Style at a bend in the road

One of late summer's highlights: an overnight train trip to a small Ontario town three hours' train ride from Montréal, to visit a longtime friend, Susan C.

Mother and daughter

She and her husband moved from Toronto four years ago, same time I did, to Brighton, a town (population about 10,000) near her birthplace, Belleville. They found a bucolic estate so sizeable that she has her own lake, in which we swam with her boxer, Lucy. We joined her legendary 93-year-old mother Kay's regular Monday evening salon ("the men are at Rotary") on the porch of her art-filled family cottage at the edge of Lake Ontario. We hailed a sister and a passel of nieces and nephews; family was a big reason for Susan and Brian's return.

Susan's country life has made her bloom like her rose garden. Admiring her colour sense, I recalled a Passage post about stylish living in the country—but was in for a surprise when she and I did a spot of shopping on Brighton's Main Street.

Now, I live in Montréal, which I consider one of the epicentres for distinctively dressed women. Call me city-centric, but I never expected a Brighton boutique could offer much for me. Ha!

Susan, standing outside one of her favourite resources, The Clan Shoppe (reminding us, Brighton is historically deep Ontario United Empire Loyalist country):

Exuberant colour!
Above, you see her joie de vivre in lemon and azure (worn with white jeans), and platinum blonde hair, which was serendipitously achieved via an application of Color Oops, after disenchantment with medium blonde.

Louise
The Clan Shoppe's owner, Louise, is one chic cookie. She and her sales assistant Patricia effortlessly create the mood you hope for in a boutique (but rarely find when staffed by only-my-day-job types): knowledgable but not pushy, forthright yet respectful of your preferences, relaxed yet professional.

Two hours slipped by; we left feeling buoyed, not bedraggled like in city department stores. When you live amid nature's palette, whether verdant forest or cutting garden, an unleavened palette of navy/black/grey enervates, at least till the snow flies.

With a festive fall ahead, Susan is considering this Joseph Ribcoff red asymmetrical top:


I bought a blurry-floral 3/4 sleeve top and the washable modal scarf in Louise's hands, Front Row Society's "Iris Garden" scarf,  with its colours of the "moors and gardens of cold Scottish winter sunsets".  The price was about $US 50, a damn sight better than the $350 tags on some so-hip sites. (Front Row Society promise to have their e-shop up soon; stockists include Nordstrom.)

The Berlin-based company invites artists around the world to submit designs based on specific themes. Anyone can vote via FRS' Facebook page; the winners of each competition have their work produced as scarves. 

Printed cashmere

Some FRS sacrves are modal, others modal/cashmere, and at the pinnacle of purr, cashmere. (Shown above, "Mariposa" 100% cashmere shawl.)

Not a barn jacket!
The boutique does not carry expensive clothes compared to some of Montréal's outré offerings, but they are treated as if they were. Louise balances edgy items—dramatic capes, the faux Mongolian lamb coat above, an interesting long sapphire long dress I'd wear in Paris—with stacks of basics and shapewear. When a merchant has vision, passion and an eye for what customers want, she can beat the jeans off a mass retailer who must show a corporate "program" that looks incoherent.

We wedged many other delights into just over twenty-four hours: homemade scones and tomato soup, reminiscences drawn from our over thirty-year friendship, lively discussion from politics to lipstick;  I don't think I was silent for more than five seconds, except for sleeping!

Susan's closet, built by an extremely organized couple, has several tiers of these jewelry drawers; making do with several rows of recycled chocolate boxes, I was jealous!

Susan's jewelry drawer

I'm looking forward to another visit one day. You have to love a town that has a real barber pole—it's just the way things were left.

Shave and a haircut?

Do you have a friend a short trip away? I heartily recommend an overnight or weekend visit, and then you can receive her, later, in your neighbourhood!

8 comments

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend!
Your scarf looks pretty I'd like to see how you style it...I love the description of that shop and the ladies who run it.
Tomato soup and scones have been on our menu too!

une femme said...

How wonderful to find a boutique like that; I think they are truly rare these days. (Babette's boutique in Tish's little village outside Paris was one of those.) Lovely scarf, and I imagine it will work with so many colors. I'll keep an eye out for that scarf brand at Nordstrom!

Susan said...

What a special shop you have described. And, your new scarf is lovely and looks like it will be very easy to wear.

Kirsten Giving said...

What a warm and cozy time you must have had with your friend and her family. Your descriptions were all so beautiful. And, to find such a wonderful shop must have been pure delight.
We recently visited long-time friends (who moved 300 miles closer to us) and spent four days with them, doing many fun things (the guys played golf) while she and I went to the best Farmer's market I've ever visited. The produce and flowers were spectacular and raised on local family farms. (Made for some great meals!)
Another morning we enjoyed a walk through an art and craft fair, along the harbor area, where I bought a box of beautiful and artistic handmade cards. She and I discussed the merits of a lot of the art. Though a retired scientist, she is now very much into art, taking an advanced printing course and excelling at this new endeavor.
"Down" time included chats about such things as computers (LOL but it evolved into my buying a new computer) as well as watching the full moon rising and the sun setting over the ocean from two sides of their deck.
Yes, it is fun to get away to visit with dear friends. Thanks for sharing your pleasures!

Mardel said...

It looks like you had a lovely weekend and found a small gem of a shop that can only exist because of a vision and a sense of a particular place. They exist. I've known a few, never where I would expect them.

Laurene Winkler said...

Susan est forkidable et incroyable. Une belle ami in any language

Laurene Winkler said...

Scusi. Formidable. !!! 🐎

diverchic said...

So thrilled to see this blog post! I am glad you had a good time, as I did also.

I went back to The Clan Shoppe with Mum and she vetoed the red top. "Wrong red!" she said. But she raved about some Joseph Ribkoff black pants and black shell I tried on, so I bought them.

Thanks for making the journey to my country paradise.