Busy, busy fall

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As the summer comes to a close, we’re busy, busy, busy in both my businesses, preparing for the season’s changes.  Dexter, my almost seven year old son, is going back to school planning his birthday, and we’ve had one last weekend at our friend’s cottage as it’s officially September!

With September comes the seasonal what to wear dilemma!  It’s cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon.  Evenings are chilly and we want to look put-together and feel great.

Lately I’ve been relying on our fabulous store staff to be my personal shoppers.  The say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it seems it takes a staff to keep this busy lady looking polished and great everyday!

Our store staff are fashion experts – they know my style, my shape as well as what I like.  When I plan to come by, they pre-stock the changeroom for me.  It makes shopping a breeze, and often I try things I wouldn’t normally try, and I’m pleasantly surprised.  When accessories that come in that help me get more looks out of the pieces I have, they send me a snapshot and ask if I’d like it held to pick up when I come by next.

I feel like a pampered VIP and you know what, you can too!

This personalized service is available to any customers who ask.  Our staff is thrilled to be able to select things and suggest them just for you.  Our business is all about matching up the wonderful pieces we carry with the fabulous ladies who may not have the time in their great and busy lives to spend a lot of time shopping.

For fall, I’m stocking up on the great cardis, wraps and accessories we’re receiving every day.  This is an easy way to transition my summer dresses to fall while the weather is still warm, and I can layer and unlayer as needed throughout the day.


Paper People Clothing - Transition sweater

Here’s my fall transition, based around my summer Address Apparel Richmond wrap dress (now $90.00), and Miz Mooz Cherry shoes (now $75.00). Add Yvonne Cardigan from Paper People Clothing in Burgundy ($149.00), a new Mat and Nat Alter Vintage bag ($150) and new shoes; Miz Mooz Sundown (now $93.00), and you’re ready for fall!

Joe and Aimee at Fresh Collective Roncesvalles suggested this for me, and I think they made a fabulous choice.  Don’t you?  This cardi will go with so many dresses and skirts I already own, and be that perfect versatile layering piece.  In fact, I might need to pick up a couple more colours!



Love Letter from Laura-Jean: Four Simple Questions

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I’ve been on a mission to better myself as a business leader, including taking a lot of development courses. What these courses have opened up for me was much more than I expected. In every area of my life – business and personal – the same themes play out. I stop myself in the same ways from creating what I say I want in my life.

I’ll share with you one little exercise I’ve been doing that you can take on if you really want access to having everything work in your life. Continue reading

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: A Summer of Having it All

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This summer I’m taking on a new challenge in having it all.  My son Dexter is going into Grade 2 in the fall and he wanted to have a free and easy summer with no camps or babysitter.  He has the whole rest of his life to adhere to schedules and get places on time, so I’m going to do my best to make this work for him.

Part of the reason I wanted to have my own business back in 1994 was to have the flexibility to spend time with kids when I had them. 19 years later, I have one almost seven year-old kid and a solid schedule of meetings, planning, documents to complete, 71 emails in my inbox and reports to compile… and I have this blog post to complete which has been on my list for six days now!


So here’s what I’m doing today; I grabbed a sheet to sit on, my cell phone, my laptop and Dexter and I headed to the park.  He’s practicing riding his bike and I am set up in the shade to write about wearing Fresh Collective clothing for all your summer outdoor activities.  How perfect could that be for what I’m up to today?!  I’m out at a park, writing a blog post for work, while my son plays and I’m wearing the Andrea Drape Dress from Rita Di Cesare, comfortable and casual “Chaste Skimmer” Hush Puppies flats and earrings from iMonique.


Two sentences into this post, we had a slight hitch in the plan as the daycare kids came outside and needed a place to do their parachute play.  No problem!  I grabbed my office (my sheet), my purse and laptop, slipped on my Hush Puppies and Dex and I relocated.


Tonight we’re having friends over to our backyard.  This outfit will do just fine for that too, and for the bike trip to the wine store and grocery store I’ll need to do after this to prepare.PhotoGrid_1372796679364

I bet as you’re reading this you’re thinking “Your life doesn’t sound much different than mine – you’re here and there, juggling work, fun and family.”  IT’S TRUE! I’m A Fresh Collective customer, so we have a lot in common (hey, what a surprise!) and we both live full lives, really pursuing having it ALL in life.

