#OttawaStyle with Chantal Sarkisian

hoto credits: Valerie Keeler and courtesy of @Chantsy

Ottawa’s fashion chameleon, Chantal Sarkisian is celebrating Ottawa’s variety, individuality and creativity with #OttawaStyle. She is one of Ottawa’s top influencers who is making waves in the blogging community and is encouraging everyone to shop local.

We spoke with Chantal about how she hopes to help others to find their personal style and why she’s documenting some of the unique plus-size options available to women of all ages.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What does #OttawaStyle mean to you?

Chantal Sarkisian: Ottawa has sadly been at a disadvantage for many years, lacking in trendy and fashion-forward shopping. With so few options accessible, when a trend finally hit the streets of Ottawa, we would experience the “copy/paste effect”. This meant that one trend would be repeated and multiplied, which did not contribute to a very stylish environment. Quick shopping trips to Montreal and Toronto were a must to keep the wardrobe fresh and relevant. Only recently, have we seen a surge in boutique experiences, luxury department stores and fast-fashion retail shops. This phenomenon has helped to morph the definition of today’s #OttawaStyle, which celebrates more variety, individuality and creativity.

Tell me how you define your style and how it separates you from the rest?

I call myself a “fashion chameleon”. I dress for my mood, for the occasion, for the weather and for the style I want to represent. I easily get inspired by my surroundings and want to explore as many bold angles as I can. I usually aim for a unique high-fashion look, pulling inspiration from London or New York Fashion Week street style looks. Whatever I do end up wearing however always balances femininity, edge and unpredictability.

How does dressing differ from the work week to the weekend? Or is your style consistent?
Don’t tell anyone, but I have a corporate day job which means that every day is a battle getting dressed in the morning. It’s the thing that stresses me out the most in my life, it always has.

Adding edge and personal style to corporate wear is probably the most difficult style challenge. It’s hard to be bold and stay professional… that is unless money is no object! There are some amazing clothes out there, but it’s tough to find them in my budget and size. That’s why I am grateful for brands like Forever 21 plus, H&M and sometimes Zara. I can mix these brands into my everyday classic looks to add the edge that I am looking for. 

I attend a lot of events throughout the week, so this is my chance to have fun with my style and get creative. Some days, I go right after work and have to balance an outfit that is work appropriate and fun for a night out. If I’m not feeling very creative, I just bring a change of clothes. I am getting really good at wardrobe changes in my car!

On weekends, I like to stay comfortable, casual and sportier, but I always remember to look polished if I am leaving the house. People recognize me now, and stop me on the street… so I have to walk the talk, don’t I?

What are some of your style staples?

I have always been into leather. Moto jacket, skinny pants, short skirt, booties, real or faux, I need it all! Black is the perfect neutral canvas and the shiny texture really elevates any look. I’m also a shoe addict, but lately I find myself steering towards booties most often. I love to have fun with shoes, and typically opt for a bold colour, chunky heel or something with an interesting detail.  Bomber jackets, vests, kimonos and blazers have been a huge part of my wardrobe. I use them as a security blanket, perfect for hiding my problem areas while nailing the art of layering.

How do you hope you can help others looking to garner their own sense of style?

The last thing I want to do is have people copying my style. What I want my readers to come away from my advice is to get creative, pair unlikely combinations and shop at stores they may not know about. I want to motivate women of all sizes to look good and feel great. Finding confidence through fashion is easy when you know how to dress yourself. I typically share styling tips that I use on myself and remind people of different ways they can get wear out of their clothes.

What are some of your favourite brands and shops around Ottawa?

I love supporting local, when I can. You can find me spending my money at Vincent, Valamode, Viens Avec Moi, Fashion United, Victoire, Ca va de soi, Stunning, AMH Style and L’Intervalle or Schad for my shoe fix! Some of my favourite local Ottawa brands are Krista Norris and Katye Landry Jewellery.

Because I often times need a little more room, I shop the in-between sections of H&M, Forever 21, The Bay, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Gap and sometimes Zara. Nothing brings me more joy than discovering a brand that come in XL!

When it comes to fashion in Ottawa, what sort of changes would you like to see?

For one thing, I would love more unique plus-size options, and better yet, plus-size options in local boutiques. We have some amazing fashion designers in the city like Kristie Lance (www.kristielance.com) and Cecilia Racicot (www.ceciliaracicot.com) that do custom work, but a brick and mortar shop would be quite powerful for the city.

I would also welcome more Canadian brands that make weather appropriate and fashionable gear like La Canadienne  (www.lacanadienneshoes.com).

Tell us why you started your blog and what gap in the style community were you looking to fill?

I started my blog to share my fashion secrets. Ottawa’s plus-size fashion industry is very scarce, and any retail resource must be documented!

People always complimented me on my style without realizing that I pay a lot of attention to my larger size requirement and concealing my flaws. Although I put a lot of thought into my outfit, getting dressed has become second nature. I think that’s why I enjoy styling plus-size women so much. I understand what their concerns are, and I know how to have fun within their personal limits. I love empowering women and helping them feel amazing. I love seeing stylish curvy women and I want more of that in the city.

Q: What does it take to become an influential style blogger and maintain your status in the Ottawa community?

Sustainability is the key to any successful business. To stay relevant, you need to commit to the work that you have set out to do. I have been blogging consistently for over 2 years. I keep growing my social media following and creating content that brings me engagement. I give the people what they like and what they want to see. My audience is hyper-local because I focus primarily on local content. I demonstrate pride in our city and always try to shine a positive light on it.  I also attend lots of social and business events, which is a great way to keep growing my network and meet influential people in the city. I also can’t resist a good old creative collaboration. There are so many talented people in the city; I’ll have to make time to work with each and every one of them!

Follow Chantal Sarkisian online:
Instagram: @chantsy
Website:  modeXLusive.com