By Morri Mostow
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD, KNOWLTON, April 4, 2001
Roofs may still sag under piles of snow but last Friday Hurricane Grace blew into Knowlton, bringing a load of summery fashions. No, not a real hurricane. Hurricane Grace is Knowlton’s newest designer clothing boutique. Its women’s wear features clean, classic lines, designed entirely by co-owner and fashion model Jodi Mallinson
The relaxed holiday feel in this airy uncluttered boutique is no accident. It has been carefully crafted by Jodi’s husband and business partner, Nils, who spent months gutting and renovating the former premises of Rowland Antiques. Now, light streams through the two large bay windows onto creamy yellow walls, exposed rough ceiling beams and a newly laid pine plank floor, painted with large pale-blue checks to echo the boutique’s blue-gingham theme. A vase of yellow tulips adorns the old-style cash counter. A cozy seating area around a low pine table invites shoppers to linger and chat.
It’s the perfect setting to showcase Jodi’s new spring/summer collection of women’s clothing and a smaller line of girls’ dresses (age 2 to 10). Her collection of casual skirts, shirts, shorts, trousers and dresses uses comfortable stretch poplins, rayons and cotton/polyester blends – fabrics that travel well and don’t wrinkle. Colours range from solid neutrals (beige, khaki green and navy) to discreet checks and florals. She designs for women from 16 to 60, in sizes from 4 to 16.
“We’re not trying to be trendy,” explains Jodi. “We want our customers to feel fashionable over many seasons. If they like a particular shirt, for example, they can count on finding something very similar to it again at the store next season.” Prices offer excellent value: T-shirts range from $12 to $25; shirts, $38 to $45; trousers, $59 to $69.
Jodi’s specialty is dresses. Like fine lithographs, she produces them in limited editions, with a maximum of 25 in any colour. Each dress bears a numbered Hurricane Grace Limited Edition label. Dresses, priced from $70 to $150, range from bare, strappy sun frocks to elegant sleeveless silk shifts in monochrome jewel-like shades. It took mere minutes for a prospective bridesmaid on a scouting mission to settle on these shimmering silk gowns, in the full-length model, for an entire wedding party.
Jodi and Nils, both
in their 30s, are no strangers to Knowlton. Six years ago, they opened their
first clothing boutique, which they named Grace, in honour of the 1991
hurricane that initiated their romance. (Both high-fashion models at the time,
they met at photo shoot in
So last year they closed up shop. With their
two-year-old son Jakob, they spent six months in
Serendipity has played a big role for Jodi and Nils. Born and raised in
For a while, Jodi lived in
A few years later, she and Nils
decided to settle in
To help them draft their business plan and get
financing for Hurricane Grace, Jodi and Nils turned
to the CLD, the local business development centre in Cowansville.
Despite an excellent business plan and a retail track record, none of the local
banks was willing to finance their new start-up venture. “See us again in three
years” was the typical response. Undaunted, Jodi and Nils
invested thousands of their own money in computerized machinery in order to
create their patterns and samples in-house, and set to work designing their
first season’s line. But this is just the start. From their base in Knowlton,
they fully intend to grow: within 10 years, they plan to have stores in the
we expand our production, we will need more and more resources,” says Nils. “We hope to create local jobs by subcontracting all
our work to companies and individuals here in the Townships. We’d like to
attract people from
Now, that’s a fair breeze blowing in the right direction!
Editor’s note: Hurricane Grace closed its doors several years ago, and Nils and Jodi have gone their separate ways. Nils is pursuing his first love, photography. Jodi Mallinson continues to model and design her own unique line of women’s and girls’ summer togs and cruise wear under her Agnes & Grace label.