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Style SEEN: Nicole Bridger’s Love Local Launch

Nicole Bridger Love Local

Last week we had the chance to check out Nicole Bridger‘s Love Local launch event. The idea behind Love Local was to invite in a variety of local designers who share Nicole’s philosophy to also share her retail space to promote for Valentine’s Day.

Jessica Walker, Wholesale Manager of Redfish kids, holding up the double sided bubble dress

Jessica Walker, Wholesale Manager of Redfish kids, holding up the double sided bubble dress

One of the first designers that caught my eye was, interestingly, a children’s wear line called Red Fish Kids. The brand has been around for 8 years and although I have heard of it before, I have never interacted with the product. And it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the line.  Designer Lorraine Kitsos was inspired by an Asian aesthetic, as she had lived in Hong Kong for 3 years. You can see it in her kimono style dresses, mini swing Qi Paos, and use of Chinese button knot closures. We love the Flor de la Vida bubble dress that can pretty much be worn inside out!

Hiroko Kobayashi and Neil Prakash of hk + np studio with Nicole Bridger

Hiroko Kobayashi and Neil Prakash of hk + np studio with Nicole Bridger

We met Hiroko Kobayashi and Neil Prakash, a pair of architects with a knack for their designs to manifest much sooner than the construction of a building, they turned to jewelry design. Hiroko and Neil design the jewelry while a silversmith in Japan creates the final works of art. What I love about hk + np studio is that even without knowing what their background is, you can appreciate the architecture in their designs. I quite enjoy their Twist series, inspired by the ripple effect. What I see is that the meaning of a ring is given much more depth. Traditionally, a ring symbolizes eternity, as there is no defined beginning or end. But the Twist series ring shows an ‘eternal’ fluctuating curvature, which to me signifies ups and downs in a relationship, which is totally natural and should be expected rather than a linear ‘happy ever after.’

Mary Cardi buttoned up twice

Mary Cardi buttoned up twice

Having been a big supporter of Nicole Bridger for the longest time, I finally now own a piece. I went for the Mary Cardi, which I can wrap myself in it about 5 different ways. There’s a button behind the neck which allows the ends of cardigan featuring 2 buttonholes to connect. I debated it for a while: I have about 3 other similar style cardigans in my closet, and who doesn’t know I have a ton of black already – did I really need another long-sleeve drape cardigan? The cincher was the fabric. Made of super soft modal fleece, I felt like I was ‘cheating’ the audience by looking good in so many different ways, when in fact I was wearing fleece! I told just about everyone on the NB team they have to bring back this fabric next fall season; crossing my fingers that they do!

Knixwear packaging

Knixwear packaging

I also tried on a pretty set of Knixwear sweat resistant underwear. Even though I’m not a fan of lace, the Knixy Boyshort and Knixy Thong were super comfy!

Other featured designers at Love Local include AATMA crystal energy line, Urban Body Organics, Mellifera Bees (beautifully packaged honey), Jackson Rowe scarves, and Twenty One Tonnes artisan home décor, and of course for Valentine’s Day, Cocoa Nymph chcolates. These designers get to ‘live’ at the Nicole Bridger store until the end of February, so stop by to check them out!

Nicole Bridger is located at 2151 West 4th Ave in Kitsilano.

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Jason Matlo Sample Sale: Big Savings on Stylish, Quality Pieces

Jason Matlo sale-1

In a trendy little studio in the heart of Gastown is where you will find Jason Matlo’s studio. When I first arrived, I heard the sound of a sewing machine and shortly after, I saw the two designers hard at work. I thought maybe I was in the wrong suite or interrupting the designers but they were very welcoming and I quickly got straight to shopping. As I scrolled through every article of clothing on the three full racks, I was surprised at the great prices. Everything from fun patterned skirts to elegant sequenced gowns filled the racks; Each garment discounted at 60%-80% off!

