Friday, April 20, 2012

Serendipity alive and well in Kensington

Serendipity is my philosophy in finding topics for this Queen blog. I usually let the blueprint of life determine what random Queen event happens to enter my field of view at any given moment.

Here’s another great example.

I recently became Facebook friends with another student of mine and I happened to notice that she listed her employer as being ‘Queen Boutique.” Not a big surprise, I suppose, since we in Canada frequently capitalize on our royalty-laden British heritage as a convenient platform for commercial purposes. Even so, I clicked on it to see for myself whether “Queen Boutique” actually embodied the band’s motif in some way.

Clicking on the Facebook link brought up their store’s FB page. Hey, would you look at that . . . a store called Queen Boutique that sells clothes and is located in a neighbourhood called Kensington? Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

After some snooping on the official Queen Boutique website, I came across some Freddie Mercury references, most in the form of quotes that relate back to his fashion sense and outlook on life. Obviously, the store name wasn’t a coincidence.

As I dug deeper, I started to wonder how such a prominent Queen-related store could have eluded my attention for so long. I live within walking distance of Kensington, for heaven’s sake. Oh well, I guess it shows that there’s more going than what first meets the eye.

I’m now curious as to why the store owner(s) used Queen as part of their identity, so I sent my student a quick note asking if her employer would be willing to discuss it with me. With an affirmative answer, I made an appointment to go down to Kensington and meet with store owner and Queen fan Rio Smith.

She, along with her younger sister Cyd Connell and their mother Jo Connell, opened the Calgary store about two-and-a-half years ago. The Queen Boutique, however, goes back six years before that when the three of them opened a seasonal clothing store in Osoyoos, BC to cater to an upscale, summer clientele.

According to Rio, the name ”Queen Boutique” wasn’t originally intended to honour Freddie or the band at all. No loss there because on a semiotic level, the notion of being treated like a princess or a queen would work as well, and the fact that the two words — queen and boutique — have a subtle alliterative quality to their pronunciation, the name does work even without an overt Freddie connotation.

For the Connell clan who are native Calgarians, this meant a few road trips back-and-forth between Osoyoos and Calgary. Thankfully, Rio’s dad cranked Queen’s Greatest Hits for many of those trips. With the band now on her mind, Rio found herself Googling Freddie and came across some of his quotes regarding fashion that she felt “. . . were so exactly what the store was about.” So began the serendipitous connection between Queen and the Queen Boutique.

With a move back to Calgary and a minty-fresh store front location, Rio felt the Freddie-isms needed to go beyond just their website and find a place in their retail environment.

So, she plastered the wall of the store’s back room with these quotations as well as sayings that reflected the “no boundaries” philosophy that Queen was famous for.

At this point, serendipity finds Rio again when she learns that Freddie died in the Kensington area of London. Kensington, as mentioned already, is also the name of the trendy shopping district just outside Calgary’s downtown core where the Queen Boutique calls home.

As well, Rio’s dad is also of English heritage — which may explain at least a passing interest in the music of Queen during the long car rides — and even Rio’s nanny’s name is Queenie (no joking!).

Add to all of this, one of her employee’s teachers comes knocking with a Queen question, thus adding another layer of coincidence.

There’s one more Queen-related item on Rio’s wish list: to get a bunch of old Freddie photos framed and assemble them into a collage on one of the store walls inside her retail space. This is something that would visually tie in the connection between the mission statement of the store and Freddie’s perspective on fashion. Maybe I can help her scope out a few images that would fit the bill.

If you find yourself in the Kensington area of Calgary, I’d recommend stopping in to the Queen Boutique and say hi to Rio and her staff if you can. If you buy something, you’ll even get one of these lovely paper bags as a parting gift:


No comments:

Post a Comment