Ella (Kelly Lawson)

ELLA: Unconventional Saint John Shop Sells Out Local Artist

It’s not everyday that a local artist gets to transition into the role of a fashion designer but Christiana Myers, a fine arts graduate from Mount Allison University got the opportunity to do just that with Saint John fashion entrepreneur Kelly Lawson.

Lawson, who is known for creating the popular fashion app, ELLA, and an accompanying storefront under the same name, was immediately taken by Myers’ designs when she first discovered them in the most convenient of places, “I actually stumbled across Christiana’s work on the ELLA app. She had posted a few pieces that she had left over. I took one glance at what she created for the backroad ball, and I immediately contacted her to see if she would do more for us to sell out of the shop.”

The Shop, which just opened late September, is an unconventional idea to begin with. It serves in many ways as a bonus feature of the app by providing individuals looking to sell their gently used fashion items with a place to meet with potential buyers and eliminating the need for parking lot encounters, giving more security to the buyer beware market of second hand sales.

Lawson, however, is now also using the space to provide Canadian designers with opportunities to sell their own designs to a broader marker, “Yes, our shop is a meeting place for women who are selling things from their closets via our app, but we also carry a whole boutique full of new clothing items. Predominately Canadian designers and Canadian produced fashion. We are not a consignment shop. I repeat we are not at consignment shop. Instead, that is an industry that we are trying to disrupt, by enabling women to sell their own things between each other before the item even leaves their closets. Technology has made it very easy to do that. Also, having a boutique full of Canadian designers made way for a very easy addition of featuring local artists by way of clothing.”

ELLA! Not the app, but the store! (Kelly Lawson)
ELLA! Not the app, but the store! (Kelly Lawson)

And with that, the combination of meeting place and boutique has opened the doors for Lawson to collaborate with artists like Myers to bring a unique product to the market, “Working with Christiana was a huge success. It was the first time we’ve tried something like this; taking a local artist’s work and selling it in clothing form. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.” Lawson couldn’t be more correct, not only did the Spellbound Collection sell out in under two hours, it garnered enough attention to build a sizeable pre-order list and will be seen on individuals from across Canada and even in parts of the United Kingdom.

Artist Christina Myers (Kelly Lawson)
Artist Christiana Myers (Kelly Lawson)

The Spellbound series was initially conceived as a series of t-shirts and stickers for the first Backroad Ball, an all women’s motorcycle campout held in Penobsquis. Myers says, “I wanted to find a way to express my new-found motorcycle love by getting creative and the fact that other ladies were digging it was the icing on the cake. The shirts and undies are sourced from an awesome company in LA who only sell ethically made products and the designs are my illustrations that I then silkscreen in my basement studio. It is my hope that, bike or no bike, each piece will bring out the badass witch in any woman who puts it on.

“I think there’s some really interesting ties between witch imagery and female empowerment and then I also wanted to bring in a little good ol east coast vibe with the sea witch and the beer cozies.”

The success of the collection has sparked excitement in the area and has prompted Lawson to try and make Myers’ designs available online until Friday so that individuals are still able to purchase items from the collections even though they are no longer available in the brick and mortar location.

Artwork by Christiana Myers (Kelly Lawson)
Artwork by Christiana Myers (Kelly Lawson)

The outcome of what started as a fashion experiment has been encouraging for Lawson, “I definitely would like to be doing more of this… We are already thinking up ideas for our next clothing collection, the graphic designer screening silk scarves, a local poet with wanted tease, and many more great ideas that incorporate photography and local art on clothing.”

As for an exclusive fashion line? That might not be in the cards right now but the unconventional app and store is on to look out for it’s next “wearable art” opportunity.