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Jason Matlo & Wen-Chee Liu

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I found lots of treasures (unfortunately, not all in my size). A beautiful black silk skirt priced regularly at $400 and now on sale for only $20 was my favourite. The gowns were also unbelievably priced, a violet sequenced mermaid gown was down to $580 from $1597. The selection was directed towards work wear and evening wear with a variety of sizing. There is a mixture of elaborate patterned pieces, neutral pieces, and solid bold coloured pieces. I even spotted a one-shouldered dress in Pantone’s 2014 colour of the year, Radiant Orchid. While going through the racks, I noticed the great quality and soft feeling of the fabric that Jason Matlo uses. After trying on a few items, I ended up purchasing a $152 black cotton/nylon tee for only $15! I had a lovely experience, got a nice addition for my closet, and even got a chance to meet the two designers, Wen-Chee Liu and Jason Matlo. Be sure to check out the Jason Matlo sale next time!

Jason Matlo sale-3

Jason Matlo sale-4

Words + Photos by DesireeAnne Holder

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Barcelona Designer Nerea Lurgain Pops Up at Woo To See You

Nearea Lurgain-2

This past Saturday, February 1st was the only day that Nerea Lurgain made an appearance at the pop-up shop hosted at Woo To See You boutique, the sole Vancouver stockist of the Barcelona designer.

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Nerea showed a sneak peek of her Spring/Summer 2014 collection. The designer is known for her looser-fitting garments with touches of detail that aren’t too subtle but don’t shout at onlookers either. In contrast to her dark Perthes inspired collection for Fall/Winter 2013, splashes of colour are featured this time around. The collection is made up of tie-dyed pieces in black overlaid with a brighter colour. The patterns range from exotic animal-inspired prints to what the designer calls Jackson Pollock-inspired abstract designs.

What struck me when I first visited Woo a few weeks ago was that every other piece I picked up was by Nerea Lurgain. There’s something unique about her designs that stand out to a shopper seeking interesting items. Take for example this high-low shirt in a passionate red: it has a zipper in the back allowing the shirt to be worn as a tighter or looser fit. With the zipper undone, the hardware adds interest to the back of the shirt. With it zipped up when I tried it on, even though it was very loose fitting on the bottom, the bust area felt nice and snug. If this shirt is any indication of Nerea’s design skills, I’d have to say she’s a master at engineering clothing for a woman’s body.

Nearea has been designing her eponymous label for 6 years, but before that she was a painter, teacher, and had even worked in finance. When asked whether it was a big jump for her from finance to fashion, she said it was quite natural. Nerea took sewing lessons at night while working with numbers in the day. Indeed, having a strong financial background helps any creative person in business.

In Barcelona, she sells her designs at a boutique in partnership with two other designers. They also carry an array of Spanish designers at the shop. You can also find her clothing in Denmark, Japan, and the Netherlands.

We can’t wait for the Nerea Lurgain collection to pop up for spring at Woo To See You!

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Woo To See You x Nerea Lurgain Pop-Up Shop

Nerea-Lurgain-Popup

One of our favourite new stores, Woo To See You,  is hosting a pop-up with one of the designers they carry! Nerea Lurgain, which can only be found at Woo, will be present at the store this Saturday for one day only. I immediately fell in love with her designs, and I bet you will too. Meet her in person this weekend!

STYLE SHEET

  • DATE | Saturday, February 1st, 2014
  • TIME | 11am – 7pm
  • LOCATION | Woo To See You Boutique @ 129-1208 Homer St

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Dakota Group Fall/Winter Clearance Warehouse Sale

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STYLE SHEET

  • What | Dakota Group Sampe Sale
  • Date | TODAY!
  • Time | 10am – 6pm
  • Location | 102 – 256 West 7th Ave

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MITMUNK: Not Your Average Legging

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The local print clothing company Mitmunk first came to my attention when I was invited to participate in a fun photoshoot to promote their leggings.  I had never seen leggings like this before – covered in brightly coloured prints of chainmail and armour, transforming the wearer into a modern day medieval action figure.  In other words, these leggings were super rad.

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At the recent VALT Fashion Week in November 2013, I had the opportunity to meet the faces behind Mitmunk, Wayne Elliott and Heather Joan Tam.  Since I was unfortunately unable to attend their fashion show at the event, they invited me to visit their studio and check out the stock up close.

