The Journal

A Note From Our Founder

Posted by Emma May on

It seems like forever since I had a moment to sit down and actually write out an update. We have been so busy:) 

 

A lot has happened since we launched last year two months before a global pandemic would destroy lives, families and businesses.  

 

I want to take a moment to acknowledge how much grief and pain there still is globally and how much many of us still need to process that grief. I am watching friends suffer as their family in India struggles with disease, heartache and the collapse of the medical system. I am hearing from my doctor friends and customers about the ongoing trauma they are still trying to manage in stressed systems here in Canada. And I am watching friends and family in the US and UK celebrate reopening and the effectiveness of the mass vaccination efforts.  

 

So while launching a more elegant women’s wear collection while the world struggled to survive was a bit stressful at times - in the scheme of things - it is a very first world and privileged position. 

 

TO OUR NEW US CUSTOMERS! 

 

Welcome to SophieGrace!  The love you have shown us is amazing! I wanted to let you know that we are busy making sure we are using the absolute best and shipping options available. When we first started taking US orders we hadn’t quite figured out the speediest option but we are aiming to ensure we get you your packages to you within a week now and will continue to endeavour to make improvements on that.

 

PRODUCTION UPDATE! 

 

We continue to onshore a great deal of our production and our design and product team is  now working out of our manufacturing facility in Vancouver, BC. We are incredibly proud of our Made in Canada efforts and that we know the employees making our clothes receive above fair pay, benefits (of course medical- it is Canada after all:) and holiday pay. As a result of these efforts approximately 70% of our production is now in Canada. 

 

That said we still produce some items with our partners in Asia as they have more experience with some of the the tailoring requirements we need at this time.   

 

COLOURS! 

 

YES! WE HEAR YOU!  

 

We want more colour too and we are excited to launch our first NAVY items this month. And you can be assured that our navy will always be the same navy in line with the foundational concept the brand. 

 

We will continue to add to our Foundational Colours and then we will be expanding into pop of colour on a seasonal basis without moving away from our baseline. 

 

It hasn’t been a speedy process given the pandemic but as our sales have ramped up this spring we anticipate being able to bring more colour over the coming year.  To our first customers - thank you for your patience with us. New colours will not take as long now. We promise:) 

 

 

PARTNERSHIPS

 

We continue our t-shirt projects this month with the Otter Love T - benefiting Marine Mammal Rescue and Our Mother Love T - once again with a portion of proceeds going to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver. 

 

We are excited launch our new Equal Pay scarf this spring too. A portion of proceeds benefiting Momentum.org and their incredible microloans program for female entrepreneurs. 

 

POPUPS

 

As vaccination efforts start taking effect we can revisit our POPUP program across North America. We took a pause on this for obvious reasons but look forward to meeting you in person later this fall and into next year.  Shoot us a note if you want us to add your city to our list! 

 

SOME BUSINESS FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED

 

To date SOPHIEGRACE has been lead by a small self financed team. As we ramp up production and look to expanding our offerings we have been entertaining several different financing options - debt/equity/crowdfunding. We are always looking to balance being able to deliver quality product in a more sustainable and ethical way with growing our customer base. Making the right decisions as we managing financing our business also means staying true to our vision and values. At the moment we are do a smaller raise in private placement with accredited investors. We are excited to keep expanding our offerings and meeting increasing demand.  I know many of our clients work in this space so if you ever want to drop me a note with your favourite capitalization tips I am always all ears. 

 

 

That’s all for now.  Please know I love hearing from you and seeing you in our clothes. Always feel free to drop me a note at emma@sophiegrace.ca. Our customers are some of the most inspirational women I have met. Getting to know you and learning more about what you love and what you want to see from us helps us ensure we are delivering to you the absolute best product we can.  

 

 

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People Doing Cool Shit- Zara Darzi

Posted by Cailynn Klingbeil on

People Doing Cool Shit - Zara Darzi


We’re back with another installment in our series about SophieGrace customers and the cool shit they’re up to.

Meet Zara Darzi, an inspiring and passionate woman.    

 


Zara is a Persian Canadian citizen, senior engineer, single mom of two daughters and grandmama to two sweet babies. Since coming to Saskatchewan as a refugee 30 years ago, she has been passionate about helping and supporting others in her community, such as women engineers and immigrant families.


Our conversation with Zara spanned numerous topics, including her career in the male-dominated field of engineering, building connections in Regina’s Persian community and supporting women-led startups. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.


What led you to come to Canada? 

I'm a single mom who came 30 years ago to Canada to give a better quality of life to my two young girls. My highly educated, beloved husband was arrested for his beliefs and political activism. He was arrested when I was two months pregnant with my second child and had a three-year-old daughter. He was executed at age 36, without proper court process, or without having the right to have a lawyer. I came to Canada in September 1991 with the help of my brother-in-law who lived with his wonderful family in Regina. We were accepted as a refugee by Canadian Immigration immediately. This gave us an opportunity to start a new chapter. At that time my daughters were four-and-a-half and eight-years-old. At the time, I could read and write English but I couldn’t speak it at all.  


