Interview: Janice Liu from Shoppalu

Shoppalu is heaven for the vintage clothing lovers out there, especially for those who aren’t too keen on rummaging through trunks at flea markets or thrift stores. The online vintage store www.shoppalu.com was launch during 2011 and allows customers to shop from hand-picked vintage pieces from the comfort of home.  The site features an array of unique, stylish and covetable vintage clothes and accessories.

Shoppalu also offered new goods from brands including Stylestalker, Lustre, Ovate, Avani Designs, Gwendelicious Jewelry, Moon Raven Designs, Kavella, Matiko, Lucca Couture, Kersh, Jack, Press and more.

We wanted to find out more on the women behind the scenes of Shoppalu, the founder of it all, Janice Liu. With Janice now residing in Toronto we were able to get in touch over email to ask a few questions about her background and the start of Shoppalu.

Q&Q with Janice:

What propelled you to launch Shoppalu?

The idea came to me when I tried to order jeans on sale on shopbop and realized I had to pay duties.  I thought about how frustrated other girls, along with myself, feel when we really want a specific article of clothing, but find that the shipping and import fees are outrageous.

Where did you come up with the name Shoppalu?

My good friend, Palu, is a designer and when I first met her, her name really stuck with me.  She’s an awesome person and, when we were playing around with names one day, hers just stuck.

How did you get to where you are now?

A lot of hard work and supportive friends and family.

Have you always been involved in fashion?

No, not at all! I loved fashion and magazines when I was a little girl, but I went to McGill, so academia came first.  After university, I realized the path I was meant to follow just wasn’t for me. I tried every route possible to get into this mysterious industry.  I went from retail (like everyone), to wholesale, to PR etc. Finally, I realized how much I wanted to do my own thing.

Where do you find the items on the website?

I go picking.  I find vintage pieces at flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores etc.  The new goods are specifically ordered and picked from well-designed and great quality brands.

Do you personally handpick each item on the site?

Yes! Definitely. Then the picked pieces are cleaned and restored to as to as close to its original condition as possible.

What is your favourite piece currently on the site?

This amazing burnt orange Nubuck winter shearling coat: http://shoppalu.com/products/jackets/burnt-orange-nubuck-coat/  I picked it out with the intention of keeping it, especially since I live in Toronto now, but it was too heavy to move with me.

What is your favourite vintage piece in your own closet?

I love my Miu Miu and Oscar de la Renta.  My all-time favourite vintage piece is my 1920s vintage mink coat.

What advice can you give to other female entrepreneurs?

It’s all about endurance and having a goal.  It’s really easy to falter and doubt yourself, but just know that you don’t need to be the best, just enough to be able to endure and be happy.

Shoppalu has locations in both Vancouver and Toronto. Head over to their website to check it out for yourself.

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Wardell Agencies: Interview with Rachel Wardell

Last week, DITC headed out to the FX building to get an inside perspective on Wardell Agencies, an established and well-respected wholesale clothing agency that has been in business for over 40 years. For the scoop on this successful agency we booked an interview with the gorgeous Rachel Wardell.

We arrive at the agency and Rachel is busy at work answering the phone as it rings off the hook. As she’s swamped with calls, the DITC team takes the time to eye each clothing rack and take mental notes of what we want to buy, needless to say our mental notepads were filled within seconds.

We were lucky to steal some time out of Rachel’s busy day to sit down and find out more about her and her family’s agency.

Q & A with Rachel:

In one sentence, what is Wardell Agencies?

“Wardell Agencies is a western Canadian fashion agency and we sell to retail stores from Thunder Bay all the way out west.”

What brands do you carry?

“We represent a lot of different brands. French Connection UK is a big one. We also carry Dish, Kersh and its older sister line, Press, and Knitted Dove, which is created by a former designer for Anthropolgie. We have so many, those are just a few.”

What was it like growing up with a family in the fashion industry?

“Fashion has always been in my life. It’s what I knew and I always loved to dress up. I would always wear the fanciest party dresses out. I remember being young and always bringing everyone samples. I was known for it. People wanted me in their class because they knew they knew I was the source for great clothes.”

