Style Fix Spotlight Chantal Biro-Schad -

Chantal Biro-Schad
schad and WOLF & Zed

Website: schad

schad has long been part of Ottawa’s fashion scene – bringing a little LA/NYC celebrity style to O-Town with their luxury designer brands.

What inspired you to start your boutique?

We opened schad to fill a void in the Ottawa market at that time. Back in 1997, few boutiques actually existed and those that did, catered to either a very young clientele or to a much older (“missy” as we say in the industry!) clientele. I had grown up as a boutique shopper and could not find what I wanted here in Ottawa. In my 20’s, (just a short while ago, lol!), I always had to travel to Montreal to find those special lines.

What do you look for in clothing lines, when buying for the boutiques?

My buying has obviously evolved over time as the fashion industry has evolved. For example, when we first opened, we never stocked denim as that was left to the “jeaner” stores. Now, they are a staple in most collections. The internet has also had quite an influence on my buying as it allows me to research collections based on how popular they are and how in-demand they appear to be. My and all customers are much savvier with respect to collections, which keeps me on my toes and always trying to scout out the next big line! I look for the “must-have” brands that are hard to find elsewhere but that my customers and myself are seeking. Collections have to fall within a certain price-point (and quality) that suits my target market. There is obviously a certain look that I seek to represent but also, being in the biz for over 15 years, I buy with a great numbers of customers in mind. I have many clients for whom I dress head-to-toe from their basics to their cocktail or events attire. I also keep in mind the lifestyles of the majority of my clients or customers.

What are some of the lines you carry?

For women, we carry Rag & Bone Jeans and RTW, Smythe, Mackage, Designers Remix Collection, Denham, Michael Stars, TEXTILE by Elizabeth & James, American Retro, Equipment, Joie, SAM, AG Jeans, Generation Love, One Teaspoon, Parajumpers, Nobis and others…. This Fall we are adding the following: Zadig & Voltaire, ADD, Matchless, Kingsley, G-STAR and Current Elliott.

For men, our main lines are John Varvatos Collection and USA, Rag & Bone, G-STAR, Paul Smith, Denham, Parajumpers, Nobis, Theory, Nudie, Naked & Famous, AG Jeans. We are adding Matchless this Fall.

What are your best-sellers?

Rag & Bone is huge for us as is G-STAR for men (can’t wait to introduce the women’s), Smythe sells out every season, Mackage coats also always sell through, AG Jeans, TEXTILE is new but we are repeating on the denim and jackets…Michael Stars are great basics that always just do well. John Varvatos is our best performing collection overall!

Who are your typical male and female customers?

Our customers vary from university/college students, to young parents, young and not-so-young professionals, working parents, stay-at-home moms and hot retirees! We cater to many business travelers and tourists because of our location. On the whole, our customers tend to be well-travelled urbanites that consciously support local businesses that offer personal and attentive service. They trust and value our expertise. We truly get to know many of our customers more personally.

What sets your boutique apart from the others in your area?

All of the above! Many of our lines are exclusive to us and those that are not, we buy as a “boutique” not as a department store that has to buy “safe” and conservative. Just as importantly, our level of service and our sales staff keep our clients happy and turn them into “regulars”. As I mentioned before, we make our service personal by being honest with our customers, by going out of our way to get them the products & lines they want, by special ordering items for them, etc.

What key staple items should every man and woman have in their wardrobe?

For women: a couple of perfect white tees, a couple of white tank tops, a great pair of jeans, a great blazer that can be dressed up or down, a simple cocktail dress that can transition from day-to-night or office-to-dinner, a moto leather jacket in either black, dark grey or taupe (it goes with everything!) a big oversized scarf (it goes with everything) a great pair of sunglasses, killer pointed-toe heels, “ballerines” or ballet flats, a great pair of short booties.

For men: a couple of perfect white tees, a couple of white tank tops, a great pair of jeans, a great blazer that can be dressed up or down, a great black suit, a few good ties, a few crisp white shirts, great coloured and patterned socks, a great leather jacket, an oversized scarf, a great pair of sunglasses, a great black dress shoe, a pair of motorcycle boots and a great denim jacket.

Ottawa was long overdue for an upscale footwear boutique. How did you come up with the concept for the boutique?

For as long as we have sold clothing, we have also sold shoes. As in the clothing, we just felt Ottawa lacked and needed an upscale footwear boutique showcasing footwear that people actually wear! We were waiting for the perfect spot to open up. We are true believers in “location, location, location” and for us and our concepts, that location can only be in the Byward Market as business travelers and tourists make up a vital part of our business!