Why did you decide to become an engineer?

If English was my first language and I didn't have two young kids, my choice of career would be political science; that was my interest. The main reason I decided to go into the engineering field was because I did market research and found that the soonest time I could find a decent job was if I go into engineering. My focus was my kids and giving them the best quality of life.


To be honest, it was the most challenging time of my life to study in the faculty of Engineering, especially to be in the electronic field. It was a very non-traditional field for females and at that time, U of R was not that diverse. I was 35 and sitting beside new high school graduates who didn't welcome single moms with accents. I smiled to all of those challenges, and gradually my classmates recognized that single moms with accents can be smart too. The first few years were very tough, but at the end of my program, I was class representative.


Where has your engineering career taken you? 

I’m now a senior engineer in operational support systems and implementation at SaskTel. I’ve enjoyed my 20 years of work at SaskTel and loved all of the challenges. I’m so proud to work for SaskTel; they support females to reach their dreams in non-traditional fields. They offered me a scholarship for my good marks during university and gave me an opportunity to work in co-op jobs, then offered me a permanent job. I am returning all the kindness back to my community, and helping all to have a safe, successful, and healthy society. I have been a mentor and coach for more than 45 engineers at SaskTel, and outside of SaskTel for new immigrant engineers.


I love engineering. Now my kids are saying ‘Mom, now is the time to retire.’ But I love my job. SaskTel is a wonderful place to work. I have lots of energy to provide and want to utilize my knowledge. So that is why I am saying no to retirement.


Can you tell us about your radio show and other community involvement? 

When I arrived in Regina in 1991, I found there was no Persian community in Regina at that time. I started to host a Persian celebration for New Year and Yalda. This brought together the Iranian community, which is still so strong today. 


Then in March 2003, I decided to start a radio show on the Regina community radio station; I started co-hosting with the best Persian DJ in Regina. I found that Canadian people had not heard Persian music. So I thought it would be good to promote Persian music, and it’s also a talk show where I interview people. It’s this huge multitasking job, but I love to be challenged. Now we have a team providing a fabulous show every Sunday evening. The show is called Navaye Ashena, which means “familiar voice” in Farsi. 


To help myself and my community to have a balanced life, I got my yoga certification and now I teach private sessions to immigrants or refugee families free who cannot afford to pay. Yoga and mindfulness meditation are two methods and techniques that will allow us to have a healthier and happier life. 


What drew you to SophieGrace?

The first key reason is I love to support new startup projects, especially when women are leading. Emma has a great talented female team and also her models are from diverse backgrounds. The other most important factor is the products are made in Canada and people are paid at very standard wages. That is a huge reason that made me love SophieGrace: they respect the value of the labour. 


The style is very classically elegant, and it is so versatile. I love the Rosa short sleeve blouse. I can wear it for work for my Teams/Zoom meetings, as well as my personal life. It fits well and is so comfortable. Their pre-measurement questionnaires before ordering were very accurate for me and their customer service and tracking system were impressive.



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Hey Calgary! Come See Our New Cupro Collection In Person

Posted by Emma May on

 

Join us at Shop The Upside this Saturday March 27th for a pop up featuring the entire SophieGrace collection. 

Our in-house stylist Carl Abad will be on hand to help find your perfect fit. 

 

 

12-4pm

239 10th SE, Calgary Alberta 

Looking forward to seeing you and showcasing our new Made in Canada product. 

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People Doing Cool Shit - Heather Campbell

Posted by Cailynn Klingbeil on

People Doing Cool Shit - Heather Campbell

For our second installment in our series about SophieGrace customers and the cool shit they’re up to, meet Heather Campbell.  


We think Heather is the bomb. She’s an engineer and a dedicated volunteer to a wide range of causes, including the Calgary Police Commission, Arts Commons, the Advisory Council for Western Engineering, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council, which she was co-chair of until last month. 


Our conversation with Heather spanned numerous topics, from racism as an economic issue to challenging existing rules about women’s wardrobes. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.


On her professional life 

I work with TC Energy and I am team lead of the legal registry. It's corporate compliance work, but it's translating legal requirements for engineers. I am a professional engineer, and I have a Master of Laws in Energy Law and Policy, which is my work passion. I just really want Canada and Alberta to have good solid energy policy, and I mean energy with a capital ‘E’, so resource-based, alternatives, renewables, energy storage... the whole picture. We owe it to ourselves.


On joining the Calgary Police Commission last November

What drew me to that is something that started when I was a young woman. When I was 15 years old, a young man that I knew, by the name of Wade Lawson, was murdered by Peel Regional Police in Ontario. Wade was 17; he was the same age as my older brother. He was sitting in a stolen car and police put bullets in the back of his head. One of them was a hollow-point bullet, illegal at the time. So at 15 years old, as a young woman, as a young Black woman, I knew someone who had been murdered by the police. That case was the start of the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario. 