Today I had a dream day.  A morning at my office with my team, an afternoon working and seeing my son master bike riding skills, errands and then tonight, hanging with friends… And, I did it all looking pretty darn awesome and polished, head to toe in product from our shops.


I love that our shops can help outfit you for your dream days this summer and beyond.  Our dresses are there when you’re dating or working; starting a new career or closing a chapter.  Today I had it all – I really had it all – and as I put off this blog post just another few minutes to run alongside Dex on his bike encouraging him as he was still wobbly and just starting to gain confidence, I just really felt grateful and happy to have this summer to enjoy with him.

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: Celebrating Ten Years of Fresh Collective

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Hello lovely community!

This year marks our tenth year and from what I hear around the office, the marketing team is planning some kind of big celebration! I’m going to sit back, relax and enjoy what they prepare right along with you!

It’s pretty cool to look back and see that we’ve made it through ten years and grown. When I look back at who I was when I started Fresh Collective in 2003, I see an idealistic and passionate young woman who wanted to create something amazing for the community and for designers. I wanted to show the world how awesome Toronto designers are and bring these great fashions to the wonderful women who were looking for something different that would make them feel great. I knew that fashion meant something more to me, and to others. I just couldn’t quite put it into words, but there was a passion that just drove me forward.

Laura-Jean "the Knitting Queen" circa 1996

Laura-Jean “the Knitting Queen” circa 1996

As I sit here in 2013, I spend a lot more time looking forward. I see that I am even more idealistic now. My passion for fashion and business has become stronger and more refined. I’m just so damn excited about the future of Fresh Collective!

I see fashion as a fun art form we can practice every day. It’s a way to feel great and tell the world what we’re all about. It’s a daily form of self-expression that just can’t be beat. I love the way fashion makes me feel, gives me a role to play and creates who I am in the world.

I also feel that the art of fashion is a gift to our communities. When a woman shows up looking put together, colourful, joyful, inspiring or just plain old cute, it brightens people’s day. To me, looking great and feeling amazing is access to confidence and inspiration. Helping women find that daily in our stores is what we’re all about. When women feel great and know they look good, they spread joy everywhere they go. They get up to big things – like getting promotions, falling in love, starting businesses and having exciting and new conversations with their partners, friends and kids.
To me, Fresh Collective is my contribution to filling the world with joy and inspiration, and the people who join the team and who shop with us, seem to get that about Fresh Collective. Our business is not just a “job” to any of our employees. It’s not just “a store” to our loyal customers. It’s a movement to make the world a more inspired place.

I am thinking bigger, bigger, bigger and I’m ready to lead this company to more, more, more! I see how it will benefit everyone who has joined our community – customers, designers, superfans, employees, friends and families. I feel I owe it to you all and to the city of Toronto that I love so much, to really make this business all it can be.
As we transitioned from a co-op-like organization to a corporation with 10 employees, I started to see more possibilities for how we could grow and fulfill our mission. Things that I resisted years ago – structure, planning, policies and procedures – I see now as the ticket to freedom to grow, prosper, innovate, and produce excellence. I once thought those things robbed me of creativity and spontaneity. I see now they are the things that free us to have unbridled creativity, do great work and succeed.

There is no nobility in having a poorly run, sloppy and poverty stricken business, and so what my team and I are committed to for the future is excellence for our people – our designers, our staff and our customers, and by extension our families, friends and future investors.

2012 was the year I let go of the idea that this was still “my small business”. We have grown beyond that, and to support that growth, I created a decision making board to ensure that any change in the business was sure to be supported by all areas. We also partnered with a CFO with experience in international business and financial planning, and he is working with us to create an exciting financial plan to build our future on.

Our next ten years look amazing. We have fantastic people on board who really believe in our company and vision, and we’re putting everything in place we need to grow.

My commitment to all of you who have helped us come this far is that I will be a stand for excellence and awesomeness in our business so that our next ten years will contribute tons more fun, joy and inspiration to your lives through fashion.

xoxoxoxo LJ

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: Unleashing Your Inner Pin-Up Girl

love letter copy copyThis month, we’re having a lot of fun unleashing our inner pin-up girls!  We’ve been talking a lot behind the scenes about just how to go about choosing models for our marketing.  Professional models pose and emote beautifully, and we’ve used them in the past.  But in the end, I end up feeling, “Who are they to us and our customers?”

