Just a little less than a year ago, Janna Zittrer was walking along Ste-Catherine St. when two young women stopped her and asked for shopping recommendations.
As the Montreal correspondent for Flare magazine, it comes as no surprise why Zittrer was chosen to give fashion advice. It is was in that moment, only a mere three steps later, that Zittrer had an epiphany that led her to the creation of Montreal Shopping Tours.
Zittrer is the founder and shopper-in-chief of Montreal Shopping Tours, the only guided fashion experience of its kind in the city. As someone with fashion credentials and the right contacts, Zittrer knew she had to be the one to do it.
“In Montreal, if you’re looking for something specific, you’ve got a particular style or a particular set of needs, you really do need to know where to go, and that’s where we come in,” said Zittrer.
The Shopping Tours cater to locals, tourists, trend-setters and fashion-intolerants alike. Zittrer has ripped out the “shop like an editor” page and brought it to life; designing half-day and whole day VIP excursions through Montreal’s fashion scene. Along with helpful styling tips and personalized store recommendations from an editor in the industry, the tours include great swag with products from local businesses like Davids Tea, and a personal driver.
One of the most alluring aspects of the tour is the door-to-door transportation. Born and bred in Montreal, Zittrer knows all too well the stress of traffic chaos, street construction and puzzling parking signs. She meets her shopping group (of no more than six) at their hotel or designated meeting spot. Along with a Shopping Tours map Zittrer ensures her clients get a feel of the city’s diverse cultures, stopping along the swanky streets of Westmount and working her way up to the Mile End.
As the shopper-in-chief, Zittrer has fashioned six distinctive themes to help her potential clients portray their style, and to communicate what they’re looking for along with what they expect from the tour. She includes a questionnaire for her clients to fill out before their tour date to help her customize an itinerary suited for any combination of style: Shop Like an Editor, 9-to-5 and Beyond, Montreal Designer Marathon, Sweat-Worthy Style, Vintage Treasures and Teen Dream.
“I work really hard at making people feel comfortable, letting them know that there’s no pressure,” said Zittrer. “If you come and buy nothing at all, that’s fine. If you just want to look and try stuff on that’s absolutely okay.”
Through extensive research and personal connections Zittrer has created a fashion community among local boutiques and designers, offering clients the opportunity to discover Montreal’s unique fashion scene. Before launching Montreal Shopping Tours this past April, Zittrer sat down with designers and managers to pitch a business idea that would benefit them and her clients.
“I knew off the bat that they would have to be stores that I would recommend,” said Zittrer. “The other criterion was that they are Montreal boutiques, like either independent boutiques or local-based chains. Stores and brands you can’t find anywhere.”
Aware of how difficult retail could be for independent boutiques in Montreal, Zittrer offers them the opportunity to participate in her tours without a service fee or sales credit. In exchange, however, she does ask for a discount for her clients; a discount that averages to about 15 percent. Not only is this great publicity for local boutiques, but it’s a great way to add value to her tours as well.
Zittrer is a big advocate for functional fashion and takes a pragmatic approach to style. While keeping up with trends is part of her job as a fashion freelance writer and working for Flare, she does evaluate the cost per wear. Your level of style shouldn’t depend on your credit limit; it’s about how a garment makes you feel, how it’s going to serve you and how functional it will be with your lifestyle.
“I always say that all these best dressed lists drive me insane because it’s always like royalty or A-list stars,” said Zittrer. “If you shop only in designer, of course you’re going be a ‘best dressed.’”
Zittrer goes beyond the tasks of a personal shopper, teaching you how to shop on trend without sacrificing your credit card. She provides that extra nudge some of us need to push our boundaries and try styles and colours we never imagined we would; at the same time acting as that shopping buddy you wish you had to tell you the truth in the changing room. She comes with no preconceived notion, looks at you, grabs something and tells you to try it on.
“The biggest thing for me is, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you can accomplish things,” said Zittrer. “It’s really hard to project the image of yourself that you want to portray, and I feel like I can come and help with that.”
Montreal Shopping Tours run Wednesday through Sunday, and range from $160 to $180.