The woman for all seasons

Photographs by Chris Mikula
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Sonia Fisher is the first female president of E.R. Fisher Menswear, which dates back to 1905 and is one of the most storied clothiers in Ottawa.

Sonia Fisher is unabashedly filling some big shoes as the first female president and fourth generation to take the helm of E.R.Fisher Menswear, which dates back to 1905 and is one of most storied clothiers in Ottawa. E.R. Fisher once had five locationsduring its heyday in the 1970s, but now there is one and it is in a prime spot on Richmond Road in Westboro.

It celebrated the official opening of its new ground floor on Thursday night with more than 150 guests at a cocktail party. The appealing space was designed by Urban Keois and has a bright, modern esthetic with several large windows looking out on the street. A 380-pound sculpture of an Atlantic sailfish, which was forged in 1948 and displayed outside of the company’s Sparks Street Mall location until it closed six years ago, now greets visitors when they first walk through the Richmond Road door.

“I want to be the No. 1 destination for men in Ottawa,” says the 33-year-old Fisher. Her mission, as a result, is to modernize all aspects of the company. “It’s my goal to breathe new life into E.R. Fisher. This is the next 30 years of my life and I’m going to make the most of it.”

The store caters to a man’s every need from formal and casual wear to tuxedos, pyjamas, overcoats, dress hats, socks, shoes and accessories like tie bars and belts. Made-to-measure suits start at $1,025, while accumeasure suits are priced from $925. She credits the appeal of David Beckham with a growing wave of men in their early 30s who are interested in dressing well.

“Men aren’t afraid to stand out and are aware of the global fashion influences. They pay attention to trends and can track them through the Internet.”

Fisher selects all of the store’s merchandise along with her father and mentor, Peter Fisher, who has been working in the family business for 45 years.

“I’d say our competition is probably Holts and Harry Rosen, who do a terrific job, although we aren’t as brand focused,” says Fisher. “We carry a lot of Canadian lines such as Coppley, Jack Victor and Samuelshon and European sportswear lines.”

Fisher was lured back to Canada from England, where she worked at the London Business School and had been living for eight years. About four years ago, she received a letter from her uncle Tony asking if she’d be interested in buying his share of the company.

“I never had any plans to do this and took about a year to think it over. It was a big jump to move back, but I’m glad I did.”

Fisher took over the reins in 2008 smack dab in the middle of recession.

“My dad and uncle had weathered many recessions and said not to worry. I don’t get caught up if we have a bad day or week. If we have a good quarter then I’m happy.”

Peter Fisher says it’s a treat to work with his daughter.

“Sonia and I pick every last thing that goes into the store and co-ordinate the clothing and accessories. She’s bringing a real modern edge to the store.”

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