A scene from last year's Ottawa Fashion Week (Photo credit: Charles Crosbie, via Flickr)
Jenna Farrell (blog/Twitter) is a twenty-something PR girl who recently returned to Ottawa after two years in Toronto. She currently does freelance PR work for small businesses and startups. Jenna is also an avid blog reader/writer and you can learn more about her passion for fashion and eye for vintage finds at www.navyandgold.wordpress.com.
In a recent MSN listing inspired by GQ magazine, freelance writer Vivian Song ranked Ottawa as the eighth worst-dressed city in the world. (Falling behind Vancouver, which ranked third. Ouch.) Shortly after Song’s article came out, Ottawa Citizen journalist Kristy Nease reported on the ranking with the following explanation:
“Some people call Ottawa the city that fun forgot. They walk through the downtown core after 8 pm – or Sparks Street Mall at any time of day – and wonder where the excitement, the glittering nightlife, the hip young people are hiding.”
Jenna Farrell (Photo credit: John Paille, via Flickr)
No offense to the local BIA, but Sparks is hardly Ottawa’s true heartbeat. I have lived in Ottawa a total of five years and I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to the ‘pedestrian mall.’
(Once was to get my passport photo taken and the other times were to visit local favourite Darcy McGee’s pub.)
In her ranking, Song characterizes Ottawa as a city populated by suit-and-tie civil servants. In many ways, she is right. Our downtown core is where the majority of our government buildings stand and it hosts thousands of civil servants, who make certain they’re at home before 8 pm. SHOCKER.
A scene from inside Babylon Nightclub (Photo credit: missionlessdays, via Flickr)
But where Ms. Song really loses me is when she writes that we, in Ottawa, have zero audacity to be different and we all apparently look like we’re frozen in the 1980s. She also goes on to say that Ottawa is perhaps the least sexy city in Canada.
Where she gets this from, I don’t know.
If only Song could attend Grind at Babylon Nightclub on a Saturday night. If this were the case, I doubt she would still feel this way. (Trust me, sexy practically radiates out of the small nightclub known around town for its famed hip-hop and dancehall night.)
I also wonder when Song last visited Ottawa. It may well have been the 1980s, for all we know. According to her blog, she currently resides in Paris. If her ranking of Ottawa was a direct comparison to her European home, I might even agree with her conclusions. But the article unfortunately ranked Ottawans alongside those living in such cities as the Jersey Shore.
I by no means am saying that Ottawa is a New York or a Paris or a Milan. But I will say that we weren’t placed in proper company in that ranking.
Victoire describes itself as a rock 'n' roll tea party (Photo credit: fieldtripp, via Flickr)
Speaking as someone who has recently returned to Ottawa after two years spent in Toronto, I feel that I have come back to a city vibrant in fashion, style and the overall vibe.
I love strolling along Dalhousie and stopping by Victoire, Workshop and Young Jane’s. Vintage lovers can score great finds at placed like Aunt Olive’s, Ragtime and Hand Down Your Pants. Or tuck into the Market to find Roadtrip, Schad or Trustfund for more trendy styles. And I am eagerly looking forward to the upcoming seventh season of Ottawa Fashion Week. If only Ms. Song could join me.
What I often tell newcomers to Ottawa who have ill things to say about our city is this: The difference between living in Ottawa vs. living in other large Canadian cities is that the excitement, the glittering nightlife, and the hip young people won’t come to you. The glittering nightlife is here – but it’s not next door to our government buildings, nor can the young, hip people be found reading poetry along the Sparks Street Mall.
However, if you venture into LowerTown, Hintonburg or along Elgin, you will find the glitter you are looking for. (And if you make your a little further, all the way to ChinaTown or Little Italy, it’s likely that you will find the young hip people that are supposedly hiding.)
In sum, I find the photo Song used to symbolize Ottawa’s fashion to be quite emblematic of her characterization of Ottawa: Stereotypical and shallow.
Typically, when one makes a judgement of a city’s fashion scene, they don’t use a stock image of some idiot with an oversized red briefcase. They go to the streets, and see what people are really wearing. If Song did this, she might have found fashion bloggers walking down Laurier after 20 York Street‘s #LifeofStyle event at ARC the Hotel last week, or trendy hipsters enjoying Karaoke at Shanghai restaurant on Somerset. What about the awesome ambiance at The Moonroom?
Instead, a lazy stereotype was used to characterize our entire city’s fashion scene. Which makes me wonder … should any of us actually care about her ranking in the first place? (Just so you know, the No. 1 worst-dressed city was Orlando, filled with mini-van driving families heading to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ at Disneyworld.)
On Sept. 16, Song tweeted:
We don’t hate you, Ms. Song, but I think we here in Ottawa can all agree that you are terribly misinformed.
Thanks, Jenna! Sounds like Ottawa has a lot of style to celebrate! Let us know what places others should be checking out by leaving a comment below!