Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)
A new Corydon Avenue men’s boutique is re-imagining the Winnipeg shopping experience, thanks in part to one graphic designer’s eye for detail.
Amanda Remond, along with boyfriend Chris Saniuk, owns Normandy, which opened last November and carries upscale menswear, housewares and lifestyle goods. Remond, 22, completed nearly two years of Red River College’s Graphic Design program; she accepted a job offer before graduating, but says her design training is part of what’s helping the store create a buzz.
“I am a designer,” says Remond. “That’s how I identify myself, so everything I do, I try and do it with a certain esthetic.”
Remond describes the store’s style as “high-quality heritage.” As you might expect from a boutique, the clothes are all hand-picked and each item is given the display space it deserves. Favourites include Gitman Vintage shirts ($165 each) and Red Wing boots (ranging from $270-$390 a pair). But it’s not just what’s for sale that counts; the physical shop and its social media presence play a big part in the store’s appeal.
“We just want it to feel like you’re walking into someone’s living room,” says Remond of the shop.
Maybe so, but this isn’t your average living room. With the exposed brick, reclaimed wood, a concrete floor and vintage and mid-century modern furniture, it’s a lot like a trendy Exchange District loft.
While Saniuk renovated the physical space, Remond tailored the store brand. What resulted is a fresh esthetic that’s steeped in history – and reflects Remond’s definition of good design.
“As little design as possible. Something that is simple but still translates a strong message. And is just clean and the bare necessities… Design that makes sense.”
Normandy has two logos – or what Remond describes as “two identities.” The first features a house and was inspired by old French war pins. It appears on the majority of the branded items, such as the store’s web presence and business cards, and was inspired by the region in France that Remond’s father is from.
The second identity is totally different – it features a man’s silhouette with gears for brains, and it’s called ‘Toujours Tournant’ or ‘Always Turning.’ This was one of the store names the couple originally considered and the design adorns Normandy’s front window.
Remond also handles the store’s web presence in the form of a website, Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
“I do all the Instagramming and I think that having a really good looking feed helps people register what the store looks like. I’ve used a clean, modern esthetic for most of our pictures on Instagram, and it carries through to the design as well.”
Remond says the classes she took at RRC have helped her market the shop.
“The Red River College classes that weren’t so design-based – the advertising class, the marketing – those really helped me to understand how to reach people. Not just through design but through brand awareness, brand loyalty. We do carry a lot of different brands, but people are more loyal to the Normandy brand, which is nice.”
That Normandy brand is helping the shop get noticed by clothing company representatives, such as the rep from Red Wing boots, who recently contacted the couple to see if they would carry the Minnesota-based brand.
“He said, ‘I’ve been coming to Winnipeg and looking for a store to carry it, but nothing really fit the esthetic until I saw your store,’” Remond explains. “We wanted to carry them anyway so it was like the cherry on top of opening a store.”
Although some might scoff at shelling out that much for the products carried in Normandy, Remond believes it’s worth it.
“We believe in quality. We don’t want to be another high-turnover boutique of low-quality goods because that’s not what we want for Winnipeg. We want to show guys that they can invest in key pieces in their wardrobe. And then not have to re-buy stuff all the time because it’s falling apart.”
That attention to detail and quality means the couple is constantly searching for clothing lines and accessories to carry.
“We’re still kind of looking for the perfect stuff to bring in. We’re always contacting brands and reaching out to different people. We try to focus on people who don’t outsource production, where everything is handmade.”
This social consciousness is represented not only in the products carried, but the couple’s approach to business.
“We love being here. We love meeting everybody. We call ourselves a modern general store, so it is going back to the corner store where you know everybody.”