I love the story of how you came up with the name – can you please share it with our readers?

We did not want to use the schad name again but we wanted a name that suggested we cater to both men and women. Andre and I have a son and a daughter so I played around with their names which are Wolfgang (though we call him Wolfi) and Zsuzsika (pronounced Joojeeka – we call her Zsuzsi). “wolf” has a great sound but Zsuzsi is too hard to spell and pronounce for many so I just took the first letter of her name and sounded it out so that we weren’t know as WOLF & Zee. Phonetically and visually, WOLF & Zed just worked. Our kids are happy that the shoe shop bears their name though my daughter was less than impressed that she was only represented by a mere “Z”! I am still paying for that one!

What are some hot shoe trends for men and women this fall?

The short booties for both men and women will still be very strong for the next few seasons. Colours will also be very prominent in mens’ products as well as those for women. Tans will be strong as will greys, and particularly, dark greens, maroons and navy. Suedes, wax-like finishes will be everywhere and pony-skin will be MANDATORY!!

Pop up stores are becoming very popular in the retail world. Tell us a little bit about your pop store experience in the Rideau Centre.

Our pop-up shop in the Rideau Centre was a very last-minute yet flattering invitation from the Rideau Centre and one that was hard to pass up as it gave us the chance to test our concepts in a mall setting which is a very different one from a boutique. Though a lot of work, it was a great experience that definitely raised our profile in the city as malls do attract a different regular customer base. If we were to have stayed in the mall, I may have to adjust some of my buying but overall, we sold most of our collections very well. The traffic was obviously greater at the Rideau Centre than at our current boutique but our regular customers still tended to come to our Sussex Drive location for service. We are better able to provided one-on-one service in the boutique setting.

If you could give advice to anyone thinking about starting a boutique what would it be?

Try to raise more capital than you think you will need because you will need more capital than you think you will need! Be very cautious when settling on a location (you can never underestimate its importance). You need good traffic and “new” traffic. Neighborhoods are cute but you’ll see the same people over and over and you won’t turn over your inventory quickly enough to keep them interested. Negotiate a good lease. Hire trustworthy staff and train them well. Really identify your target market and research their lifestyles in order to know how to buy for them. Differentiate your concept from what is already being done. Be prepared to adjust and re-invent yourself in order to compete. The market is constantly changing and you have to keep up. Take advantage of social media as it relates to your market. Make friends with bloggers – stay on their good side!!

Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering some personal questions?

Do you have a daily beauty routine?

Yes, but it’s very simple! I probably should do more but I tend to stick to the same routine and products for way too long! I wash my face at night so I only rinse my face with cold water in the mornings. I use eye cream and moisturizer from Avene which I pat on then apply under-eye concealer, an organic mineral bronzer and blush…I am slowly switching to organic and green makeup one product at a time. I wear a minimal amount of makeup but gone are those days when I can ever leave home without any at all!

Let’s hear some of your favourites…

fashion designer: Isabel Marant
piece of clothing you own: I have a new favourite piece every season..this season, it’s a great Spring/Fall cozy oversized coat by Designers Remix Collection from Copenhagen.
pair of shoes: I have to say my Rag&Bone booties…it seems to be all I wear, I have a few pairs!
accessory: this great gold-chained choker necklace that belonged to my Maman.

What is your biggest fashion pet peeve?

Not sure I’d call it a “peeve” but I most often adjust or correct the size and roll-method women’s and men’s pant cuffs (usually for denim or twills pants). Please ladies and gents, no more wide, flattened out cuffs. Your cuffs are to be tightly rolled no thicker in width than 3cm!!

What are five beauty products you can’t live without?

Bumble & Bumble Gentle shampoo and conditioner

Bumble & Bumble Prep Spray (I use it on wet and dry hair)..I get these at Fernando Cellini

If I don’t have access to these hair products, than I just need a hair elastic!

Coconut oil for everything, everywhere!

Avene night cream

Mineral Bronzer…and any black mascara!

What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?

I love a quick pedicure from this little local spa down the block from my home…cheap & cheerful but I also love a great facial and full-body massage which I only get when gifted to!

How would you describe your style?

This is always a hard question as my style changes over time and over trends. I can only tell you what my style is NOT: classic, prim, preppy, conservative, hoochie (not sure about the spelling), cheap, crass and vulgar, nor uptight. I’d say I just stay current and dress with confidence. Everyone wears confidence well.