Our business is about so much more than pretty dresses.  It’s about women feeling confident, powerful, self-expressed and yes – pretty and sexy too!  It’s about a celebration of life and all that it offers us in relationships, love, creativity and beauty.

For this spring photo shoot, we chose models from our own community who we thought represented our mission of  being beautiful and amazing, inside and out. They are women who are living the Fresh Collective lifestyle; creating amazing lives for themselves and the people around them.

Dress: Brenda Beddome, Shoes: Hush Puppies (Coming Soon!)

Dress: Brenda Beddome, Shoes: Hush Puppies (Coming Soon!)

Of course – with the theme being “Pin-up Girl” – I was the first in line.  I am a mom, an entrepreneur, 43 years old (I still can’t quite believe I’m a grown up!) and loving life more with each passing year!  I love being a woman and I am continually working on being a great leader in my business, community and family.  I am committed to making the world a better place.

Kat Shura looking great in a Melow top and Brenda Beddome pants.

Kat Shura looking great in a Melow top and Brenda Beddome pants.

We also asked Kat Shura, the designer of Curious Oddities jewellery who has been working with us for several years.  She joined us when her business was in it’s early days and we have watched her (and the business) grow in leaps and bounds.  Kat is a person I feel blessed to know;  as an entrepreneur she is driven, committed and just making it happen. As a friend, she is caring, thoughtful and present. She’s a real inspiration in so many ways.

Kathryn Barlow looks ravishing in a Michelle Carey dress and shoes by Hush Puppies

Kathryn Barlow looks ravishing in a Michelle Carey dress and shoes by Hush Puppies

Kathryn Barlow is another awesome woman from our Fresh Collective community.  She’s been designing our website and most of our graphics for several years.  I think she may have been heaven sent, as she was shopping in the store one day years ago and overheard me saying my web designer had disappeared on me and I wasn’t sure what to do.  She popped out from behind a jewellery case saying “I do websites!” and we made a plan to meet.  She is the easiest person to work with, always getting things done more beautifully than I expected and on time.  She’s just a dream girl, and cute to boot!

The lovely Emilia in a Paper People Clothing dress with Hush Puppies shoes.

The lovely Emilia in a Paper People Clothing dress with Hush Puppies shoes.

Emilia Farrace is a new friend who is also an entrepreneur.  She’s the owner of Simply Elaborate Creative Agency and I’ve come to know her as a woman of integrity and commitment, with a bubbly energy and contagious smile.  She also is working on a personal project – The Empowerment Initiative – to make the world a better place by providing mentors from the business community to teens.

I am blessed.  I look around me and I’m inspired by the women I know and all that they are up to in life.  I have amazing friends, fantastic neighbours and awesome colleagues.  We have a large community of designers at Fresh Collective who have taken the brave steps of running their own businesses and a wide variety of customers who are doing incredible things with their lives.

So this month we’re celebrating womanhood and having a bit of flirty fun with inviting all the inspiring and amazing women in Toronto to unleash their inner pin-up girl!

As always, we LOVE your feedback on everything we do.  What kind of campaigns would you like to see from us in the future?  Do these photos inspire you to unleash your inner pin-up girl and have a little fun with fashion this spring?  Please email us at media@freshcollective.com. We’d love to hear from you!



Fresh Collective Spring: Pinup Style

A couple of weeks ago we had some of our friends over to Fresh Collective HQ for a some photos and fun. The gals had a blast posing in some of our stunning spring arrivals!

Here are some of the stunning results (find more on the Fresh Collective Facebook page)!

ef 01Emilia Farrace of Simply Elaborate Creative Agency in a bold patterned dress from Michelle Carey (paired with Hush Puppies peep-toes and jewellery from Curious Oddities)


kb 01Our gorgeous web designer Kathryn looks super cute in this Michelle Carey party dress (paired with Hush Puppies)

ks 01Kat Shura, the brains (and beauty) behind jewellery line Curious Oddities let out her inner bombshell in this Brenda Beddome dress.

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Of course it wouldn’t be a pinup shoot without our fearless leader Laura-Jean, who struck a perfect pose in this Annie 50 dress (paired with shoes from Hush Puppies and jewellery from Curious Oddities).

All of these great spring looks are available at Fresh Collective NOW! Swing by and snag your perfect spring wardrobe !

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: Getting to know YOU

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At Fresh Collective we are all about YOU!