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Their homey studio, situated in the industrial area of East Van, consisted of a small showroom out front with a large storage space in the back.  My friend Jenn and I were treated to a teacup of hot toddy, again a first for me.  Over this cozy bit of whiskey goodness, Wayne told us the story of Mitmunk.

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After many years in the video gaming industry as an artist and 3-D renderer in both the UK and Vancouver, Wayne decided to change direction and spent some time assisting a local designer who used a colour dye sublimation printer to create her fashion garments.  It was this printing technique that sparked the idea to create his own pieces inspired by his background in video gaming.

The sublimation process first starts with the pattern being designed on the computer, after which it is printed life-size onto thick stock paper.  This paper and the fabric are then both run through a sublimation printer, the heat of which converts the dye on the paper to a gas which diffuses onto the fabric and solidifies.  Traditionally this method had been used to produce banners and cycling wear, but Wayne brought it into the fashion arena with the production of his first pair of ‘anatomical’ leggings (see photo) which highlighted the musculature of the human leg.  After this first prototype, he expanded his designs to include chainmail armour and eventually bionic leggings.

It was at this time that his life partner, Heather, herself a multidisciplinary artist, became his business partner as well.  Together they showcased their creations at the local Blim Market, but it was their debut fashion show at the inaugural VALT Fashion Week in 2012 which catapulted their presence and attracted a fan base.  Over the past year, they have expanded their product line to include tank tops, tank dresses, tube tops, boy shorts, and have plans to branch out into outerwear.  They first started producing about twelve pieces at a time, and have had to keep increasing their batch sizes multi-fold to meet the increasing demand.  For the foreseeable future, they intend to keep sales solely online, but do have select pieces available at Ayden Gallery in downtown Vancouver.

I tried on a few of their pieces, including one of the bionic tank dresses.  This was done with great apprehension – a bodycon dress made of 100% stretchy material with zero forgiveness?  I had fearful visions of looking like a sausage squeezed into a slightly too small encasing.  Once I had it on however, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Although form fitting, the material was just the right degree of elasticity that it held everything in without squeezing the excess bits out the armholes, while also being incredibly comfortable and lightweight.  Not only that, the bionic pattern was both very cool and cleverly slimming – using strategic colour blocking and lines, the dress literally drew a flattering silhouette, including a shapely butt.  What more do you want in a dress??

Mitmunk’s sense of aesthetic is an obvious favourite amongst the cosplay and nerd/alternative demographic, but it is clear that there is also a much broader potential into everyday street wear, workout and athletic attire, etc.  Wear one of these leggings to a yoga class and you’re sure to be the coolest kid in the room.  I only see a bright future for this burgeoning company and will enjoy watching Mitmunk’s rise to the top of the fashion heap.  And if you’re wondering where the name Mitmunk comes from, as a little boy, Wayne would call a monkey “mitmunk”.  How adorable is that?

Photos of the 3 models in leggings by Jeff Kew Photography

Individual model photos by GrindDown Photography

Style by Fire photos + words by Aurora Chan

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Woo To See You: Unique Designs that Stretch Your Comfort Zone

WOO To See You-9

Tucked away in the Yaletown Shops on Homer Street lies a little fashion gem: the whimsically named Woo To See You boutique. It’s where shoppers can find a well-curated mix of unique Korean designs, European styling, as well as local jewelry.

Two mannequins standing outside the shop gave a small indication that fashion existed inside the indoor plaza. From the outside we could see the entire shop in one glance. Although Woo To See You is small in size, it’s jam packed with great products, and a great shopping experience too.

WOO To See You-1

Ours began when we met Hans Woo, store owner of Woo to See You. Dressed in a slick leather jacket, harem pants, winter tuque, and peep-toe pumps with socks, we could tell this was one woman confident in expressing her unique style.

In her down to earth manner she told us her story. A fashion designer by trade, Hans worked in Korea’s fashion industry but needed a break from her work. She first visited Vancouver in 2008 and immediately fell in love with the city.

