By Bradley Turcotte –
Helping community members in need since 1965, St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) in Wellington West has evolved past its bargain bin label and demonstrated that glamour can be thrifty.
The thrift shop, which once occupied the entire block from Petit Bill’s to Hilary’s Cleaners, recently teamed up with adjacent upscale clothing store Twiss & Weber to upcycle clothing for their #GlamoCamo line.
Earlier this year, SVDP Executive Director, James Strate, approached Twiss & Weber owners, Laura Twiss and Tonia Weber, to collaborate on a window display for the Tastes of Wellington West event, SVDP marketing coordinator Adrian Mulligan explains. This partnership was labeled a #FabCollab.
Twiss & Weber had “camouflage on the mind,” says Twiss, and the dashing duo scoured the thrift store for camouflage print pieces with help from SVDP sorters. Twiss and Weber then altered their finds into new fashions that complemented their 2015 fall line.
Twiss & Weber’s tag line for the campaign was “Recycle, Up-cycle, Break the Cycle.” Weber says she hopes the project sheds light on society’s dependency on consumption and reliance on big box chain stores.
“We are a local business, just like SVDP, and we want to create an opportunity for people to think outside the box,” Weber adds. “Not only in terms of fashion and style, but also in how we spend money and who benefits from it.”
During the campaign, SVDP shoppers were asked to donate “survival kits,” consisting of items like household and beauty products, to benefit Centre Espoir Sophie. Women can access vital services at the centre, such as legal assistance, nutritional needs and counselling, Mulligan explains, adding that newly elected Ottawa-Centre Liberal MP Catherine McKenna also donated a kit to the cause. Donors received a coupon for 20% off at Twiss & Weber.
Mulligan himself is a SVDP success story in his own right, having started at the store as a cashier. He was the victim of budget cuts at his former position managing social media for a local renovation company.
Mulligan has been with SVDP for over a year. He says community members constantly tell him how integral the store was to them in their time of need.
The Ottawa Police shop at SVDP to obtain items for recently released prisoners. One couple who came to Ottawa from the north to birth their new baby had their temporary apartment furnished by SVDP, says Mulligan.
Additionally, SVDP offers a yearly bursary at St. Paul’s University.
“It’s definitely a staple in this community. People say they like how the store has changed but we still have the same heart,” says Mulligan. “Now people are attracted by the window displays we have.”
These eye-catching displays are a relatively new fixture on Wellington Street West and take three to four months to conceive. Previously, all items in the window were ready for sale and did not create a cohesive display.
The current display is Canadiana-themed and features Native art and Hudson Bay paraphernalia.
Calere Boudreau stages the windows along with Alli Asudeh, and Boudreau says the impetus for the windows can come from a single interesting donated item or seasonal events.
“Because most of the donations, though not all, we receive are used, every item has a story behind it,” says Boudreau. “We have had chairs that came from an embassy; a chair that came from the Chateau Laurier was part of the second shipment; the first shipment had gone down on the Titanic. It’s fun to look at an object and try to imagine the story it could tell.”
From upgrading budget conscious citizens’ homes to upcycling fashion, SVDP’s story will continue to morph in to the winter months.
SVDP and Twiss &Weber plan to collaborate again in the future and offer a workshop for the public on how to upcycle. “With a field trip to SVDP on one day and the next spent upcycling their pieces at the boutique, which we will transform into a large sewing room after hours,” explains Twiss.
A SVDP display dusted in snowflakes might be around the corner, as Mulligan encourages residents to donate items to protect against the impending chill.
“Fashion doesn’t always have to come from the mall,” says Mulligan. “This time of year we are in need of winter clothing. Every year it seems like we have more and more demand and more clients to help.”