One of the best ways to celebrate International Women’s Day (Sunday, March 8) is to honour women’s achievements and support female makers and entrepreneurs. At Square One, it’s easy to make your hard-earned dollars count by shopping at Canadian companies or purchasing products created by courageous and inspiring women. Whether you’re searching for swimwear or your next novel, here are six ways to show support and satisfy your retail therapy needs.
Swimsuit shopping can actually be enjoyable. Yes, really. And it starts with the idea that every body is beautiful. This is one of the guiding principles at Swimco, a retailer with humble beginnings—more precisely founder Corinne Forseth’s basement (her daughter Lori Bacon is now Swimco’s CEO). Since the 1970s, Swimco has expanded nation-wide, and the company’s Fit Experts have earned a reputation for welcoming women of all shapes and sizes. This flattering tankini from Vineyasa is available up to size 20.
Looking for an insightful read? Add Shut Up You’re Pretty by Scarborough’s Téa Mutonji to your list. In her debut story collection, Mutonji chronicles the life of Loli, a young Black woman, from the ages of six to 26. With sensitivity and humour, Mutonji examines issues of female identity while exploring her Congolese heritage (she immigrated to Canada as a child). Shut Up You’re Pretty is the first book published by VS. Books, an imprint committed to featuring work by emerging Indigenous and Black writers. Available at Indigo.
Catherine Lavoie, who hails from Quebec City, quit her corporate design job to pursue her own art full-time. The courageous move clearly paid off for the artist, whose recent collaboration with Simons (her former employer!) reflects her unique ability to portray even the simplest everyday objects in a cool, graphic way. Working from her at-home studio, Lavoie combines unexpected colours and shapes to create prints that are totally modern and gallery-wall ready. For her partnership with Simons, Lavoie also designed home goods like this Cubist-inspired portrait pillow, which is the perfect way to perk up your bedroom. Available at Simons.
Arvinda’s, located in The Food District, is all about fantastic flavours and family ties. Co-founder Preena Chauhan learned all about Indian cuisine and mixing spices from her mother Arvinda, the company’s namesake. The mother-daughter team first taught cooking classes together, and eventually packaged marsalas (spice blends) to sell at Toronto’s Asian Food Expo in 2015. The rest, as they say, is history. In addition to pre-packaged spices, you’ll also find a fully stocked Chai Bar at Arvinda’s boutique. Cozy up to a steaming cup of classic Cardamom Masala Chai (made according to the family’s recipe) or try one of the other flavours on offer, like Gingery Masala Chai (pictured).
The story behind SoYoung, a Canadian line of sophisticated lunch bags, is truly inspirational. Founder Catherine Choi conquered addiction to become a successful entrepreneur, and she shares her experience in hopes that she will inspire other women to take steps, however small, towards self-improvement. According to Choi, packing a lunch (in a reusable bag!) is something that can have a lasting impact on one’s health and finances, as well as the environment. The modern Linen Block Lunch Poche is designed to be fashionable and functional (it has a removable insert for easy cleaning)—and it’s a serious upgrade from the humble brown bag. Available at Indigo.
At Catalyst & Co., dainty sterling silver jewellery (without the hefty price tag) is the specialty. Founder Samantha White is passionate about design and photography, and her entrepreneurial spirit compelled her to create a company of her own. White enlisted an all-female studio in Bali, Indonesia to handcraft Catalyst & Co.’s silver pieces (except for the bracelets, which are handmade in Milton, Ontario). Meaningful gemstone pieces, like the “Cecelia” ring are extremely popular. International Women’s Day seems like the perfect occasion to wear moonstone, which represents femininity and intuition.