In 2009, she moved back, got some experience in retail and started planning her own store. She created an e-commerce store in 2012 because she wanted a flexible schedule. But the charming and extroverted Hans soon realized it was more fun for her to meet people face-to-face, whether it was customers she introduced new brands to, or suppliers stopping by to check on how their pieces were doing. So in the summer of 2013, she set up shop in Yaletown.

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The idea of Woo To See You was to bring Korean culture and style to Vancouver. And how exactly? It had to stay small and personal. Things have definitely changed since she started. Hans says, “When I first started this business I was only thinking about ‘Is this going to sell or not?’… It is a different culture and different style where I am from, so I was always thinking about if this will do well in North America… So I started thinking like, if this piece doesn’t sell, do I keep it? Am I confident enough to say this looks awesome, like you have to have this piece? Or do I need to wait for someone to walk in who really likes this stuff. So I started shopping by following my style.”

By sticking to her guns, she ends up spending countless hours researching the perfect mix of product for her customers. Each brand she brings in has to pass three tests: the design has to be unique, of good quality, and reasonably affordable.

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I tried on an oversized blue and white Pink Berry sweater coat, and immediately noticed there were 3 different kinds of patterns in the knit. I confessed to Hans that although the oversized sweater was super unique, it wasn’t a silhouette I was used to seeing on myself. She assured me I wasn’t the first person who reacted to the designs this way, and went on to explain why she chose a looser aesthetic.

“I don’t wear really tight-fitting dresses. We did have a lot of straight fit last summer. I had so many people who came in and tried them on and asked me for a belt, and I was like ‘No belt! Not allowed here!’”

We couldn’t help but crack up laughing because it’s so true: Vancouverites can definitely play it safe, but Woo To See You is here to push your comfort zone, in the kindest way. She takes great care of her customers by educating them that loose-fitting cuts, drop-shoulder styles and cocoon shapes are an aesthetic to be embraced, not belted. “I think people just need to try… and just experience,” Hans remarked.

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I asked her to elaborate on what she meant by ‘good quality.’ Instead of luxury fabrics we would expect like silk and cashmere, she made a case that good quality also meant longevity. Hans said, “I do love cashmere but I stopped buying cashmere products because it’s so hard to take care of them… so I do think about those factors. If people do buy this, is it easy to wash or take care of?” I wholeheartedly agree with her philosophy; it might be a lot more closet-sustainable if you can wear it a hundred times rather than wear it only a few times before the delicate fabric tears, or having to endlessly pay for dry cleaning.

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For many of us who are shop high and low, who pick up pieces at Forever 21 and occasionally drop a few bills at Holt’s, Woo To See You could be our new best friend. A beautiful black coat by Barcelona designer Nerea Lurgain retails at only $179 – a price which is nearly impossible to find in the mall let alone a Yaletown boutique. Anyone can afford to look unique here, as the store carries limited runs of each style.

When asked whether she misses fashion design, she said with a knowing smile, “I think I had fun with it but I am in a different place now. I have more fun curating pieces than making it. “

In the future, we will be seeing her own designs – although not in fashion. She and her husband, Justin, plan to start a lifestyle line (stationery, tote bags) named after his grandmother, Hilda, who had a passion for sewing.

“We’re really excited to do it! We just have to find some time to do it.”

Be sure to check out all the amazing designs at Woo To See You in Yaletown at 129 – 1208 Homer Street.

WOO To See You-11

Words by Miranda Sam

Photos by DesireeAnne Holder

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Holy Grails of Fashion: The Sweater Dress

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Do you have specific fashion covets?  And when I say specific, I mean you have a very clear vision of what this particular item looks like in terms of fabric, cut, colour, etc, in addition to how it looks on your body and how it makes you feel like the Queen of the world?  And trying to find this very specific sartorial piece in the real world is an ongoing mission of indefinite time, and you’re not going to quit until it materializes because you’re just obsessively determined like that? I call these the Holy Grails of Fashion.

