We have all heard about matchmakers when it comes to love – but what about fashion?
Meet Dia Shams – the face behind Valamode and Ottawa’s own designer matchmaker.
Tell us how Valamode got started and how you came up with the name.
Originally I wanted to name my business – Vintage à la mode but I didn’t want people to think it was just vintage pieces. So I took the “v” from the word vintage and put it in front of the ” à la mode” and that is how I came up with the name – Valamode. It was a random fluke and it worked beautifully.
I started Valamode because I felt like the city had a gap in the resale market- for the finer consignment pieces. I used to consign my pieces within the city all the time and felt that the process needed to be refined. I would go to Toronto to consign certain pieces to capitalize on the resale value and I just thought that was silly. There is no reason to go outside of the city especially since Ottawa has the demand for pieces that retailers here don’t carry like Louis Vuitton. So I opened the company in Ottawa and it rapidly grew through referrals.
Explain to our readers how the consignment process works.
I’ve simplified it the best as I could. So essentially – anything that sells over $500.00 the client gets 70% back & anything that sells under $500.00 the client gets 60% back. Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes will always get 70% back because they retain the best brand value. The pricing is based 100% on market value and condition of the item. So just because someone spent $500.00 on a bag – it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d get even $200.00 back. If they didn’t invest in the right brand from the beginning they are likely at a significant loss.
You may have an expensive bag – but the brand you chose doesn’t hold any value in the resale market. So you’re not going to get that original investment back.
Do you find that some of the designers have become over-saturated?
You’ll definitely find that a lot of the designers that have a second line are – that is why they lose value. There is just too much mass production out there. Where as you invest in pieces with strong brand value like Louis Vuitton and Chanel – you can get a great return back from your original investment.
What items do you offer online?
Anything from accessories, watches, jewelry, shoes to mainly bags. I only do clothing through the match making services and at times during the pop up events. So for example, if someone is looking for a specific Burberry coat – and if I know of one – I’ll match it. But Valamode is meant to be mainly for accessories.
You have clients all over the world – how do you manage it all without going crazy?
I’m a big list and spreadsheet person. I keep in tune with people all the time. My clients are incredible! I am very fortunate to have strong relationships that allow me to expand the brand to more personalized service. I have a lot of friends, family and now assistants that keep me in check!
What tips can you offer people who own designer items that might potentially consign items down the road?
Stop throwing your boxes, dust bags and authenticity cards out. They help with finalizing the sale of the item. Take care of your items, condition them, store the appropriately!
Taking care of any investment you make is important. If you have a new car and keep on backing into things – it’s going to lose value. If you toss your bag on the floor – and drag it here and there – it will lose value as well – because all those little things add up.
You have done a few pop up events now – correct?
Yes! This is my fourth year with Valamode. The next pop up is opening the weekend of June 10th and I am so excited to be collaborating with Sona Clothing! Exclusive swimwear is being introduced to the Nation’s Capital all imported from Portugal, Miami and some Canadian designers will be showcased as well! I absolutely love pop ups and collaborating with other businesses! It is so important for the community to collaborate and bound of each other! Online is always active and social media of course is non-stop!
Have they gotten easier to do?
I wish! There is a tremendous amount of effort and detail that goes into creating these events. My clients have become more eager for each event to take place to get their designer fix. As for bringing something different into Ottawa and building people’s trust – in that sense it has gotten easier. Pop-ups also give clients the opportunity to touch and feel pieces – rather than seeing them online.
“My goal is to get Ottawa engaged. I’ve put in years of research to ensure the best value and experience will come when partnering with Valamode, either as a buyer or shopper, and hope to bring forth that market and fashion knowledge to my client. The best feeling is having clients come back knowing they can trust Valamode with handling the merchandise and processing it.”
Dia Shams, Bargin Hunter, Ottawa Citizen
Which designers do you find are knocked off the most?
Sadly everything – even iPhones are!
It’s one of those things where there is a multi-step process to make sure its authentic. If you have the right education – you can 100% tell whether it is a counterfeit item or not.
Authentic designer bags comes down to the artisan make of it. How was it made, what is the stitching count, what does the heat stamp look like, how heavy is it, what does it smell like – there are so many factors involved. It is no longer about “serial codes” since those are often in every counterfeit bag. People sometimes think a receipt confirms authenticity-guess what those have been knocked off too!
This city has a reputation for being very conservative, but I think that is slowly changing. I would love Ottawa to be alongside Toronto and Montreal, when people think of Canadian fashion meccas.
It never blows my mind to say little do they know. We actually have a very dominate market when it comes to the demand for designer brands. The problem is the selection available in the city. In my last pop up on Beechwood Ave. – I sold eight Chanels! If you know the price of a Chanel and do the math – you can’t tell me that this city doesn’t spend money on fashion.
Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering a few personal questions?
How would you describe your personal style?
Contrary to what people often think – I don’t like logos. I will wear the odd monogram piece here and there but I actually prefer a smaller logo or no logo at all. I often mix my Joe Fresh outfits with my designer bags. It’s elegantly simple. Sometimes I’ll wear the odd edgy thing.
Do you have any fashion pet peeves?
I’ve always said that blue doesn’t belong on nails. I’m not a blue nail polish person. That is probably my only pet peeve honestly.
Do you have a daily beauty routine?
I have a simple routine – washing, toning, moisturizing. My favorite is Bioderma Micellar Water – it hydrates, tones – takes off all your makeup. For face cream I use Darphin Paris. I have been a huge eye cream person all my life.
I know you’ve said that you don’t wear a lot of designer pieces – but which designers do you like?
I should clarify-I don’t wear a lot of designer “clothes” but will tend to sport the accessories!
I’ve always been the type of person who believes that whatever you fall in love with – is what you should have. Whether it is a designer piece or not – as long as you love it – that’s all that matters. That’s my rule of thumb.
What is your favorite piece of clothing you own? A staple piece – something you use to build an outfit around.
Probably a blazer. I use it with my outfits all the time. Whether it’s with a tee shirt underneath or dress shirt.
Where do you shop here in Ottawa?
It’s hard to say because I actually don’t shop a lot. But, I will always be the first to catch a Club Monaco sale.
Local Boutiques – I have shopped at Vincent quite a bit. I definitely spend my money on accessories versus clothing. I’ll buy that Joe Fresh sweater for $29.00 but I’ll invest in a handbag.
What is your favorite accessory?
I’m a big fan of designer shoes. A simple red sole – you can wear with many outfits. But my personal favourite pieces – I have a vintage Chanel caviar bag with silver hardware that I love.
When you just need to chill and relax – what is the favorite way to pamper yourself?
I love sitting in silence. I do yoga and meditation – which I absolutely love.
What three words describe you best?
Goal oriented. I strive off of having personal and professional goals.
In-tune. I am definitely very in-tune with myself and those around me.
I like to think I am resilient but let’s face it the entrepreneur life always has me challenging that!
The other question I wanted to ask you was when you decided to do Valamode full time – what pushed you to finally take the leap of faith and do it?
You learn the value of your time as you get older. And even though I was very passionate about my career in human resources – I was most certainly not going to work for anyone who didn’t value me as a person or my time.
I came to realize that the only person that can value your time best – is yourself. So it was one of those things, that even though I loved my clients and the job, I just needed to focus on myself and restore my self-worth.
Some people think they are invincible – but time is one of the only things you can’t get back.
You have to try in life. If you don’t try – you just don’t know. If it doesn’t work then just start over. There is always opportunity. It’s just a matter of seizing it.