By Helen Siwak
Harriet Guadagnuolo is thrilled. Having started her career in fashion while still in the womb, seeing her first love—Blubird—move to its spacious new location on Alberni Street next to iconic Versace and Saint Laurent, marks a day of intense satisfaction. This moment has been a decade in the making for her and her mother, Catherine.
“It’s been ten years since we opened our first store, and it’s really nice to see an independent retailer like ourselves situated – and, holding its own – among these highend global luxury brands,” says Catherine Guadagnuolo, President and Founder of Vestis Fashion Group.
The family-owned boutique opened its first location in 2008 and quickly developed a loyal following of teens and young women who enjoyed the glitter and bedazzling of early Juicy Couture and urban-inspired streetwear labels. Over the years, Blubird has matured alongside its customer, and in its current incarnation is a stylish fashion destination for women in their 20’s to 40’s and beyond. The Blubird woman is polished and confident, enjoys having a bit of fashion fun, and always seeks high-quality pieces that are unique yet affordable.
While Harriet was (literally) growing into the position of Product Development, Catherine was expanding the company to include a pair of Blubird’s (Alberni Street, Oakridge Centre), and licenses for respected brands Max Mara, Weekend Max Mara, and in 2014 welcomed Italian fine fashion jewellery brand Pomellato to the portfolio. Known as the Vestis Fashion Group, the mother-daughter team oversees the operations of ten retail stores, with Harriet leading seasonal buying trips to New York City, Los Angeles, Milan, and Paris to ensure they continue to cater to a market that finds Blubird’s selection irresistible.
The 2,200-square-foot Blubird store at 1108 Alberni Street offers a full shopping experience where, Harriet explains, “Our clients come to have outfits curated.” Blubird does not employ ‘sales associates’ but ‘instore style experts’ who work with every guest in a collaborative process to elevate and inspire a personal sense of uniqueness.
The original Blubird was easily missed, stranded on the eastern end of Alberni between Tiffany and Co. and CIBC banking—but once you found it—odds were more likely than not you would be returning. The selection of garments, accessories, and footwear was always fresh, innovative, and exciting for those raised in the mall and weaned on Robson Street.
A move one block west brings new upscale neighbours which include Italian apparel and lifestyle brand Moncler, cashmere king Brunello Cucinelli, the iconic and irrepressible Prada, and the always bustling Urban Fare.
With floor to ceiling glass windows inviting-in walk-by traffic, the boutique has high ceilings, a spacious layout and the modern decor and design. In the centre a gilded bird-cage ceiling fixture dangles over a canary yellow lounge chair, fixtures are brass, mirroring abounds, and the floor, walls, and furniture are soft neutrals which keep the eye drawn to the colours and patterns of the clothing. Brands include some of the hottest designers and labels like Zimmerman, Tibi, Frame Denim, Opening Ceremony, Vince, and the classics’ Red Valentino and M Missoni.
For fall/winter trends, Harriet, in her infinite fashion wisdom, says “we will see a modern twist on suiting with a nod towards 1980’s empowered tailoring…a lot of dynamic, clean- cut blazers with unexpected twists… in wool and cashmere…in rich neutral tones like camel and tobacco.”
As for the next ten years? Harriet’s enthusiasm is evident as she exclaims “I can’t wait to see where Blubird goes next! We’ve come a long way and have evolved in many ways, but at the bottom line we are dedicated to serving our loyal clients who have enjoyed the ride with us.”