What do your days at the showroom typically involve?

“The days are always different but always crazy. So for today we started with scheduling meetings and then had an appointment with a client where we showed her some of the new collections for summer 2012. Then I’m usually on the phone or replying to the millions of emails and sometimes more appointments in the afternoon.”

What part of your job do you look forward to the most each day?

“I love our clients. I love going away to visit clients and interacting with them in their own environment. The buying shows are great and always full of opportunities. I like to check out a lot of the smaller retailers and when I find one that will fit well with our company I talk to whoever’s in charge and negotiate with them. I enjoy that and it’s great because that company is really thankful that we’ve decided to buy from them. It’s a win-win.”

What advice can you give to females wanting to get in to the fashion industry?

“Just get out there, don’t be nervous or shy. It’s a tough industry so you have to be persistent and aggressive otherwise someone else will take your spot. Jump in with two feet and, once you’re in, you have to be ready to work your a** off. The fashion industry is a lot less glamorous than it’s made out to be.”

Written by: Melissa Lawson

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Interview with Miriam Alden from Brunette Showroom

Last week DITC had the pleasure of sitting down with Miriam Alden, owner of Brunette Showroom, to find out more about her company, how she got her start and what it takes to make it in the industry.

With Brunette Showroom’s second anniversary coming up next month, Miriam has spent the last two years successfully establishing herself as the Western Canadian sales rep for many popular apparel and accessories lines. Included in these lines are Desigual, BB Dakota, QSW, Seychelles, C-Pack Jewelry, Sienna Ray Handbags and her sister’s stunning jewelry line Lisbeth Jewelry. The lines are beautiful and I had to muster the strength to stop myself from getting out of my seat during the interview to shop around.

Q & A with Miriam:

What prompted you to start Brunette Showroom?

After show jumping, I took the Sales and Marketing Program at BCIT. After graduating I was hired by the showroom for Kersh, which is a Canadian knit wear line. I got to represent the amazing brand and I built a lot of relationships in that time. I was with them for about five years. At the end of those five years I knew I needed to grow and become my own boss. I wanted to continue moving forward and starting my own business made sense.

What part of your job do you look forward to the most each day?

Definitely the people. We get to work with people we like no matter where we go. I have close relationships and friendships with the people I work with so I get to travel with good company.

Being an equestrian show jumper at a young age, what skills did you bring from that to your work now?

I was show jumping at Thunderbird in Langley. I started at the age of nine, cleaning out the barns. I treated it as a job, staying home to be with my horse, Annie, while my family would go on vacation. It taught me discipline. I had to be there every single day. I loved it though, I wanted to be there and I wanted to do it. I have a competitive nature, I compete against myself and that’s why I always need to grow. We also had to go to a lot of out of town horse shows so I had to be in different environments. I learnt to adapt.

What do you feel are the most important values to have in the business you’re in?

Treating people how you expect to be treated is really important. I think you get what you give. It’s important not to sell only to sell, you want to take interest in your clients and form relationships with them. Listen to what your clients want. You might not sell something because it’s not right for your client but instead you grow together over time. Relationships are so important in business. Also, helping other people in business and in your industry is important without expecting anything back.

What advice can you give to female entrepreneurs?

Just do it! The difference between not doing it and doing it, is doing it. Continue moving forward and believe in yourself. If you want to do something, you can. Several snorts of agreement were also given here by Miriam’s adorable pub, Gracie Jane (featured on the right).

xo La Femme

Written by: Melissa Lawson

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Designer Behind the Dress

Even those that didn’t bound out of bed at 4 in the morning to wait with bated breath for a glimpse of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, know of Sarah Burton by now. She has become a household name after being chosen to design the famous wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton during her marriage to Prince William.

Sarah Burton is the creative director of the legendary Alexander McQueen fashion brand. Born in Cheshire, she studied Print Fashion at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. Burton’s talent was obvious from the start. Her tutor, and friend of McQueen’s, approached her with an internship opportunity during her third year of studies. She soon became an intern at McQueen’s studio.

