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

Crushing on Régine and Katie

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interview and photography by Tracie LeBlanc
Katie and Regine are co-owners of Victoire, a sweet shop on Ottawa’s independently fashionable street, Dalhousie.

Why did you decide to open up a boutique in Ottawa?
It’s a city that has the best of both worlds – a big city, but with small town charms. It’s got the large population and tourist industry of a big city, but it’s also small enough that it’s easy to build a community around any project/business/idea you have. Everyone in Ottawa is connected somehow…so it means it’s really only a matter of time before you’re friends…which often leads to partnerships. This is how we love to do business, with friends!

What are your plans for the future?
Our new, bigger space allows us to expand into areas we’ve wanted to for a while, but just didn’t have the space for. We’re excited to be doing men’s wear, and doing more accessories for women, including shoes. We’re also dabbling in a house line, Steel Magnolias, which is primarily jewelry for now – but who knows where that could lead. And we’re also doing more art shows, and are thinking about hosting other types of events (bands, dance parties, etc.)

What do you think about Ottawa’s fashion scene?
A lot of people in Ottawa have full days, and they need outfits that can take them from the desk job, to “5 � 7″ drinks, to a dance party in a stinky basement. That makes for some very innovative (and resourceful!) dressing. Fashion scenes in other cities are more tied to their city’s fashion industry, but since Ottawa has a very small fashion industry, our “fashion scene” interlaps more with the music scene, the art scene, the club scene, the queer scene, etc. This makes things quite eclectic and harder to pin down.

Régine and Katie’s top 10 favourite Canadian designers…
1 – Clayton Evans for complexgeometries

2 – Dace Moore for Dace

3 – Valerie Dumaine
4 – Nokomis

5 – Maryanne Mathias for Hastings & Main
6 – Melissa Matos & Lenny Pier-Ramos for Powerhaus
7 – Arielle de Pinto
8 – Renata Morales
9 – Denis Gagnon
10-Common Cloth