‘Fashion is not a science': Hannah finds Ottawa is a little fashion gem

Hannah Yakobi (Twitter) is a former Ottawan and the editor-in-chief of FAJO magazine (Facebook/Twitter), a digital luxury fashion publication. Now based in Toronto, she is a journalist who’s covered such diverse beats as health, business, fashion and culture.

Hannah Yakobi (Photo credit: Dmitri Moisseev for FAJO Magazine)

Moving to Ottawa six-and-half years ago was a big personal change for me. I’ve always lived and worked in really large, fast-paced cities (Moscow, Barcelona, Dubai), so Ottawa seemed small and too quiet in comparison. I was also worried that it will have a tiny – or non-existent – fashion industry, and soon realized that there were very few shopping options in the city. As an established fashion journalist, all these discoveries were greatly terrifying me.

But a year later, when I was writing for the Ottawa Citizen and, subsequently, the National Post, I started to do a lot of in-depth research about the fashion community in the nation’s capital. I met all the major designers in the city – both established and emerging – and realized there was a lot of hidden talent, waiting to burst on a national scale.

And, of course, there were some fashion veterans, such as Richard Robinson, who have been in the industry for decades, and were hugely respected and admired across the country. As an Ottawa newbie, I came to a conclusion: First impressions in Ottawa were deceiving. And as a few more years went by, I started to greatly admire the fashion scene in the city. Not only because every single designer I met was a joy to interview and chat with, but also because their work reflected true craftsmanship, creativity and a great attention to detail.

Richard Robinson and I at his Ottawa boutique, following our interview in spring 2010. (Photo credit: Dmitri Moisseev for FAJO Magazine)

As time went on, little boutiques started to pop around like mushrooms after the rain, easily drawing in a passerby, quickly growing a fan base and expanding nationally. Major design labels were now also coming to the city and setting up glamourous stores. And this major fashion expansion hasn’t stopped ever since.

With several negative articles in the press lately, which focus on Ottawa’s lack of fashion sense (for example, this MSN article that caused quite the stir in the fashion community all over the country), all I have to say is this: Top 10 lists are subjective. Fashion itself is subjective, of course, but labeling an entire city as Word Dressed is pointless and incorrect.

Let’s try another example – Vancouver is listed as number three in the same article. I’ve been to Vancouver myself and I strongly disagree that people dress badly there. People put in a lot of thought into what they wear in the West Coast and clothing choices in Vancouver are incredible. In fact, I was happy I was only there for four days, because had I stayed longer, I would have most definitely gone bankrupt due to my non-stop shopping.

Yakobi and Kalynn Friesen (a FAJO photographer) with Jeanne Beker at Toronto's 2010 LG Fashion Week

Fashion is not a science. It’s a preference, a creative choice and, often, a statement. You can say that a person is not well-dressed, but labelling an entire city as such is too far-fetched. It’s unnecessary and people get defensive, which is exactly what happened in Ottawa, with an outpour of newspaper and blog responses, endless quotes, comments and criticism from Ottawa’s residents and people across Canada.

I live in Toronto now because this is where my career took me, but I still have a very special place in my heart for Ottawa. It’s a little gem, and the boutiques that inhabit the city are one-of-a-kind. Ottawa is also greatly expanding and I am proud to see how the Ottawa Fashion Week has grown in the last few seasons. We greatly support OFW and Ottawa-based designers at FAJO Magazine, and I think it’s important for everyone to do so.

And to all the talents in Ottawa, I say – ignore those who don’t know what they are talking about and look forward, because we can’t wait to see what you have in store!

Thanks, Hannah. And be sure to check out FAJO Magazine for the latest coverage of the fashion industry around the world.