On February 1, 2016, Lynn Armstrong, walked into the shoe business to create a new retail vision under the name ZÖE, which means "to live." Now about to celebrate a new year, and a new decade, Lynn reflects on the journey of an independent shoe store owner in a global world.
"I have always loved the shopping experience, and I have always loved shoes. I guess you could say I am a collector. With countless pairs in my personal collection, I look at each one as a story in and of itself. I remember where I purchased each pair, and what was happening that day, or what life event I was preparing for. Shoes have always been part of my journey. I wanted to create a space for our guests that would be a reprieve from the outside world and share a piece of the world that few people can see in the amazon market place."
But building a vision is different than participating in a vision, says Armstrong, as she reflects on the journey of ZÖE over the past three years.
"My vision as an independent fashionpreneur was inspired by my daughter, Sara Armstrong, an emerging Canadian designer. I wanted to create a place that would not just sell, but represent the work of artists and designers. Each piece - from Sara Armstrong to Eye of Needle to Nadya Toto and John Fluevog - is a piece of art to be lived in, loved and appreciated."
"I feel strongly about the importance of supporting independent business and design. Each collection that I represent is an entrepreneur working to carve out a space in the "Made in China", sold on Amazon" world. I feel so strongly that I have commited myself and my own resources to building a business that builds businesses and inspires the community - far and wide - to engage in independent design and business."
A tribute to Armstrong's entrepreneurial courage and resilience, she has not only led the inspiration and invention of a new shopping experience in a global world, she has also physically built three stores and moved twice, landing finally in what she calls "the sweet spot" on 1928 12th Avenue, in the heart of downtown Regina's fashion and business district.
"Being in step with the lives of our customers is important to us, and ZÖE has always served the downtown business professional and shopper."
Armstrong's design esthetic for ZÖE is inspired by a feeling of home, not a place, she says.
ZÖE is clad in white from the floor to the ceiling, and features an iconic 10 ft x 12 ft shoe library, stair cases and industrial tube and clamp fixtures, all designed and hand made for the shop. The light shines through the windows casting a warm glow on each piece of art.
"We love the luxury of texture and light and the play on negative space in our design. In addition to our signature staircases, our space features a full wall of glass cabinetry to showcase our collection of shoes, objects and apparel."
"One of my favourite pieces are the hand made hanging baskets, a key part in our design story. The jute baskets are 3 feet wide and 5 feet in length, designed and created by textile artist Danica Kaspar. They are truly works of art and represent well our central mission to create space for independent artists and makers to be seen and grow their businesses."
In 2017, Armstrong launched the online store at www.zoesshoes.com, to increase access for her customers, and to reach new markets of experience seekers. In addition, she fully integrated the social media platform to create even a greater level of convenience for her customers all over the world.
The greatest compliment is when a guest says, "this could be any place in the world." That to me says I have achieved that universal feeling of "home".