We here at the Royal Bison always love to hear stories of what it's like to be a maker/artist/designer in Edmonton. For the Spring 2017 Bison, guest writer Lindsay Jones brings us in depth interviews with some of our long-term vendors.
Elizabeth Hudson and Jessica Kennedy became fast friends while working at Nokomis Clothing (now Vera Véro). Elizabeth ran the studio and designed the house line, while Jessica ran the store operations. Fast-forward a few years later and they were young entrepreneurs running the business all on their own. The Nokomis house line became prominent within their store, was stocked in over ten boutiques across Canada, and they were branching into the States as well. After five years of running the business on their own, Elizabeth and Jessica had to make the difficult decision to close their doors. The economy was tanking, and this was leaving them in a tough spot; they were sad to go, but knew it was the best choice nevertheless. Edmonton has not forgotten these two gals nor has our city lost the love it had for Nokomis, so it is an understatement to say that we are excited to see them back at it!
Read on to learn more about what Jessica and Elizabeth have been up to since their Nokomis days, and why they have decided to revisit their roots…
It has been six years since you closed the doors of Nokomis. What sparked the revival of this collaboration?
JK: This collaboration came about in a few ways. I mean it is something that we have talked about a lot over the years. I currently work for the University of Alberta, and my schedule is a manageable 8am – 4pm, which is a first for me. I have a supportive work and family environment, so this has all contributed to good timing for us.
EH: It is something that I have been wanting to try for awhile, and it just seemed like the timing was finally right. I have been living in Montreal and working on Ursa Minor for a number of years, and I was beginning to feel burnt out. Working in the fashion industry can feel very superficial; my colleagues and peers are not superficial people, but I needed a break from the industry itself. I missed working with a partner, so for me the timing was perfect – it allowed me to change gears.
What was it like to be part of the Edmonton creative community in the early days – how do you feel re-entering that space?
JK: I think when you are in it, you don’t realize you are in it. You are just doing what feels right and what you are passionate about. The community that builds around you as a result is a wonderful side benefit, but I don’t think we were being intentional about building that up at the time. It is exciting to come back to it all though, because we can now see the community we did build around us. They are still huge supporters and that in itself is a success. We became a family and it is going to be great to come back to that.
EH: My mother constantly says to me that we were way ahead of our time. I didn’t feel like it at the time, but looking back I think we were. That is why I am excited about it now and how our line could work into the present world. I think we are re-entering at a time where local brands are being fully embraced.
Looking back, what was your proudest moment?
EH: We often talk about the fact that we maintained a friendship through a financially failing business [laughs]. I am really proud that we are not only friends, but that we are working together again. We always worked together really well – we have different complimentary strengths. Beyond that though, I think just the fact that we ran a business really shaped me. Knowing that I could be in charge of my own destiny helped me forge my path in life.
JK: Oh yikes. It took me awhile to think of this, but while Elizabeth was talking I came up with something [laughs]. I actually think one of the proudest moments for me was a spring campaign we worked on. It was a beautiful collection that Elizabeth had designed and we had women who were near and dear to us taking the photos and modeling the clothes. It was a day that we felt we could own, and the stress was low, which was rare for us to feel at that time.
What can we expect from your clothing line this time around?
EH: We knew we wanted to do a Capsule Collection – a small one-time collection. We are re-launching many of our old Nokomis designs – the ones we really loved. There are some designs that we have done major updates to, others have minor tweaks, and some we have left alone. We have aimed to create a timeless line that does not adhere to only one season.
JK: We are all about Canadian designed and Canadian produced high-quality clothing for the everyday woman. We know she has a life; she is a mom, she is a career woman, and she balances many hats and roles. We created a line that fits within that. It is about the everyday versatile wardrobe.
Looking into the future – where do you see Vera Véro?
JK: We don’t know. The way the current fashion industry works is not suitable for Elizabeth and I to function in. The two collections a year doesn’t work for us – it’s constant production, and it isn’t necessary. We make high quality investment pieces, and there is no need to replace these every six months. Our mantra right now is that “it has to work for us.” So, we are taking it one step at a time.
EH: Yeah. That is definitely a question in our minds. It is a discussion we need to have on this trip when I am back in Edmonton. In my heart, I would love to see this continue forward. If I am going to continue to work in clothing though, it has to be in a way that fits really organically into my life.
Complete this sentence: To me The Royal Bison is __________.
Royal Bison is our friends; it is our place. It is a space that feels good to be part of. I am excited to be back. I am super nervous too. We want to reconnect with our client, and we know that Royal Bison is the perfect spot to do that in. It is just such a great fit – it is nice to be part of such a supportive community and selling alongside them. We are happy that we are being welcomed back into it all again, after having been absent for as long as we have been. It feels comforting to know that there still is a place for us here.
If I am ever home when a Royal Bison is on, I am always excited to go. I like knowing that I am going to see so many people that I know and love there. I have been part of Royal Bison in some capacity from the start, as my husband was the founder of the market. So, it is great to come back to it all and be welcomed into the space all over again.
Vera Véro is a sustainable clothing line for the modern woman. Interested in shopping their Capsule Collection? Stop by Poppy Barley for the popup shop April 28– 29, 2017 AND swing by Royal Bison May 5 – 7, 2017. Can’t make it to Edmonton for these events? Fear not, the Capsule Collection will also be available at: Victoire Boutique in Ottawa, ad hoc in Penticton, Arturo in Edmonton, and online.