One of my many Grails has been the Sweater Dress.  Conceptually to me, this item is the perfect solution to winter dressing; the fuzzy counterpart to the breezy summer dress.  It is easy to wear and immediately stylish – just throw it on over your head, add a touch of bling around the neck, pull on knee high boots, and you’re set.  They’re also incredibly comfortable, made of knit, jersey, or cotton with a touch of lycra, which move with you.  Now the tricky part and what has made it to Holy Grail status for me is the fit.  I have a naturally somewhat athletic figure, ie. not fashion model-boyish, which means the dress needs to cling to certain bits but not to others without adding too much overall bulk to the torso.  Ideally it should be body skimming and create an hourglass shape.  The neckline shouldn’t be too tight, but wider with a flattering shape to offset my wide face.

This specific dress has not been easy to find by any means.  Over many years, I’ve settled for various not-quite-it versions which didn’t elevate me to Queen status.  Instead, I would find myself a bit insecure and fidgety in them, constantly tugging here and there to try and re-direct the clingy areas.  But I’ve never given up and always beeline to them whenever I make my shopping rounds.

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Photo by Lance Holroyd

On one of these rounds in early fall I was perusing Front & Co. on Main Street, my go to destination for retail therapy, when I came upon this charcoal grey Rachel Roy bias cut cotton/viscose blend dress.  I tried it on and voila, had the Holy Grail of Sweater Dresses finally been found?  Flattering wide neckline, check.  Body skimming without too much bulk, check.  Current and slightly edgy with an uneven hem, but basically timeless in style and colour, check.  Sexy and yet still appropriate for the office, yes.  And finally, at the $35 consignment price, it was a closer.  Praise be to the Fashion Gods!

I have worn this dress several times to work and felt like the Queen of the office…except for the fact that after a few 8-hour days of wear, the knit started to loosen up and not spring back to its original shape, causing it to look increasingly baggy.  I’m hoping that drycleaning will do the trick to bring back the shape; otherwise, there’s always a return to the quest for the Holy Grail…

Words by Aurora Chan

Photo by Lance Holroyd

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Style by Fire featured on CTV News!

Miranda CTV 2

Click here to watch the CTV interview.

This is kinda crazy, but it happened.

I received an interview request from CTV and a few short hours later reporter Shannon Paterson and I were shop-talking in front of Victoria’s Secret at Robson and Burrard – downtown Vancouver’s new retail hotspot. She found me via an article I had just written about Shoppers’ new BeautyBoutique for Retail Insider (check out their awesome website!).

I’m sitting in front of my computer and I still can’t believe this happened, and I’m really grateful that it did. I don’t think I would have even dared put a media appearance on this year’s list of resolutions!

Though my CTV interview might seem out of the blue, Style by Fire’s been 5+ years in the making. So I really shouldn’t be too surprised.

When I interned in New York, my uncle and I had many chats about life, career, politics, and other worldly things he was interested in. A lot of our conversations stayed with me, especially his open-minded views on work and opportunity. At the time, I was struggling to find a job in the States, and after realizing my degree wasn’t specialized enough to apply for work visas (ahem, like being a soil scientist), I got deeply discouraged.

Then with his lighthearted c’est la vie chuckle, he let me in on his secret: “Opportunity takes hard work… and luck. You need to work hard to prepare for something, and when opportunity strikes, you seize it.”

That’s exactly how I feel.

When I got the green light from my manager to take off early (DC you’re the best!), and confirmed with Shannon, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I went home, “clownified” my makeup for the camera, researched the latest downtown Vancouver retail stories, got some good advice from Retail Insider, made sure to wear something that stood out on camera, and walked into the interview knowing this was my opportunity to seize.

Thanks so much to the team at Retail Insider who gave me the opportunity to write that article!

xo, Miranda

PS Watch the interview on CTV!

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Shoppers Drug Mart to open flagship Beauty Boutique in Downtown Vancouver

Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutique Beauty Boutique Vancouver Burrard Street Colin Arber Retail Insider

This article was first posted on Retail Insider.

