arranged rows and stacks of dresses, skirts, blouses, pants, shoes, jewelry, scarves, belts, bags and oh so many things in between. (Nokomis carries WORN, too!)

The last time I visited, on a windy weekday afternoon, co-owner Jessica Kennedy greeted me warmly and encouraged me to roam around and take pictures. The soundtrack to the movie Amélie was playing on the stereo, and with a creaky wood floor underfoot and surrounded by well-crafted, Canadian-made clothing, I was convinced I had entered my own personal, dress-filled dream world. I wondered what they would say if I decided just to never, ever leave.

When I go to Nokomis, it is always with a mission. Its seductive powers are such that, without a definite goal in mind, I am at risk of leaving having purchased the whole entire store – which would be happy for my closet but sad for my wallet. The deal I have worked out with myself is this: If I need something especially wonderful – to wear to a wedding, a party, a fancy dinner – Nokomis will be one of my first stops.

Of course, sometimes I break my own rules. (Often enough that, really, they’re not actually rules so much as nice ideas.) But every decision that ends in me carrying out one of their hand-sewn, raven-printed bags is never a decision I regret.

Nokomis is the Ojibwa word for grandmother – and as a tribute to its name, the west wall of the store is covered in photos of customers’ grandmothers, each in a simple wooden frame. If you come bring in a picture of your grandmother for the wall, you get ten percent off your purchase – and if you bring in pictures of both of your grandmothers, you get twenty.

Not only is Nokomis the name of the store itself, but it is also the name of the clothing line designed by Elizabeth Hudson (who runs the studio while Jessica runs the store). Their website defines the Nokomis line as, “pretty frocks for girls who read books.” Some of my favourite dresses have been from here – when I wear them, I always feel elegant, feminine and ready for a tea party.

Recently, on the Nokomis blog, Jessica and Elizabeth have announced that they are closing production on the house line, and that Fall 2009 will be its final season. The store will remain open, and will still carry all of its other usual, independent Canadian clothing lines – readers of the WORN blog might recognize complexgeometries, Supayana, and Norwegian Wood, among others – but after this fall, their house line will cease to be. The announcement saddened me, because I’ve become a big fan of the Nokomis label and all its lovely dresses. But, then, this is definitely an occasion special enough to warrant another mission of the seek-and-dress-up variety.

- Hailey Siracky