02 Oct 2019

Time 6 minutes

#gensduvieux portrait: Anne de Shalla, passionate entrepreneur and fashion pioneer of Old-Montréal

#gensduvieux portrait: Anne de Shalla, passionate entrepreneur and fashion pioneer of Old-Montréal

Today, we are meeting up with Anne de Shalla, event planner and unmistakable figure in the Québec fashion scene, for the 50th running and 25th anniversary of the Grande Braderie de Mode at Bonsecours Market. We held a casual discussion with this businesswoman and creative, who threw her hat into the ring and made the Vieux shine.

Fun for the public, and a breath of fresh air for designers

The Braderie is a windfall of big deals that buyers love, but it is also a chance for designers to connect with their clientele. Anne poses the fact that “Fashion changes all the time, and designers just adapt accordingly.” She then reinforces the fact that the Braderie is a great event where everyone comes out a winner: “Those who come here will save money, because they know that they will find quality products at amazing prices. And for designers, this is an efficient way to sell their products without having to deal with deadlines and complicated orders like they would if they were doing business with a store.”

Today, though there are certainly regulars among the participating designers, some decide not to come back and others enter fresh to the market, and the Braderie benefits from these changes. “We have around 15% new participants to each running,” explains the director. “But of course, this 50th is very special for us! We’re rolling out the red carpet for our customers, with many more surprises to discover!”

Tips and tricks to get the most out of your visit

”On our Facebook page, we are offering the ‘perfect shopper’ kit,” Anne de Shalla shares with us. And with her experience with the numerous past events, we trust that she has the perfect Braderie-going method down pat! “First, bring a bottle of water and a bag to hold your purchases! We also recommend wearing a comfortable outfit, like leggings and running shoes, that will be easy to take off and put back on – that’s important. A little camisole underneath your sweatshirt is essential for trying on tops without having to line up at the fitting booths,” she explains. “Also, you can look up the brands and designers that may interest you beforehand, but you should also leave yourself the opportunity for surprise!”

Don’t forget to look at the stickers, too. The ingenious colour-coded system allows you to quickly and easily see if the clothing item was designed or created in Québec, Canada, or elsewhere. And last but not least, Anne’s final tip is to come before everyone else. “We are offering a VIP evening on the night before opening to the public. It’s the perfect time to shop in an exclusive setting, benefit from seeing items before everyone else, and you will be contributing to a good cause, too!”

Anne de Shalla, Braderie planner

“I remember the first time, I was on rue Prince, where Cité du Multimédia is now. “We were just a small group. I was creator and in charge of distribution. We had the idea of bringing our clients to us, so we put our machines to the test, and we received a hundred people,” Anne de Shalla reminisces. Today, she is head of a boutique open year-round at Bonsecours Market, owner of Braderie, and fashion creator.

“After that, I gained rights to the Braderie and rethought everything, because that’s what designers like to do,” Anne explains. It was her specifically who had the idea to move the fashion gathering to the Bonsecours market. “For me, it was obvious, but it really was a pioneering move. There was no one there; until 1997, there were only two businesses!” Ever since, the confirmed success made Braderie popular and several venues offered to host the next one at their place. “Never!” Anne would go on to exclaim. “The Old-Montréal setting is very important, and it’s part of the whole experience. And then, it’s a Braderie, a fashion sale. Not a showroom, or a flea market. Here, designers are classified according to if they are manufacturers or more on the ready-to-wear side, and if they are women’s or men’s wear, but there are no stands or kiosks.”

A tailored event that keeps branching out

Strong off its success in Montréal, Braderie now has two other locations, in Gatineau and in Québec. For Anne de Shalla, it was an evolution that she didn’t expect at the outset, but one that she has taken on to answer customer demand. “Over time, we noticed that we had customers outside of Montréal, and we also noticed that the crowds were different and that certain designers participating in the three Braderies would be more successful in one city than the others we’re in.”

The success is surprising to no one; Braderie is a bonanza for both clients paying a good price, and designers who are easily running through their stock. “I never thought that Braderie would become something of an institution, but I’m very happy with it. What’s surprising too, is Braderie online, which is also undergoing rapid growth,” the businesswoman explains.

Anne de Shalla, creative spirit and good business sense

How can one succeed in business when they are a more artistic person? Anne smiles at this question and says, “The recurrent aspect of the sales making for a regular schedule, and the different editions and cities have all led me to be more creative in what I do in the fashion world too! In fact, I think that’s what’s important. I’ve found that being in business requires you to be creative, and that’s what I love!” Far from being disconnected from the fashion world as a designer herself, Anne de Shalla has developed a line of shawls, scarfs, and kimonos.

The fashion world may seem difficult to enter, but Anne puts it in relative terms: “If your goal is to open your shop and develop your brand, it’s possible. You have to believe in yourself, and surround yourself with the right people. On the other hand, if your goal is to conquer the world, that is going to take you more money and partners with strong financial backing,” she laughs. For the rest, succeeding in fashion depends on multiple factors. Anne insists that, “Clothing is a way of expressing yourself, a social code. You must keep that in mind and make sure that whatever you create is both beautiful and comfortable. Clothing is a second skin that can give us confidence in ourselves, and that’s how it should be thought of.”

A close-knit relationship with her adopted home

Between France, Québec, and even Senegal, where her father was a geographical engineer when she was born, Anne knew very early that she did not want to stay in her European birthplace. Her family’s extended vacations outside the country, notably to Africa, were her first taste of freedom, and she knew she never wanted to give that up. “I wanted to leave for Canada or Australia. I met some Canadians, came to Québec on vacation in 1974, and then came back in 1975 to settle down,” Anne relates.

According to the businesswoman, Québec society is fertile ground for one to settle and launch a company. “As a woman and entrepreneur, it’s pretty close to the Promised Land! There is much more equality than in France, and people trust you here,” she analyses. Nothing is handed to you however, and even she had to work to make her mark. Coming from the outside in brings a lot of advantages, but also brings about some hardships. Even still, Anne mentions: “Québec has changed a lot, and for the better.”