COMMON Ottawa: The New Luxury Street Style
All photos courtesy of Alexandra Gunn
The fashion landscape in Ottawa is ever evolving with new boutiques opening their doors to the public with hopes that they can offer something different than what’s available at the new updated malls across the city.
On Thursday, Ottawa’s media will be getting a sneak-peek at the latest store offering a distinctively different street lifestyle with luxury street wear and contemporary fashion, art, books and novelties all in one location called COMMON.
Located on 380 Elgin Street, COMMON will be opening it’s doors to the public on Friday. In advance of the grand opening, I spoke with the owner, Nader Salib about what style Ottawa has been missing out on… until now.
Alex: Welcome to Ottawa, COMMON! Tell me what your clients can expect when they walk through the front doors for the grand opening?
Nader: They can instantly expect to feel the culture we are trying to promote and grow here in Ottawa. There will be lots of different artists working at their crafts who all add something special to the space. Jesse Alberto from Le Petit Salon will be styling some of the models, who will then be modelling some of the clothes COMMON has to offer – a very strong brand mix ranging from high fashion to everyday accessible clothing. We wanted to make sure we offered different brands and a different style than the retail generally found in Ottawa. All while in the background our photographers will be shooting our look books along side a group of artists, who will be working on a mural in phase 2 of the Common, which will be the eatery.
Alex: Why did you decide to open a common space for a variety of independent businesses?
Nader: I felt like malls these days are quite washed out and bland. Growing up, many of us spent so much time at the mall, but now wouldn’t dare to spend more time than needed whenever going there. I wanted to create one hub where it gives the vibe of an “anti-mall”. So odds are you can find what you’re looking for, but the quality and creativeness found at COMMON would be like no other. Even though we haven’t been opened very long, these businesses are already starting to feel like a family and we connect so well with he clients. It’s a one-on-one experience regardless of which part of the Common you’re in.
Alex: Tell me more about this common space. How did everything come together? How did this idea get started?
Nader: I’ve always wanted to open a retail store but the market in Ottawa is a little tricky. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and came across an anti-mall in California. I was immediately taken by the atmosphere there, because you didn’t limit yourself to just one business. There were a few shops, restaurants, bookstores, and without knowing I found myself there every morning starting my day. Grabbing a small bite, have conversation with all the different businesses and educating myself on all types of art and things I’ve always been interested in but never actually really took the time to learn about. Finally it was all there. So it stuck with me for a bit and I didn’t think much of it — just that I loved it. Finally when I was in Ottawa looking for a space for a retail store and at the same time looking for a small restaurant space. I came across 380 Elgin. It was 5,000 square feet, way too large for any business alone to survive in such an expensive area, but when combining a few businesses together with like-minded owners, it all came together.
Alex: Who are some of the fashion designers that will be carried? What local brands will be carried in-store?
Nader: We work with a lot of independent designers but I make sure that their brands are brands I strongly believe in. This is a passion project for me and I wanted it to really reflect that. Some of the brands we carry are Stampd, knomadik, April 77, UNIF, Represent, Rochambeau, among many others. Our biggest brand is Rick Owens DRKSHDW. I’m excited to have them all in store. UNIF is one that I think is a great fit for the city here in Ottawa. I think it’s a strong reflection of the people here. Then there’s DRKSHDW which is our most high-end brand. We’re so happy to be able to carry them because it’s very rare whether in the United States, Canada or Europe even that stores are able to hold that account. When they agreed to work with us we were ecstatic and it means they had as much faith in the store and concept as we did. Rick Owens is someone that many of us have looked up too and admired, so to carry his brand in the store is something to be proud of.
Nader: We are going for a more luxurious street style. Even though we try to find something for everyone who walks through our doors, we try to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone a bit when it comes to their clothing. We don’t want people to blend in with the idea that Ottawa is a conservative government city. There’s lots of great and creative minds here who just need a platform and a little extra push to really express themselves in a way they feel comfortable. Fashion is a good place to start with that. We do styling for anyone who walks in because we put them in something they feel comfortable in that reflects their personalities as well.
Alex: What do you want local artists and shoppers to know about COMMON?
Nader: That everyone is welcome to come through our doors. We want to help young creatives get some recognition across some of the bigger cities in Canada and the United States. I’ve seen some locals here in Ottawa that blow my mind with the work they do, yet they never have a platform to display their work. Whether you’re into art, music, architecture, fashion, hair, or coffee — we’re here to help answer any questions and offer any advice we may have. We want people to know that their dreams are really achievable, sometime you just need guidance and to know where to start. That’s what we’re here for.