Have you ever had that confusing, existential conversation with your new t-shirt, dress, or leggings, where you ask, “Who are you? Where did you come from? What paths have you travelled to end up here, with me?”
Most of the time, textiles will tell no tales. You may only hear of their neighbours and cousins in the news, through images of factories and busy hands thousands of kilometres away. But the story of a garment can also be short and sweet, starting and ending right close to home.
I walked into Winnipeg’s Tara Davis Studio Boutique (located in the Exchange District at 246 McDermot Avenue) one sunny evening and found proprietor Tara Davis and local clothing designer and textile artist Kelly Ruth on the store couch, debating the finer points of tunic shapes. Samples of Ruth’s clothing were draped over the couch, and her simple, elegant pieces also graced the walls of the shop’s new clothing section. The boutique itself is just around the corner from Ruth’s studio, and not far from her living room – which is currently full of drying plants from her dye garden. You can’t get more local than this.
While the clothing section is a new addition, it follows the same ethos as the rest of the boutique, which carries products from more than 50 different designers. Davis has met each designer in person and can personally vouch that, “they’re all nice people!” Their work comes from all corners of Canada – Halifax, Vancouver Island, and even the Yukon.
I spy a pair of dazzling galaxy-print leggings from Stepcat Apparel, for example, and discover that they arrived from nearby Regina. These comfortable and stretchy tights have a nice high rise, and also come patterned in polka dots and a fall floral print of browns, warm reds, and greens. The store is also well-stocked with tights, by Nelson, B.C. designer Barbara Boswell Schutterline’s clothing line, Lilikoi, that are made from bamboo but feel softer than silk. They also boast an impressive size range: XS-3XL.
Accessible sizing was very important to Davis in sourcing clothing for her store, and she currently carries most items in the Med-2X range.
“So many women in my size can’t just go into a boutique and find something,” says Davis.
Davis says that many of her customers could relate to her frustrations in finding comfortable, fashionable clothing in a size range that often falls in between “average” sizes and plus sizes. Her boutique promises to be a breath of fashionable fresh air, and just in time for fall.
Many of Ruth’s pieces lend themselves well to the changing of the seasons, and the urge to bundle up and get cozy. While each of her pieces is a unique interpretation of her signature dye work—with rich, layered colours—they could just as easily be worn as basics next to a brighter pattern, or as signature pieces with complementary neutrals. Ruth says that the darker pieces will sometimes go through 10-12 dye baths, while the lighter tones may be bathed a little less. All of this colour work is complemented by simple, flowing, feminine lines in scoop-neck tops, open cardigans, and pocketed dresses.
The clothing section of Tara Davis Studio Boutique is still a relatively new addition to this Exchange District staple, Davis promises that there will be more new pieces added in the next few weeks. While many of Ruth’s showcased designs are still relatively new, she’s already thinking of what’s next.
“They’re just being conceived right now. On this couch, right now!” she says.
Check out Tara Davis Studio Boutique online at www.taradavis.ca, and Kelly Ruth at klruth.wordpress.com.