It's hard to set foot inside the LYNNsteven boutique and not covet everything in sight. On this chilly Friday morning, the thick hand-knit sweaters from Granted look especially appealing. If shoppers can stand to tear their eyes away from the merchandise, they might notice the 120 year-old mosaic tile floor. Or they might comment on the award-winning circular changing room made entirely of paperback novels and designed by architecture firm MGB. The store's atmosphere is at once airy yet cozy, sophisticated yet welcoming, unique yet unpretentious, and it's all due to the labour and down-to-earth personality of owner Nicole Dennis Durnin.
by LISA WONG
"My very first job was in fashion," Durnin tells me during our interview. This self-professed fashion lover began working at Club Monaco when she was sixteen. After working for others in fashion retail for a number of years, Durnin finally took the plunge and chose to open her own store. Unfortunately her decision coincided with one of the worst economic downturns in recent history. Funding became a daunting challenge on top of other obstacles that the would-be entrepreneur faced: finding lines willing to sell to a new boutique, finding a retail space in her dream neighbourhood Gastown and dealing with construction.
Undeterred, she forged ahead and managed to do all of these things while building up word-of-mouth buzz about LYNNsteven. She actively promoted the store on Twitter and connected with local fashion industry insiders, bloggers and media personnel. Three months before the grand opening, she opened a pop-up shop during the Gastown Shop Hop to give shoppers a sneak peek and spread the word through social media. "We set up in one day and tore it down that night. It was exhausting." By the time LYNNsteven (named after Durnin's mother and younger brother) opened its doors in December 2009, the boutique and its owner already seemed like familiar and lovable fixtures in Gastown's fashion scene.
Uniqueness and Durnin's own sartorial preferences define her approach to stocking the boutique. "I went after lines and styles that I would want to wear and lines that aren't everywhere in Vancouver. I'm definitely a basics girl but I like basics with a twist, and I adore sequins." Ladylike blouses, cocktail dresses, soft tees and sequined tunics hang side-by-side on the racks. A casual perusal of the clothes reveals brands like Nicole Bridger, Twinkle by Wenlan, Jenny Han, Mackage and Parker. Accessories from Canadian labels and hard-to-find lines (Linea Pelle studded leather cuffs and handbags, Toodlebunny and Dominic Design jewelry, Memento Mori sterling silver pieces, Kelsi Dagger shoes) round out the lovingly curated selection.
Despite overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers, Durnin still feels that the store has a long way to go. She adores interacting with customers and cites "a gigantic wardrobe" and "amazing staff" as the best parts of her job, although accounting and the business side of things remain a challenge. The first year has been a trial-and-error learning process as she feels out the tics and quirks of Vancouver consumers' tastes. So what can customers expect in the boutique's second year? Durnin might stock Frye boots and has been considering Melissa shoes from Brazil, including a pair of "cute little nude Mary Jane pumps." Trying not to covet everything in sight at LYNNsteven may have just gotten a little bit harder.
For more information, check out their website www.lynnsteven.com.
Hot Items List:
Parker Sequined Mini Dress in Copper $370
A Peace Treaty Baby Alpaca & Silk Blend Scarf $325
Granted Deer Head Sweater 100% Wool $360
Granted Mittens 100% Wool $49.50