To us, YOU are the most fascinating creature alive, and we are ready to listen to whatever you have to tell us. You, our customer base, are AMAZING!

We really get that you are the coolest women in Toronto, and we just want to know more! We know you’re individualists. You may or may not be concerned with trends, but you love to look current, polished and cool. You have busy lives (not unlike us who work here and design the products!) and so you need versatile and comfortable clothes and accessories and you also want to look awesome and feel like your outer self reflects your inner self.

We are embarking on a project of growth for Fresh Collective, growing to several locations in Toronto (and then going beyond!) and we’re asking for your support. Our vision is that Fresh Collective revolutionizes the fashion industry in North America and that Toronto is the center of that.

What’s going on now in the fashion industry at large is that a lot of women are left not feeling good about their options or how the fashion industry makes us feel about ourselves. There’s a lot of concern about “fast fashion” – the cheap trendy pieces that go out of style fast – and what it does for the environment. There’s also concern about working conditions in factories. Alongside this, there are well known stats of how often small businesses fail. I believe a lot of people WANT to shop local, and then just find they don’t get what they want so it’s easy to go for a cheaper or more convenient option. This disenchantment is a factor in a lot of these business failures. Customers don’t get what they want and business owners are afraid to really ask, for fear they will hear something they don’t want to hear. The way things are going, local businesses close every day.

If we let things play out as they usually do, many of the smaller independent designers we work with will decide to go out of business. I’ve seen many, many do just that over the ten years we’ve been running Fresh Collective; eventually Fresh Collective would go out of business. I would retire, or get too old to keep going and it would all wind down. That’s just the usual way.

In the face of all this, I see something different for our future. I see Fresh Collective growing to many, many locations, each selling a wonderful mix of independent designers work; each a hub of creativity and beauty in the neighbourhoods. Each store is staffed by committed, passionate and fun store staff who know the customers by name, help them get exactly what they want and help them feel transformed, beautiful and self expressed every day.

We see a future where Fashion Grads can build a career in starting their own line, being creative and fulfilled and getting the the support they need to connect with customers in our shops. We see a future where communities are vibrant and full of character, where Fresh Collective locations can thrive all over Toronto with more and more local designers growing and succeeding with us. We see Fresh Collective providing a model for other small businesses to grow and thrive and maintain their character, and Toronto being a better place for lots of reasons because of what we create together. I see Fresh Collective outliving me, as we are working to build a solid business structure that can live on into the future for ALL the people- staff, designers and customers, who have made it what it is.

We are asking for your involvement to make this happen. We just want to know all about you so we can meet your needs better and you can shop with us more often!

What do you want from us? What do you love about us? What frustrates you about us? What can we do to make you happy? Tell us about your jobs, your kids, your lives and give us the clues to make sure Fresh Collective is exactly what you want!

Know that in taking the time to do this, you’re really part of a fashion revolution, a small business revolution and you’re very much part of shaping the future.

I’m really serious when we say we’re here to listen, and each survey will get a personal answer from me. Thank you very much in advance for your time. We couldn’t do it without you!

xo – Laura-Jean



Fresh Events: Colour Your Spring!

Join us this Thursday, February 28th from 7:30-9:30pm as we open up our Queen Street store for a night of fun, fabulous fashion and set you up to leap into Spring head first!

Receive a complimentary consultation with our amazing Style Coaches and learn what colours work for you, which shapes are the most flattering for your figure, and how to make them work together!

Our Style Coaches for the evening... Laura-Jean Bernhardson and Kelly Kan!

Our Style Coaches for the evening… Laura-Jean Bernhardson and Kelly Kan!

It’s time to add classic essentials and funky modern twists to your wardrobe. Our boutique is bursting at the seams with fantastic new Spring collections. At this workshop our Style Coaches work with attendees to help you:

  • Dress for success at work and brush up on professional but personalized attire
  • Learn how to build a versatile wardrobe without over-stuffing your closet
  • Find the right shapes and cuts to show off and play up that amazing figure of yours, curves, no curves, and everything else!

Bring your friends, and show up ready for a fun evening with our top-notch stylists and get ready for all the amazing things spring has to offer!

Bonus: Win a blouse from designer Monikova!

One lucky attendee will walk away with a brand new Monikova blouse!

One lucky attendee will walk away with a brand new Monikova blouse!

This Fresh, Fun Fabulous event is also our opportunity to preview the new Spring 2013 line from MONIKOVA! You’ll have a chance to shop the collection (and the entire store) before and after the  styling session.

