COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives. In this new series, we explore the way businesses, services, organizations, and other groups are adapting to restrictions. It’s a celebration of innovation, promotion for small businesses, and a service to our readers. Got a pivot story to tell? Email email@example.com
The Pivot: Twiss & Weber, a women’s clothing shop selling locally made clothing and jewellery, will close its retail space on Sussex Drive on October 24 and sell exclusively through its online shop. Virtual consultations are available, as are one-on-one appointment at the designers’ home, where COVID-19 safety measures are in place. The shop at 443 Sussex remains open until October 24.
The Backstory: “I always wanted representation on Sussex Drive,” says Laura Twiss of Twiss & Weber. She’s talking to me via video chat on the day that her and partner Tonia Weber announced the closure of their ByWard Market boutique. Previously headquartered in Wellington West, the pair moved shop in July 2019 and designed the space with a roaring ’20s vibe: pink walls, gold details. It was open for just nine months before the pandemic changed everything. “It was exciting. C’est la vie,” she says in the classic it’s-going-to-be-alright tone that distinguishes their brand.
Since March she’s been “mourning” the change they knew was coming to retail. “When you’re used to putting out fires, collaborating, working with people creatively, and doing a good job a it, and then all of a sudden nothing. Like many, it was really hard for me to adjust.” For the past few months, Laura and Tonia have been operating the store by appointment only, fitting in passersby when possible. After their last day at 443 Sussex on October 24, they will move their stock to Laura’s Hintonburg home and operate exclusively through private shopping consultations, with plenty of space and hand sanitizer to keep the experience safe.
Laura and Tonia are also thinking about pop-ups but that’s all TBD for now. That’s the thing about the adapting: it’s constant. With every regulation and case spike there are changes to navigate.
“What Covid is doing is bringing us, and other entrepreneurs, is back to the beginnings,” explains Laura. “A lot of business owners have had to move to a skeleton staff and are doing most of the work themselves because they can’t afford to employ others. I’m seeing that a lot, and it’s hard. When you’re ten, 15, 20 years into being a business owner and you’re basically washing dishes again. In some cases you’re just not cut out for it. It’s not that the passion isn’t there, but the energy has been redirected. As we get older, our energies change.”
What’s not changing is their commitment to sustainability. As they hone their brand in reaction to COVID-19, they will push the sustainability envelop further. For example, Laura is frustrated at the lack of a fabric industry in Canada. “We have been running a very sustainable business, but we couldn’t get fabric from Canada. In order to be more sustainable in that aspect we’re going to have to hard look at that.” She’s not sure how it will play out, but she hints that she’s inspired by the maker movement, as well as their original tag line “take command of your style”.
Regarding their current and upcoming designs, not much has changed their, either, though Laura is watching for ways pandemic lifestyles might affect styles. Simple necklines and jackets, especially given this strange fall weather, are a focus, as is ‘walking wear’. For dropping and picking up the kids from school, and for any outing, really. “It’s important to get outside,” she says, “and now is a really great opportunity to dress up for those walks.” She walks to her boutique on Sussex from her Hintonburg home, and a highlight is the end stretch, when she walks through Major’s Hill Park. She’s noticed the paths aren’t for the cut-through, late-for-work types. They are for the perambulators, those who walk to think (and to see and be seen). “It’s so beautiful. These pathways were built specifically for looking and being seen. I wonder if maybe we’ll regress to a place where we were walking to be seen, and that was our social time.”
Follow Twiss & Weber on Instagram for updates on their appointment bookings and other plans.