It seems more often than not, great ideas are born out of casual conversations between friends. Such was the case for Aynsley Wintrip Harris and Christine Carlton, former Western University roommates and friends for over 20 years, who conceived the idea for online shoe retailer the September during a discussion about the lack of online designer shopping destinations in Canada. The e-commerce site launched last September and offers Canadian women a tasteful selection of shoes—both from well-known and up-and-coming designers.
The realm of online retail was a natural progression for the duo, who bring a wealth of expertise to their venture: Carlton worked for Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew for 17 years, including a stint as vice-president of the company’s accessories divisions. She also continues to contribute on the board of directors for Town Shoes. Wintrip Harris was formerly the head of corporate communications at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and was with the company for 10 years.
Their combined business-savvy has in turn built a retail enterprise that offers all the benefits of online shopping in one’s home country: free shipping, free returns, no duty tax. Carlton and Wintrip Harris pull recognizable designer brands such as Valentino, Tabitha Simmons, Brian Atwood, and Michael Kors, but also encourage Canadian shoppers to take a chance on some new soles, championing lesser-known designers including Colombian-born Edgardo Osorio of Aquazzura and British-born Paul Andrew.
“Edgardo is special to the both of us. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with him personally when we go to market,” says Wintrip Harris. “We have highlighted him wherever we can because it’s been a popular brand for us and interesting in that he isn’t a household name yet, but we feel that he will be. We are always looking for new and interesting brands that we think Canadian women will appreciate.”
“Similar is Paul Andrew,” adds Carlton. “We believe he will be the next big name. His shoes are beautifully crafted, made in the best Italian factories, and they have an incredible design history. Every season his product is better and better. He spends a lot of time on fit.”
Carlton and Wintrip Harris see flats as a big trend for the spring/summer season. “We have beautiful espadrilles that Tabitha Simmons has presented with Peruvian silk. Espadrilles from Marc by Marc Jacobs with embroidered characters. The Valentino Rockstud ballerina is a classic and you can dress it up,” says Carlton. “Flats are very versatile now. Whether corporate and casual, you get the comfort factor, which everyone loves.”
When spring weather finally hits the Great White North, Carlton is looking forward to slipping on Tabitha Simmons Alexa pointy toe leather flats. “It’s a beautiful spectator shoe and a tailored flat,” she says. Wintrip Harris, however, has her sights set high, with Aquazzura’s Sexy Thing. “It’s a great sexy bootie with cut-outs, which will look great with a tan, and it ties at the back,” she says. “It looks amazing from every angle. Or the Beverly Hills sandal, which has a hit of colour, texture, and height.”
Intent on inspiring Canadian women beyond their wardrobes, the pair have also injected a bit of soul into the site with a selection of style profiles. “The idea is to create a community of stylish Canadian women that other women can be inspired by and learn from. Fashion sense is obviously an element of the stories we tell, but we want to get into their lifestyle,” says Wintrip Harris. “It’s a window into someone else’s world.”