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Click the button above to check out the event on Meetup and secure your spot! See you Thursday!

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: All You Need is Love

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Hello lovers!  Lovers of fashion, lovers of life, lovers of people and the wonder of everything that is great in the world!

If I sound like I’ve gone off the deep end, maybe I have, and it’s pretty awesome here!  I’m working on a project in my business that’s very close to my heart- the construction of an official company culture.

I started this project with individual coffee meetings with each member of the FC staff, and asked them what they want in a company.  I got a lot of great ideas and it fit with most of what I’ve been seeing and feeling is there all along.  Now it’s time to make it all official and iron out some of the kinks.

The biggest theme that’s there is LOVE!  People want to LOVE their job and the people they work with.  They want harmony, creativity and teamwork; innovation, advancement, growth and prosperity.  They want to LOVE the customers (and with our client base, that’s easy!) and they want the customers to LOVE them.

People don’t always put it in exactly those words though.  It can be scary to admit.  If we offer love and are rejected, it hurts and we recoil and protect ourselves next time (and often forever more!).  If we ask for love and it’s not delivered, it hurts, and we learn not to ask again.  Humans just tend to do that.

Another thing I see is that love is not always an easy path.  We have life to deal with.  And what I’m committed is building a company culture with enough love in it that we can weather the tough spots, be straight with each other and support each other in living out our dreams.

One of our store leaders told me about a small retail business she worked for a few years back that recently closed.  She told me the staff saw flaws in the way it was run, and as she listed them I listened, and nodded and felt bad for everyone involved.  Small businesses going bankrupt is a pretty ordinary fact of life.

Two days later I emailed her to say that I was now horrified that in that conversation I acted like it was normal.  What I saw is that we can create a different world- an extraordinary one that doesn’t need to have this happen.  There was some kind of breakdown (one that seem to happen too often when things fall apart) where the staff thought things should be different but didn’t feel powerful enough to talk to the owners of the store, or they tried and the owners didn’t listen – who knows exactly what happened.  The customers also may not have complained, or requested what changes they wanted.

And in the end everyone loses; jobs lost, a business bankrupt and a community less vibrant.

Something ordinary played out.  And it will again tomorrow in another small business.  And the next day and the next.

What I’m committed to building into the culture at Fresh Collective is a love and a listening that will allow us all to avoid the fate of most small businesses.  Together we’re building an extraordinary company; one where we love each other enough to voice concerns and listen to them. One where we take action to build a future together that includes growth and prosperity for Fresh Collective and the designers we work with.  And we’ll do that through just being awesome for our customers and being easy for you to love.

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I LOVE my amazing and passionate co-workers who challenge themselves everyday to bring us all excellent work.  I LOVE the brave and creative designer/entreprenuers who choose to work with us to showcase their products and build their businesses with us.

And I LOVE YOU, dear customers.  You have stuck with us through growing pains and changes and loved us enough to continue to shop with us, to request new things as your needs change and to complain when we let you down.

We are a united, ambitious and powerful team, taking a stance to love our careers, love our company, love the designers and love the Canadian fashion industry.  And we’re using that love to fuel our work in bringing YOU joy and inspiration every day.
So tell us, how are we doing so far?
With love and from the bottom of my heart,
Laura-Jean on behalf of the whole Fresh Collective Team
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FC Events: Finance and Business Panel

Join us for a Q+A Panel discussion on entrepreneurship, business and finance. Our host Shannon Simmons will lead the discussion with Laura-Jean Bernhardson (Fresh Collective), Yasmine Louis (designer and entrepreneur), Brenda Beddome (designer and entrepreneur), and Michelle Carey (designer and entrepreneur), through their ups and downs in business and how they prepared their finances for the next evolution of their businesses.

Shannon Simmons - Suit: Brenda Beddome, Necklace: Sugar Rush

Shannon Simmons – Suit: Brenda Beddome, Necklace: Sugar Rush

The evening will start with a networking mix and mingle while we sign in, then a panel discussion lead by Shannon Simmons. After the discussion we’ll have a Q and A from the audience, which we’ll close with another networking opportunity. After the event we’ll also offer an exclusive personal shopping opportunity with our staff and Laura-Jean and provide all guests the chance to take advantage of some amazing discounts!


To keep track of our upcoming events check out our new EVENTS CALENDAR!