We Want To Know: Rena Rutkauskas of Smithery
Smithery is an online style boutique based on the principles of personal shopping, helping women identify their body shape and offering a curated collection of stylish pieces to flatter that shape. I met co-founder Rena Rutkauskas many years ago while we were both students in the Interior Decorating program at George Brown College, and I'm proud to have watched her professional evolution since then. I knew we were kindred spirits since the first day of our History of Furniture course when the instructor asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves and share their favourite furniture style – Rena's response: she wants to live in a Jonathan Adler showroom. A woman after my own heart! Her keen eye for interior style was equally matched by her brilliant fashion sense, and I knew then that this was someone to watch. It is now my pleasure to introduce you to Rena and Smithery.
Rena may have received her certification in interior decorating (a passion of hers), but her professional background is in advertising. She worked at john st. advertising agency in account services, managing major brands from President's Choice, to Winners and Tetley. This is where she would meet Mavis Huntley, her future business partner and co-founder of Smithery, who ran the integrated production department at the agency. The two connected on a style level, not because of their shared interests in fashion, but rather because they were opposites who attracted. Mavis wanted to express her style but didn't know where to start; she hated shopping, and considered herself fashion challenged. She would end up buying entire outfits as displayed on the mannequin because she could visualize how it looked on the body, but it didn't represent her body. Rena loved all things fashion and was happy to give Mavis style advice, providing her with 'top 10' lists of items for specific occasions that she could refer to while shopping, like what to buy to wear to meetings as one example. These were the very early seeds that between them would spark the idea for creating Smithery.
Rena and Mavis recognize that dressing for your shape isn't a new idea (in fact, it's a stylist's number one rule!), but they wanted to revolutionize this concept by bringing it to modern day online shopping. Rena immersed herself further into fashion, returning to George Brown to take fashion styling courses, observing what other retailers were doing, and researching as much as she could about the fashion industry. One study revealed that women were far more likely to buy a item of clothing if they saw it modelled on their body type, and another that only 1 in 10 women even knew what their body shape was. Rena and Mavis saw an opportunity to democratize the art of personal styling, and Smithery is the result of their search to find the intersection of personal styling and the retailer. Their online boutique offers an easy measuring guide and Shape Finder to determine what your body shape is, resulting in an assigned letter: X, H, A, V or O. Their lettered Shape Profiles are a more approachable designation than the unflattering fruit-shaped labels more commonly assigned to women. All items on the Smithery site include the letter (or letters) to identify which body shape(s) those pieces are best suited for, making shopping for flattering pieces that much easier. The “models” shown in the pictures are not professional models at all, they are everyday women representing a range of body types so that buyers can get a more accurate view of how pieces will look for that designated letter body shape. They also provide the height, weight, and measurements for each model as well as the measurements for every item in every size.
Smithery has made it easy for everyone to determine their shape, but for those who would like further guidance or a more personal styling experience, Rena and Mavis opened a studio space in October 2016 in downtown Toronto's fashion district (how fitting!), where customers can be measured by Smithery's style experts and shop directly from racks of clothing that include Canadian labels such as Gentle Fawn, Pink Martini, I Love Tyler Madison (support local!), rounded out with a curated selection of globally recognized brands. The studio is also a great place to host a Sip & Click party! It's a fun event where you get your girlfriends together for a night of shopping and champagne – Smithery will provide the bubbly and take measurements, and you and your friends can have fun while you shop.
Rena's creativity to drive her business forward extends beyond fashion and Smithery uses their new studio space to bring in guest experts to host workshops. A recent workshop, hosted by fashion & lifestyle blogger Jackie Goldhar of Something About That, was a hands-on session that taught attendees the art of creating the perfect flatlay. One of the women who modelled clothes for their site will be hosting an upcoming workshop on hair-braiding. And, back by popular demand, they have added two additional sessions on creating a capsule wardrobe – February 25th and March 9th.
I've been fortunate to know Rena and have enjoyed “watching her star rise” (an expression she made to me a couple of years ago that has always stuck with me, on speaking of her joy of seeing others succeed). Rena is a firm believer in community over competition and that there's room for everyone, and I believe that this positive attitude, not to mention a killer sense of style, has contributed to her ongoing success with Smithery.
Want more? Let's hear from Rena – here's what We Want To Know:
I can't start my morning without... green tea. No tea, no way.
I have a weakness for... almond croissants. And HomeSense because you never know what goodies are waiting for you.
Most people don't know that I... am afraid of singing in public. Under no circumstances will you find me singing. I even mouth to words to Happy Birthday!
Currently reading... Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. The Happiness Project was my bible when it first came out and her follow up is just as practical and applicable.
I want... for every woman to know her body shape and feel empowered in her clothes.
Thank you, Rena, for participating in We Want To Know!
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