If you’re looking to get your fashion fix on a budget, there’s a fabulous pop-up boutique in town featuring enviable must-haves for every woman’s wardrobe.
All money spent will help Cornerstone Housing for Women, a non-profit organization that provides emergency shelter and supportive housing for women in our city. Think of it as an excuse to shop until you drop (or until your colleagues, clients or family members start wondering where you are, and why your phone has been intentionally set to “mute”).
Boutique Cornerstone runs today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Nest, which is the lovely new event and gathering space on the second floor of Thyme & Again, a popular eatery, food and retail store at 1255 Wellington St. W. The venue has been offered up by well-respected owner Sheila Whyte.
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Now in its third year, the pop-up shop has to date raised more than $40,000 for Cornerstone Housing for Women.
This year, business owners Stephanie Appotive and Lindsay Appotive of Howard Fine Jewellers and True Bijoux have jumped in to help. The sisters are selling special pearl-inspired bracelets that they’ve designed, with all sales being donated toward the cause.
At its core, Boutique Cornerstone is about sisterhood, friendship and community. “It’s women helping women,” said Andrea Laurin, who organizes the fundraiser with her friends, Anna Rumin and Katie Faught.
The women have worked hard for several months, collecting hundreds of pieces of clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry and accessories. The donations are stored at Rumin’s home, where she sorts through all the stuff and gets the items prepared. Laurin and Faught are in charge of the clothing pickups and dropoffs.
“We’re a good little team,” said Rumin. “Everyone has their particular role.”
Boutique Cornerstone has grown into a fundraiser that women look forward to and are eager to support, they said. “Everyone asks us, ‘Are you doing the sale this year?’ because they’ve been keeping a bag ready to donate,” said Laurin, who’s been a long-time supporter of Cornerstone and the work it does to safely house vulnerable women in our community.
She and her husband, construction management business owner Dennis Laurin, also assist causes that create more affordable housing in our region for low-income families.
Rumin said she had casually mentioned their fundraiser to Chantal Biro, owner of Schad Boutique, a high-end luxury clothing store on Sussex Drive. “The next thing I know, she gave me two boxes of clothing donations from her store,” said Rumin, who has a PhD in education and teaches memoir-based writing courses at Carleton University. She also has connections to the Ashbury College community through her husband, Norman Southward. He’s head of the private school.
On Thursday, organizers hosted a donor and volunteer appreciation party at Cornerstone Boutique. The space has been totally transformed to resemble a retail store, with racks of clothing and temporary fitting rooms.
The gathering was a chance for Rumin, Laurin and Faught to thank all the women who have donated their time or clothing. Guests were invited to shop while enjoying a steady service of wine and canapés. The retail space is being continually restocked because there isn’t enough room to put all the items out at once.
“Thank you for cleaning out your closets,” said Laurin during her brief remarks. “No one likes doing it but lots of people did, and they brought forth all these lovely items.”
Included in the sale are many high-end designer items (some with their tags still on).
“This is where I shop for my new wardrobe every year,” said Ottawa visual artist Heidi Conrod. She did have her eye, at one point, on a fun and feathery black dress by designer Elie Tahari, thinking she could possibly wear it to the Politics and the Pen literary gala that she’s attending next week. “I feel like this event has inspired me to want to dress up again, because you can kind of lose your mojo and get stuck in a rut.”
The Appotive sisters have already sold more than 200 of the 1,000 Pearl of Hope bracelets they’ve created in support of Cornerstone. Some publicity earlier in the week from CTV News Ottawa helped to drive up sales, they said.
The $25 bracelet is unisex in design, fits all wrist sizes and has been priced affordably, to make it accessible to as many people as possible. They can be purchased online, as well as at the Howard Fine Jewellers and True Bijoux stores on Sparks Street.
Stephanie told OBJ.social how she and her sister were inspired by the genuine sense of community surrounding the cause. “It really feels grassroots.”
It’s her dream to eventually spot a stranger wearing one of their pearl bracelets in some random location, such as the checkout line of a grocery store. She knows she would feel an immediate connection to that person. “It’s like the X-Ring,” she said of the famous ring from St. Francis Xavier University that links Xaverians around the world.
“That is my goal,” said Stephanie, a former Forty Under 40 award recipient. “There are a thousand bracelets, so there’s a chance that could happen. That will be my tipping point.”
The money raised from Boutique Cornerstone will support the organization’s emergency shelter services. Amber Bramer, director of development and communications for Cornerstone, said they couldn’t be more grateful for the tremendous volunteer effort that goes into making Boutique Cornerstone happen.
“These women run it all,” she pointed out. “We have such limited resources, so when a community member offers to run such an incredible, fun community event, it goes a long way to supporting the women in our programs.”
All the leftovers from the sale will go to Encore Fashions. It will continue to sell the items in support of Cornerstone at its apparel shop of “gently worn” designer fashions located in the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church in the Glebe.