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

The Cutting Edge

A few weeks ago I decided (after many weeks of internal debate) to cut my ratty, peroxide-damaged hair short. Like really short.

Here’s what it looked like to begin with.

I already look like a little kid and I enjoy dressing like one, so having long uncombed hair with crooked bangs wasn’t really helping me project the maturity or togetherness that I occasionally require for things like job interviews and buying wine without getting carded (every time!). Standing around one day at work, I thought back to all the summers I had spent with thick wavy locks gathering sweat on the back of my shoulders and finally turned to my friend Tiffany who was rearranging the hangers on a rack of dresses and said, “Hey! Do you wanna cut all my hair off?”

Tiffany usually cuts my hair at her Montreal apartment. She’s a professionally trained hairstylist but became disenchanted with the salon world and went independent a few years back. “Sure! I could use some more photos for my portfolio. What do you say to doing a few different cuts along the way if I do it for free?”

Woah. Getting to try out a bunch of different hairstyles with no commitment and the whole thing would be free of charge

“My friend Liz does makeup for movies, and I’m sure she’d want some new portfolio pictures too. We could get Marilis to take the photos!” Tiffany continued. I dove straight into the bottomless sea of google image search to hunt for short haircuts and style inspirations. A week later we were sitting in Tiffany’s living room surrounded by garbage bags of clothes, chugging coffees to shake off all of our hangovers. I set up my laptop in the corner and broadcasted Day One of the Haircut/Makeover Photoshoot.

It took us five hours to cut, do makeup, style, and photograph three different outfits. We collaborated on all the looks, drawing on our professional experience and then stuff like America’s Next Top Model and icons like Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, Agyness Deyn, and even Lady Gaga. By Day Two, we were in the swing of things and did seven different looks in about four hours. Both days felt way more like play than any kind of work and the only money exchanged was when we paid the delivery guy for Chinese food. My favourite photos are from the later looks, after I warmed up to taking photos.

I’d love to do it all again knowing what I know now and working with this awesome team, but I’ll have to wait a few years until my hair grows out again… Let us know what you think!

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Crushing on Yana Gorbulsky

Montreal designer Yana is probably going to end up single-handedly saving the world from an environmental crisis. One visit to her Etsy store, Supayana, shows not only the adorable shirts and dresses she makes from vintage clothes and fabrics, but that she tries to remain environmentally conscious in all aspects of her life, like recycling whenever possible and biking to the post office, ensuring that those who buy from her store are supporting an earth-friendly way of life.

How did you first get started with making and selling clothes?
I started making clothing the same way as lots of people. Starting with doll clothes, and then experimenting with real people clothes; I wanted something really unique and fun. As a high school student I couldn’t afford designer clothes, so I just learned how to make my own. The clothes I made in high school were pretty hilarious and terrible… but I got better with practice. When I was in university I started selling my handmade clothing on eBay. At the time it was a way of paying for my textbooks and having extra spending money. I was studying speech pathology, not fashion, but I knew deep down inside that I wanted to design clothing for a living. A few years later, it became a self-sustaining business, so after I graduated, I decided to do fashion full-time. It’s been amazing ever since, and I am so lucky to make a living doing what I love.

Do you prefer designing in Montreal or New York? What are the differences?
Selling online allows me to live and work anywhere, providing there’s an internet connection and a post office! I moved to Montreal two years ago from Brooklyn, NY, and I love it here. I do miss NY from time to time, but my life here feels so luxurious in comparison! Now that I’ve had a little taste, it’s pretty hard to go back. I’m also much more relaxed since I’ve moved to Montreal. Maybe a little too relaxed! I find myself smiling at strangers in the subway when I go back to NY, and I think it freaks them out.

Fashion-wise, I think Montrealers have more interesting vintage/second-hand style, and New Yorkers tend to dress in trendier designer clothing. Probably because Montrealers have access to amazing vintage and second-hand clothing, and New Yorkers have more independent boutiques to choose from.

How do you feel about the “going green” trend that so many fashion magazines have been going on about lately?
I welcome this trend with open arms! It’s about time this idea has spread into the mass media. There is, however, the problem of “greenwashing” (making a product seem eco-friendly when it actually isn’t). For example, I saw these “eco-friendly” sweaters at a popular department store in Montreal, and then when I checked the fiber content, it was like 90% acrylic and 10% bamboo. Ten percent? Woop-di-doo! Or how certain products claim to be “eco” and they’re packaged in two layers of plastic and a glossy coated cardboard box. Read the fine print and find out if whatever you are purchasing is as “green” as it claims. It’s not fair for companies to do this, especially when people are trying to make the right choice.

Do you feel that there is a tight-knit community of sellers on Etsy? How do you find it useful to your business?
Yes, definitely! Well, it just so happens that most of my real-life friends sell on Etsy as well. It’s useful to be friends with other sellers because you can help each other out with finding new retail locations, getting advice about your shop, just getting good business advice in general.

Yana’s Top Ten Etsy Sellers (in no particular order)

I’m Your Present
I Heart Norwegian Wood
Ruffeo Hearts lil Snotty
Desira Pesta
Dear Birthday
Armour Sans Anguish

- interview by Anna Fitz