Translating the trends

Amira Gabriel knows all about dressing women. She’s a pro at predicting what colours, cuts and fabrics will be big months before we do. After 36 years in the fashion game, her name is a trusted one.

The pint-sized owner of Amira Gabriel Fashion Group is an importer and agent for various fashion lines in North America and Europe. For the past 25 years, Gabriel has represented Olsen Europe in North America and Spanner within Ontario. She travels her territory about eight times a year in a 20-foot truck bringing her retail customers collections that she’s meticulously pieced together by the lines she represents.

“Yes, I’m a trucker, too,” laughs Gabriel. “This is how I built my reputation. When I first started out, I couldn’t believe I was this lady travelling by herself approaching customers.”

Gabriel came to Canada from Egypt 46 years ago and has been a single mom for the past 36 years. She credits her mother for her grit and determination.

“My mom pushed me to keep going. She’s 89 and is the most elegant woman you’ll meet. She encouraged me to take courses in merchandising in Montreal.”

Gabriel got her first break working for a company called Jac-Dale and would travel to Timmins and Sudbury to promote the fashion lines. She knocked on doors and worked the phones from city to city, gradually building a solid reputation with boutique and retail stores. Within four years, she landed the job representing clothing giants, Spanner and Olsen Europe.

Four years ago, she added a new feather to her cap as the exclusive Canadian distributor for two European lines: London’s Michaela Louisa and Michael H of Dublin, considered one of the top brands in the U.K., which includes Gold, Kate Cooper and Personal Choice.

This fitted polka-dot dress by Kate Cooper, $245, features cap sleeves and pretty bow. (Photo: John Austin Amira Gabriel Fashion Group)

Gabriel travels to Dublin twice a year to hand-pick the apparel suitable for the North America market. With a wealth of experience, she chooses clothing that is versatile, elegant and catches her eye.

“I like a dress that will take a woman from day to night, for the woman on the run. Accessories and fabrication are also very important. I want a woman to feel confident and stylish no matter their shape or size.”

There are several area boutiques that carry Gabriel’s lines, including Manhattan Marque, Outskirts, Red Velvet, Earlene’s House of Fashion, Marka Fashion, La Complice, Mode & Distinction Plus and Moscatel Boutique. Gabriel has an Ottawa showroom and recently opened one in Toronto.

Marlene Shepherd of Shepherd’s fashions has been doing business with Gabriel for years. “Amira is passionate about her business and fashion. Her exuberance is demonstrated each and every time one deals with her, one can’t help feel her zest for life,” she says.

At 65, Gabriel has no intention of slowing down. Her assistant Patricia El-Chaar readily admits that it’s hard to keep up with her boss. “She runs like she’s 22. I’m so proud to work with her.”

And what about next spring and summer? Gabriel says you’ll be right on trend in fuchsia, purple and lavender. Polka dots will also be hot.

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