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Boutiques buoyed at runway show

Fashion event highlights local business while raising money for charity

AND THE WINNER IS: Normand Richer, with microphone, and Kristen Laborbe of Laborbe Designs draw a name at the fashion event. (Courtesy Normand Richer)

What started as a cool bit of self-promotion for one Woodbridge business quickly changed into a fashionable cross-promotional runway show for many.

Normand Richer’s original idea was to hold something of a modest open house on Nov. 29 for Aesthetic Therapies Laser Clinic, which he owns with his wife Patricia Gomez. That was before the Nov. 8 Fashion Takes Action Green Gala in Toronto.

“We participated in that gala where 400 people attended,” he said. “And from that 400, we invited them for our open house and that’s where it kind of took on gigantic proportions.”

With just three weeks to prepare, Richer got to work lining up local boutiques to show their fashions at Woodbridge’s Paramount Conference and Event Venue.

“I just went around and knocked on doors,” he said. “Everybody was very receptive.”

Miss Behave, Coco Rosie Boutique, Bella Mom, Lovely Lingerie, Per Lui and more signed on, but Richer had overlooked fashions for the younger set.

“I had one of my daughters doing also a dance presentation and when she saw all the models, she said, ‘Daddy, couldn’t you find something for kids?’ ” he said laughing. “And I did.”

Richer approached Zero 20 Bambini just hours before the fashion show was to hit the runway.

“He just came in and he said: ‘I’d like to dress my daughter. She wants to be part of the fashion show. We didn’t think about children’s wear,’ ” said Santina Mariani, co-owner of Zero 20. “His daughter was way too small for the women’s wear that were involved at the time.

“He’s gotten in a lot of nice stores that have really nice merchandise, which sits well with us because we’re in that same sort of nice-stuff category, if not as expensive,” she added. “I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ”

The open house was a success, said Richer, who was himself a model. In addition to the fashion show, guests were entertained with dance showcases and live music provided by the Big Art for Little Minds band.

A silent auction and raffle also featured prominently and the proceeds from both went to Big Art, a charity that brings art to kids.

For the boutiques and other businesses that took part in the open house, the event was more than just an opportunity to show what they had to offer: it was a chance to connect and network.

“We all have different clientele,” Richer said. “Even boutiques that we chose have different clientele so they can kind of refer one another without one stepping on the other one’s foot.”

The opportunity for smaller local shops to network is always important, Mariani said.

“I would imagine that the father who likes to dress nice or the mother who likes to dress nice also wants the same quality for their children,” she said. “We’re not all in one place so having an association or having people refer to each other similar type stores, . . . we think it’s quite important and definitely very beneficial to all of us.

“We live here and we should shop here, because our taxes will come back to us. And we will keep alive the independents that will give us the selection and the quality that we still want.”

Another, bigger open house is already in the works, Richer said, this one set for late March, perfect for showing off the hottest summer fashions. Like the November event, it’ll showcase Aesthetic Therapies Laser Clinic and other local businesses, plus raise funds for a good cause.

“We do it to help promote the local business but also to give back to the community,” he said.

Vaughan Today
In print: January 9, 2009, page 5
Online: January 8, 2009 [link]