Those issues around use of force and racism and all of that... they may be in the spotlight in the media recently, but these are not new issues, and they're certainly not new issues for me. I think what's different, for me personally, is that I have a seat at the table in helping to resolve those issues. And for that I'm extremely grateful. 


On racism as an economic issue

When we look at systemic racism, the barriers that systemic racism puts in place result in a reduction of financial capacity. They result often in social losses, health discrimination and health losses, mental health challenges. The financial, the health, the social, the mental health, we capture all of that in our economic policy in this province. Racism is an economic issue.


People of colour and those from racialized communities should have the opportunity to thrive and prosper in the same manner or in a similar manner to what has been available — for hundreds, and in certain cases, thousands of years — for those that are not from a racialized community. 


On what connects her varied volunteer commitments 

These are things that are the core of who I am. I was raised with an expectation that volunteerism and giving back is a part of your daily obligation. And I do things in community that resonate with who I am. I am a Black woman. I am a woman of faith. I am an engineer. I have trained in the arts since I was three years old. These are opportunities for leadership that are straight to the core of who I am. 


On her favourite SophieGrace piece 

It’s the Ashley dress in Ivory. It's just not complicated; I don't have time for complicated clothes. I need to know that I can put on a dress, put some shoes in my backpack, get my butt to work, do what I need to do, make whatever decisions I need to make, then come home. And if I need to hit a dinner after, I can do that too. And you can put the dress in the washing machine.


On challenging the rules about what women should or shouldn’t wear

All of those rules about you could wear this and not that — no. I just think that's over. I think those kinds of rules were some of the barriers that prevented women and racialized women from being able to be in a myriad of positions. 


You think about simple things, like as a teenager, I would save makeup for special occasions. I didn't want to use it all up because I had to pay extra to get foundation that was my colour. It’s things like that. A lot of those rules, about how you should wear this and that, for Black women, there’s nothing about our physical appearance that isn’t political, from the day we’re born. Everything about me, particularly in a business setting in Calgary, is political.  Everything I wear, every choice I make with my hair, everything, it is all political. 


Photo Credit - Phil Crozier
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People Doing Cool Shit - Catherine Bell

Posted by Cailynn Klingbeil on

People Doing Cool Shit: Catherine Bell 


This year, we’re going to start regularly profiling our customers. Yes — you! You’re all up to incredible work, and we want to support our SophieGrace community by sharing what you’re doing and why. 


First up is Catherine Bell, founder of The Awakened Company and best-selling author of a business book by the same name. Bell is a serial entrepreneur (she previously co-founded BlueEra) and also serves as an expert panelist with the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of The Corporation and an advisor with IMPACT Society


As if that weren’t enough, she’s also behind The Awakened Project, providing funding to women entrepreneurs. Bell partnered with artist Shakti on a jewelry line, with 50% of profits going towards Momentum’s Micro Loans for Businesses program (learn lots more about that program — including how SophieGrace is also involved — here).


We chatted with Bell about her work, her values, and her favourite SophieGrace piece. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.


Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I really believe that business needs to be done in a new way: in a more feminine way, in a way that puts culture first, culture over profits, in a way that brings humanity back into organizations. And so I felt that the best way to do that was to start my own organizations. 


What does The Awakened Company do?

We help organizations to ignite the fire within, and we do that via playfulness, passion, and purposefulness. We do strategy with soul, we do culture creation, and we host Enneagram workshops.


What drives you to support other women entrepreneurs, through The Awakened Project? 

Basically it’s about turning my anger with male patriarchy into love. I was so angry about how women are treated in organizations. Often in boardrooms, I'd be the only woman, and I really wanted it to be different. I grew up with sisters, I love working with women. I wondered, what can I do, how can I take this anger and morph it into love and morph it into support for other females? It's been great to work with Shakti, and I love working with Momentum, because they help funnel the funds to women getting out of poverty. They're awesome.


You sound pretty busy... what does work life balance look like for you?

Things aren't always in balance. For me, it's about when we think of our lives, how do we create a masterpiece of music, with different notes at different times? So, for example, my sons are getting ready to leave for university probably next year. I could easily be an empty nester and then I'll have a ton more time. I really see it as more like a piece of music, and finding how we can just be present in the moments that we're here.


What drew you to SophieGrace and do you have a favourite piece?

I've known Emma since high school and I've always loved her style. I have a number of SophieGrace pieces; I’ll wear them on my YouTube channel, I wear them a lot for my webinars, and now on a lot of Zoom calls. What I love about them is they're classically elegant, and yet they're super sexy on; they seem to fit all my curves. I find them very practical. I don't have to worry when I put the black Ashley dress on; I can wear it anywhere. The Ashley dress is a favourite, and I’ll often wear it with the Emma vest/dress over it. 


We have to ask, what was Emma’s high school style?

I would always admire her black leather mini skirts. She’s always had this je ne sais quoi when it came to her fashion sense, always admirable. She’s definitely always had a flair. 



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