BUSINESS BEAT: Big is beautiful, say Victoria fashionistas

Online and store retailer helping boost larger women's self-image

Curvalicious Boutique manager Cathy Andrews

Curvalicious Boutique manager Cathy Andrews

Sarah Frejd may not be making money yet selling plus-size women’s fashions.

But her Curvalicious Boutique operation is providing the fledgling retailer with much more than that.

As a former chef and restaurateur who used to wow diners with her meals at a popular Campbell River eatery, Frejd now cooks up boosts in self-esteem for women who may not consider themselves beacons of fashion.

“I think it’s life-changing,” Frejd, 35, says of the experience Curvalicious offers clients.

Whether it’s women who have always shopped for larger sizes, or those whose bodies changed, perhaps after having children, she receives them in various states of humility.

“When they come into our store, we work on their insides as much as their outsides. We make them feel like a million dollars.”

The idea of selling plus-size fashion came to Frejd – one of her own best customers – during her sales calls as a food rep for Saanich-based Islands West Produce.

“I have to get dressed up and look pretty and go around to pubs and restaurants all day long,” she says. “People would stop me and ask, ‘where did you get that dress? or where did you get those boots?’”

After researching the market for one-off, plus-size creations, she found that there was little to choose from on Canada’s West Coast.

She created an online store in 2009 and, combined with hosting shopping-style fashion shows around town and selling at markets around the Capital Region, built a loyal following.

After hearing enough clients tell her, “just get a store, Sarah,” Frejd began searching for a location. She found a modest space and moved in last November.

With Frejd still working her sales job during the day, much of the pampering falls to store manager Cathy Andrews, a former client and fashion model of Frejd’s who brought a healthy body attitude and some smarts about plus-size fashion to the job.

“I love it here,” says Andrews, who is studying to be a nurse. She blogs on such topics as “health at every size” and “fat acceptance” on her page called Big Fat Cherry Bomb at tumblr.com.

“People come in with the idea of wearing clothing to cover up (their larger features),” she says. “We try to convince them to love the body you have at the size you are.”

Both Andrews and Frejd talk of clients who came in unsure of themselves and left dancing on air.

An example was the Grade 12 student from Salmon Arm who came in searching for a prom dress.

As the girl tried on various dresses, beaming at each new look at the experience of seeing herself in a different light, her mother and grandmother dissolved into tears, Andrews recalls.

“I still get goosebumps thinking about it,” she says.

The store contains only a smattering of pieces available to clients, but the idea is to pamper women when they come in and make the shopping experience as personal as possible.

An ever-present tray of cookies looms just inside the entrance, and beverages are occasionally on hand.

“We want to make people feel comfortable, hang out and have a good time,” Andrews says.

Curvalicious is located at 774 Bay St. in the Blanshard Street plaza off Kings Road, behind Subway. Call 250-590-2799 or visit curvaliciousboutique.com.

Acupuncturists unite to promote connections

Registered acupuncturist Xiole Mitchell and fellow Victoria-area practitioners are combining for the first ever Vancouver Island Acupuncture Day, this Sunday (July 15) in Market Square.

The idea is to not only open up their practice of this traditional Chinese healing art to the public, but to try and strengthen ties with other professionals in the community, Mitchell says.

The event, which includes free treatments, runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and includes talks on traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

New titles, new digs, fresh beginnings

Economic development officer Sasha Angus has a new title to go with his existing job at the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce: manager, policy and government affairs … Retired London police veteran of 28 years, Fraser Dodds, has taken the position of director of business development and training with Themis Security Services Ltd., at 185-911 Yates St. … Ron Burton has relocated his IT operation, Face to Face Computers, to a storefront at #6-50 Burnside Rd. W. from its Douglas Street location … Hudson Yoga has opened up in the Hudson Walk building, formerly The Bay, at 8-1701 Douglas St. Visit hudsonyoga.ca or call 250-590-8206 for class details … Victoria chartered accountant Michael Macdonnell was recently named treasurer for 2012-13 for the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of B.C. He currently works as B.C.’s assistant auditor general.

Victoria ad agency hits a milestone

Victoria ad agency McAllister Media is celebrating 10 years in business. With its focus on identifying each client’s key consumers, it has enjoyed growth in a struggling economy, says vice-president and director of marketing, Tracy McAllister, who teams up with husband, Andrew McAllister, the company’s president and creative director.

Global Mothers using Avon-style parties

Not-for-profit direct-trade organization Global Mothers is looking for people to host parties in Greater Victoria.

Co-founded by former University of Victoria student Katie Mogan, the program offers artisan-quality ethnic products made and sold by women in various international locales. The items can be purchased online or through locally hosted home parties. Visit global-mothers.com for more information.

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