Notable Interview: Jennifer Allyson and Denby Royal of Calgary’s Wonderland Vintage

What do you get when you combine a love of travel, business savvy and stellar fashion sense? You get Wonderland Vintage YYC, a creative venture between two gals who have an eye for vintage finds and all things whimsical. Jennifer Allyson and Denby Royal collectively spent several years overseas absorbing the fashion and culture of Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. Now that they’re both back in Calgary, they’re using their keen eye for fashion to bring us one of-a-kind vintage collections that fit all shapes and sizes. Notable recently took a trip down the rabbit hole to learn a little bit more about Wonderland Vintage YYC’s collections.

When did you start your business?
We started dreaming of Wonderland Vintage in early winter of 2012. Maybe it was the snow and cold weather that had us already missing colourful summer fashion. Either way, Wonderland organically grew over the course of a few months.

Describe your job in a nutshell.
A Wonderland Vintage collection is developed through many hours of planning, sourcing, luck, and creativity. First, we select a ‘theme’ that we want the collection to encompass, be it a fabric, era, mood, or culture that we use for inspiration; we want all of the pieces within each collection to flow together. We also aim for each vintage and secondhand clothing collection to have a modern twist, and we are very specific about the pieces we source as a result. For example, our first collection – The Royal Collection – was inspired by the La Belle Époque and characterized by the Edwardian style. We looked for signature elements (ruffles, frills, laces, and ribbons; corset-inspired accessories; high collar regal blouses, etc.) and aimed for all the pieces we sourced to have a modern feel to them. We also aimed to source clothing of all shapes and sizes, as we don’t feel there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to fashion. In the end we were particularly pleased with the reception we received from the pieces acquired for our first collection.  

Why did you start your business? What was the inspiration?  
We have a shared excitement for traveling and fashion – that is the glue the holds Wonderland Vintage together. We wanted to do something that would seamlessly blend these two passions together. 

Our story goes something like this: We both have spent a great deal of our lives travelling. For example, Denby Royal spent three years living in France and Italy. During this time, she discovered her own unique sense of fashion and flare and brought this back to Canada when she moved to Calgary to work as a stylist. Jennifer Allyson also spent seven years traveling or living in various countries: Europe, S.E. Asia, South America and Australia. Her passion for vintage and second hand clothing was discovered when living in Sydney’s Inner West, where she acquired some of her best-loved pieces. 

Traveling for us symbolizes the thrill of adventure, the ability to escape from day-to-day life and explore one’s unique passions. That is why we also chose the name Wonderland, our experiences we came across traveling were akin to the story of Alice in Wonderland.  We aim to tell our travel stories through the clothes we acquire on our adventures – an adventurous trait we share with other women who enjoy the line.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
This project is a passion project, so we love everything about it including the more challenging parts – whether this be starting a fashion collection from the ground up, or trying to promote the importance of sustainability through vintage and second hand clothing pieces. But when you truly love what you are doing, the challenges seem less daunting when the end result will be something that you’ve put your heart into.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
The beauty of Wonderland Vintage is that it allows us to work, create and draw inspiration anywhere on the globe, and as a passion project it is reflective of where we’ve been to date and our current inspirations. So it will definitely be dependent on where our own paths take us personally and professionally. However, our vision is that we want to continue to promote the importance of sustainable fashion through our collections. We do this by promoting local vintage and second hand clothing stores in Calgary. Currently, our line is being sold through Rewind Consignment, a local second hand store in Calgary. 

What does success look like to you?
A world where each and every women, of any age or size, feels beautiful in vintage or second hand clothing.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The launch of our first collection has to be our favourite moment; everything seemed to fall so perfectly into place, despite obstacles such as the flooding in June 2013. Rewind Consignment, the location of our first launch, was damaged by the flooding in Southern Alberta and a week before our launch they had to move into a temporary location to re-open their store. Up until a day before the launch, we were still arranging all the details of this temporary location and putting together all the pieces. But like we said, things seemed to fall into place wonderfully for us, and Rewind seems to be doing great at their temporary “pop-up” location on 1st Street and 14th Avenue SW.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Do what feels right, and employ your creativity and drive into everything that you do. This project was obviously an entrepreneurial venture, and as part of that spirit it was definitely a risk we took that is working in our favour. That’s just part of being an entrepreneur; you have to take risks and learn from your trials.

What is notable to you?
Notable to us is the hard work and dedication it takes to achieve social change within our city. For us our social change purpose is defined as: sustainability, fashion, femininity, and travel.   

Blackberry, iPhone, Android or Other?
iPhone and Android. 

How do you keep active, energetic and vibrant?
We focus on healthy living – whether this is yoga, running, weight lifting or eating organically and locally. However, most importantly, we value time sharing laughter and stories with friends we’ve gained on our trips down the rabbit hole.

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