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Wenches & Rogues - Pioneers in the Canadian Fashion Industry

When Newfoundlander Jane Mifflin opened her first Wenches & Rogues clothing store in St. John's, few would have predicted the national success that followed.

Wenches & Rogues was born when Jane Mifflin realized there was nobody else who cared enough about Canadian designers to feature them in their stores. In fact, Canadian designs were merely considered "stock" by most retailers. Mifflin set out to change that. She believes in buying Canadian, and promoting Canadian. Eighty to ninety percent of the designs featured in her store are Canadian designed, Canadian made.

"There was one line, Comrags, that . . . [our] little store in Newfoundland ended up being their biggest wholesale customer in Canada," said Mifflin proudly.

If this sounds like a feat, it is. Mifflin has single-handedly turned the Canadian fashion scene on its ear. Her active participation and promotion in all aspects of fashion, from retail to consultation on campus curriculum to designing her own ad campaigns, has earned her a distinctive place in the fashion domain. So much so that in 1996, just three months after opening her first store in Toronto, she was named City of Toronto Fashion Retailer of the Year.
Jane Mifflin and Claire Miller
of Wenches & Rogues

Mifflin's drive and determination were evident in the very event that led to her involvement in the fashion industry. When she was fifteen, Mifflin lied about her age in order to get a job at Giant Mart, then located in Churchill Square. It led to a series of part-time jobs in the industry and eventually to a full-time career. After graduating from Dalhousie University, she headed to the heart of the Canadian fashion industry - Toronto. There she worked for various retail outlets including Harry Rosen, Robin Kay and Le Chateau , rising through the ranks from salesperson to manager to opening over twenty stores for her various employers.

It was this extensive experience that gave her a solid background to springboard to the success of her own stores.

With a small amount of savings, she rented a small location on Water Street in St. John's. Friends and family helped her to open this little goldmine. To begin, she bought as cheaply as possible, saving the money from the sales to put back into the store. She bought cut-rate seat sale airline tickets for her purchasing trips. Scrimping and saving paid off, and in just two years, she had saved enough to open a second store, this time in Toronto's Little Italy. In an unusual twist in the business world, it was actually the Newfoundland location that financed the operation of the Toronto store.

In 1998, the St. John's store moved from its original location of 800 square feet to a 2,200 square foot location across the street, effectively giving Mifflin another store. In a carefully planned expansion, yet another location was added in June of 1999 on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto.

A great support of fashion features widely on Mifflin's agenda. That is why Mifflin was not satisfied to merely open her stores and enjoy their success. She envisioned the entire Canadian fashion scene as a cohesive network, working together to promote Canadian talent and goods across the country. And that is just what she did. In the great Newfoundland tradition, she invited one and all, from designers and fashion school faculty to retailers and press, to a get-to-know-you party in Toronto. She was banking on the curiosity factor to draw them all in. It was a resounding success. This move garnered Mifflin much respect in the fashion community.

Bringing everyone together is only part of Mifflin's overall plan. She has a social conscience that puts many in the industry to shame. Not only does she stock primarily Canadian-made goods - no slave labour here - but she is also an active volunteer with Toronto's Fashion Incubator, a non-profit organization that supplies locations and equipment to up-and-coming designers who could not otherwise afford to produce their designs.

As Mifflin puts it, the Incubator is "a fabulous nurturing ground for young designers." Her work with these designers has led to her appointment as volunteer president of the Fashion Incubator board, a post Mifflin relishes.

Jane is continuing to make her mark in the Canadian fashion scene. In February 2001, she received another award for Industry Achievement as Image Builder at the 2000 City of Toronto Awards for Excellence in Fashion. Past recipients include Jeanne Becker of Fashion Television, Phillip Ing of Fashion Cares, and Frank Toscan of MAC.

"The most important thing to me is that I get up every morning and I love every single minute of what I do. Sometimes it's frustrating and sometimes it's scary, but there's not one minute that I don't think that I can do it, or that I'm not looking forward."

Note: Wenches & Rogues' is staffed by Newfoundlanders in all three locations. They provide awesome service along with a good chat about home. Drop by one of the three locations when you have a chance!

St. John's - 179 Water Street, (709) 739-7373
Toronto - 605 College Street, (416) 536-9593
Toronto - 110 Yorkville Avenue, (416) 920-8959

Main excerpts courtesy of ANNE TILLER of the MUSE.
% break; case "seamus": %>Canada’s Hot New Newfoundland Host - Seamus O’Regan
Academic. Political Junkie. TV talk show host. Ranter and Roarer. St. John’s native Seamus O’Regan is a poster boy for Newfoundland talent.

In December 1999, MacLean’s magazine named Seamus as one of the 100 young Canadians to watch in the next century, noting that his resume reads like a road map to political office. After graduating with a political science degree from St. Francis Xavier University in 1992, Seamus spent three years as executive assistant to provincial Minister of Justice Edward Roberts. Wishing to experience life abroad, he headed to Ireland with a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study at the University College of Dublin where he received a degree in Irish studies (and an unofficial degree in Guinness at the local pubs).

His love for Newfoundland politics lured Seamus back to the Rock in 1996 where he took a position for two years as Policy and Planning Advisor to then Premier Brian Tobin . Not one to stay still (some might call him a blue arse fly), he decided to return to academia, this time to Cambridge University in England to obtain a Masters in Philosophy. He wrote his dissertation on the impact of large economic developments on the Labrador Innu, an issue important to Seamus, who spent 14 years growing up in Goose Bay, Labrador.

Newfoundlanders Abroad in NYC.
We know snow and this aint' it!"
The summer of 1999 found Seamus studying French at the Sorbonne , and then working at INSEAD , the international MBA school outside Paris, where he researched marketing and branding strategies of major corporations. In May 2000, Seamus was back on the Rock with no agenda. A Newfoundland friend working in the broadcast industry informed him of auditions for a new talk show being developed by CTV. She thought Seamus would be perfect for a hosting job, given his eclectic background and love of lively discussions. CTV agreed, and relocated Seamus to Toronto to host CTV’s “The Chatroom.” Currently broadcasting live Monday to Friday for six hours each night, The Chatroom invites everyone from newsmakers to ordinary folks into the studio to discuss current events, politics, pop culture trends, fashion, entertainment, the digital world and life issues from sex to stress.

Although he spends his days hobnobbing with the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Leslie Nielson and Sarah Polley and makes regular appearances on Canada AM, Seamus remains true to his Newfoundland roots. He ensures Newfoundland topics are covered in The Chatroom, including check-in broadcasts with NTV and repeat visits to www.newfoundlandsnow.ca . Newfoundland performers Kim Stockwood and Shaun Majunder often pop in for a visit and Minister of Industry Brian Tobin has offered his opinions on a variety of topics. Even Seamus’ wardrobe has a Newfoundland connection. He is outfitted by Wenches & Rogues, a fashion boutique in St. John’s and Toronto owned by fellow Newfoundlander Jane Mifflin. A diehard Newfoundlander, Seamus exudes passion for his province and may well become a Newfoundland icon in Canada. Catch Seamus on CTV’s The Chatroom LIVE Monday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST on digital TV or log onto www.talktv.ca to find out more information about the show.

Newfoundlanders Abroad profiles will be updated monthly, starting July 15, 2001. If you know about an interesting Newfoundlander living abroad, let me know.
E-mail the name, e-mail address and phone number, along with a brief description of the recommended Newfoundlander.