THERE'S BEEN a lot of recent attention paid to the stores that have opened in the West End, but new boutiques are creeping up in neighborhoods across the city. On NE Alberta, the latest get is Abrahams & Duffy, a joint affair started by longtime friends Marissa Rodriguez and Daisy Grattan, both of whom arrived in the world of retail as a second career. Grattan's background is as a bartender, painter, and handbag designer, and Rodriguez worked extensively in restaurants. As young mothers looking for something to fulfill their own tastes, they've gained a shop full of easy-wearing soft cotton pieces and wicked cool jewelry, adding a nice counterpoint to the other clothing boutiques that dot the dense end of the NE Alberta strip.
Although Rodriguez and Grattan do their best to avoid crossover with other boutiques' merchandise, their strategy is less about filling a perceived void than it is catering to women like themselves, who want something stylish and flexible enough to put on at 7 am, and not have to change before cocktail hour. Socially and environmentally responsible practices in apparel production are also key to their selection process. One can peruse the racks of Abrahams & Duffy confident that each item has been vetted, from the materials (domestic in origin and of minimal toxicity, please) to the construction (made in the US in small batches preferred). While many people who share these values eschew synthetics, Rodriguez says they don't shut out polyesters, instead supporting the new generation of conscientious polys that are made using vegetable products.
Where does all this selectivity lead them? To breezy pieces from Elroy, a line expressly committed to green materials and produced in collaboration with a family-run sewing cooperative in Indonesia, where designer Leanne McElroy is able to access and customize a greater range of organic materials than in the US, where there tends to be a lack of variety—the pineapple silk dress currently in stock is especially worth a gander. Drapey, casual jersey pieces from Lanston as well as their dressier Krisa line swing on the racks next to local line Amelia, and Canadian lines like Betina Lou, WE3, and Allison Wonderland are also represented. The jewelry selection boasts lines that favor found and vintage materials, like Maslo Jewelry and Laura Lombardi, with the only immediately recognizable line being locals Stone and Honey.
Rodriguez and Grattan's venture is an honest reflection of their tastes and values—the ultimate fantasy in store curation, and the kind of shop that makes exploring as a shopper endlessly fascinating. Unlike many stores that supplement their revenue and broaden their customer base with online shopping, Abrahams & Duffy are only accessible by foot (a venture in e-commerce may be somewhere down the road, as well as in menswear). A self-described "neo-Luddite," Rodriguez says simply, "We feel like we need to get really good at this first." Abrahams & Duffy, 2215 NE Alberta