After graduation from St. Martins she became Alexander McQueens personal assistant. From there she moved on to become Head of Woman’s Wear in 2000 and McQueen’s right hand woman. After his death in February of 2010, Sarah Burton was named the brand’s new creative director last May.

Upon acceptance of the creative director position, she said:

The creation of modern, beautifully-crafted clothes was at the heart of Lee’s (Alexander McQueen) vision. I intend to stay true to his legacy“.

Sarah Burton travelled to Paris to work on the Women’s Wear collection for Spring/Summer 2011. In September of 2010 she presented the first collection since the death of McQueen.

There was much speculation as to whether the designer could pull it off. An immense amount of pressure was put on Burton, but she pulled it off with elegance. Her first collection as creative director was a success and she received a lot of praise from the press.

— Dress designed by Sarah Burton for the Spring/Summer 2011 Alexander McQueen fashion show.

Sarah Burton took on a challenging role with confidence. She had admitted to Vogue that she was intimidated about the role but she barely showed it. Burton rose to the challenge, managing to keep the McQueen elements in the collections but also staying true to herself.

That’s what Lee drummed in to me: you have to be able to stand behind your work.” – Sarah Burton

xo La Femme

Written by: Melissa Lawson

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The Lady Behind Jacqueline Conoir

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We were blessed to have spent the day with the renowned RozeMarie Cuevas, owner and designer of Vancouver’s very own Jacqueline Connoir. RozeMarie grew up in both Vancouver and Paris, where she attended school at  ESMOD. With her natural sewing ability and knowledge she was able to finish a three year program in two. Her career started with no formal training, when she showcased some of her pieces at a fashion show at Richards on Richards at age 18, leaving an outstanding impression on the crowd. That was the beginning of Jacqueline Connoir. Watch our Vlog to see an exclusive interview with RozeMarie herself in the JC studio.

x La Femme

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Je t’aime Coco!

One of the first women to revolutionize the way women wear clothes was French-born Coco Chanel. Her house of Chanel, still around today, began humbly in 1910 as a modiste specializing in millinery. Assuming we all know the gist of the impact and revolutionary nature of Ms. Coco, we would just like to take the opportunity to highlight some our favourite tidbits about one of our favourite women of the 20th Century.

In the era of dresses, skirts, petticoats and all other ladylike attire, Coco Chanel rocked the fashion world with cigarette pants, jersey fabric, “luxe sportswear” the creation of an en vogue way for women to smoke cigarettes and have affairs.

Peter pan collars, pearls, the LBD, and Chanel No. 5 aside, we love Coco for her ability to push the boundaries in what women can achieve and who and what the fairer sex can accomplish in both our personal and societal lives.

Cheers, and remember ladies…

“Gentleness doesn’t get work done unless you happen to be a hen laying eggs.” – Coco Chanel

Stay classy and fabulous,

xoxo LaFemme

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“Changing the world, one life-makeover at a time.”


At LaFemme, we love female entrepreneurs. We especially love when those female entrepreneurs create charitable foundations dedicated to women’s communal self-esteem. When we heard about Caroline MacGillivray’s Beauty Night benefit and associated non-profit, we knew we were about to meet a potential idol.

This past December we celebrated an evening of women empowerment as hosted by Caroline and a few of her over 400 volunteers. These women reach out to the disadvantaged around East Hastings and instill a sense of self worth where there may otherwise not be any by offering free makeovers. Homeless, needy, and underprivileged are all princesses for a while as volunteers in the industry give them hair, makeup and wardrobe makeovers. The results have been amazing thus far, and during its 10-year run, Caroline has helped thousands of Downtown Eastside women and youth in assisting with health and wellness services.

We fully support Caroline’s efforts, applaud her success, and look forward to 10 more years of community rebuilding through trust and self-esteem.

Visit her website at http://www.beautynight.org and join us in this very special cause.

Be well Ladies.. until next time,

xoxox

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