Sources tell us that Shoppers Drug Mart will open a 4,100 square foot standalone flagship BeautyBoutique in downtown Vancouver, next to the world’s second-largest Victoria’s Secret store. The street-level store will replace retailer ‘Off The Wall’ and will feature a Burrard Street frontage. It will compete with a new, massive Sephora store scheduled to open next winter on the 1000 block of Robson Street, only a couple hundred feet away.

BeautyBoutique layout

Shoppers first debuted its high-end enhanced BeautyBoutique concept last year at Toronto’s Bayview Village Shopping Centre; the second opened in the Toronto EatonCentre this past summer.

Downtown Vancouver has several major cosmetic retail competitors, including Sephora. In addition to its current location at Pacific Centre, Sephora will also be opening one of its largest Canadian locations on Robson Street in the winter of 2014. Other competitors have either been upping their game or preparing for their entry into the Vancouver market. Hudson’s Bay, for example, has been putting much effort into the ongoing revitalization of its Downtown Vancouver flagship store. Its expanded cosmetics floor is close to an acre in size and is now the largest in Western North America. Holt Renfrew continues to show strong cosmetics sales, and future Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenuestores will even further increase competition for Downtown Vancouver’s cosmetics dollar.

With all of these different cosmetics retailers in Downtown Vancouver, it’s hard to say whether BeautyBoutique will create any extra excitement for Vancouver shoppers. Competition will be fierce. Shoppers Drug Mart already has an existing higher-end concept, Murale, though it hasshuttered two of eight locations across Canada. Let’s take a look at the differences between Murale and the new enhanced BeautyBoutiques, and how the new concept might prove successful.

Shoppers 1

For those unfamiliar with Murale, it is an offshoot brand launched in 2008 by Shoppers Drug Mart to move into the high-end cosmetics category. Murale’s brands include Bobbi Brown, Anna Sui, Cargo, Caudalie, Nars and more. These brands make a distinct differentiation between drug store brands such as Maybelline and L’Oréal, but share some crossover brands like Clinique and Stila. The store design is clean and minimal, with a lot of white space, and merchandising isn’t structured in aisles as in the drug store BeautyBoutiques.

Introduced in 2003, the in-store Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutiques occupy prominent real estate, many of which have separate entrances to create a different experience for cosmetics lovers. The South Granville location in Vancouver, in particular, takes up the majority of the second floor of the neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart.

Shoppers 2

The new “enhanced” BeautyBoutique takes the in-store concept one step further by bringing in higher end brands (Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, for example) and stepping up the store design, which was inspired by a gift box, and the unravelling of a ribbon to reveal a gift. According to Shoppers, “The ribbon concept can be seen in the elements of the store design including the digital signage wrapped around the boutique and the finishing elements extending over the fixtures to the ceiling.” In a nutshell, it’s a Sephora-like experience.

If one high-end Shoppers beauty concept (Murale) didn’t work out, why would the company repeat similar efforts? One reason could be because a new store like Murale might have required stronger branding support for customers to understand its relationship to Shoppers Drug Mart. On the other hand, the new high-end beauty concept is also located separately from Shoppers, and it was a great idea to leverage off the existing BeautyBoutique name instead of creating a whole new brand like Murale, even though the BeautyBoutique brand seems strong enough on its own. According to Sandra Sanderson, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Shoppers, in a Chain Drug Review article, when consumers heard about BeautyBoutique they already had the impression it was a separate store. We don’t know whether they had done similar research with Murale.

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There’s also a direct correlation between Shoppers’ BeautyBoutiques and its popular Shoppers Optimum rewards program. This may be a key difference between it and Murale. If consumers didn’t know Murale was a Shoppers concept, for example, there would have been less incentive to shop there. This is especially the case since Sephora has a strong Beauty Insiders loyalty program. Lastly, we’ll have to see whether the new enhanced BeautyBoutique will help drive online sales, as Amazon, Walmart, and Sephora’s e-commerce platforms are highly competitive whereas cosmetics sold at Shoppers Drug Mart concepts rely heavily on foot traffic.

If the enhanced concept proves successful, it might be in Shoppers’ best interest to shutter the Murale chain and concentrate on what’s working. Either way, it will be interesting to see another beauty giant enter Downtown Vancouver’s retail landscape.

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