brian towie/metro toronto
Boa’s in-house stylist, Lindsay Duncan, stands between sisters Ofra, left, and Daphne Nissani. The sisters started the fashion-forward store in 2001.
It’s a day of anticipation here for three debutantes working in a colourful southeast Toronto boutique. The beginning of the spring line has just arrived, and they’re looking to stay ahead of the seasonal trend with striped electric blue blouses, chunky jewelry and garden-patterned dresses.
Meeting and beating the curve has always been the mandate of Boa’s proprietors Daphne and Ofra Nissani, and their in-house stylist Lindsay Duncan. From $140 silk dresses to $10 accessories, the twin sisters have been peddling fashion-forward items for young women at sensible prices since April 2001. They’ve been successful enough to open another store (one in the Beach and another in north Toronto).
Of course like most businesses, the achievements didn’t come easy. The Nissanis, 30, struggled financially to get the project off the ground.
“When we opened our first store it was very tough to do,” Ofra says. “As two young entrepreneurs there aren’t too many people who want to support you, including the government.”
“We had a good healthy credit personally, so we applied to financial institutions for personal lines of credit, and that helped us out. We collected them and got enough money to start the store,” Daphne adds. “It took several years before we finally turned a profit, so we really worked at it. And now we have two locations.”
An investment in hard work yielded two things for the sisters, a strong sense of what’s à la mode for their target buyers and how to deal with people.
“We realized that fashion buying isn’t necessarily about buying stuff that you like for yourself, it’s about buying for other people,” Daphne says. “It also taught us how to deal with people in business. You learn to deal with every different type of person in every different way.”
Not only is this a skill-developing venture, the Seneca College grads say (Daphne in International Business, Ofra in Marketing) but it’s fulfilling too.
“What do we get out of it? One, it’s a source of income, obviously,” Ofra says. “Two, because I don’t always have to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and three, I like the clothes we bring in. I like to turn it around on people and show them how to wear it.”
How do they “turn it around on people?” Enter Duncan. The model-turned-stylist is working with the girls to start what she calls “Flip-O fashion indexing,” a new service she offers through the store that takes inventory of your clothes, and then determines an “outfit bible” guide for your entire personal wardrobe. Starting with dressing her dad for high-powered business meetings, she based her idea on kids’ flip books.
“It started with me drawing him a flow chart using key wardrobe pieces as the base circles and then linking them with other pieces,” Duncan says. “We can help you. Trends are not cheap, but they can be if you recycle them and reuse them.”
For more on Boa and contact information for fashion indexing visit www.theboaroom.com.
Daphne: If you want your jeans to be sexy, always buy them one size smaller. They'll stretch out.
Ofra: Don't be afraid of colour, make it work for you.
Lindsay: If you have a limited budget, spend a little bit of money on big, loud accessories. They won't go out of fashion quickly.