Working at Artizia for seven years, Helen Nguyen had plenty of access to stylish women’s wear. But as she got older, she found herself seeking out more elevated contemporary wear while on trips outside of the city. Hoping to bring more of that style of clothing to Calgary, she and a former business partner decided to launch their own women’s wear store, called Coco and Violet, in Mission.
Today, Coco and Violet has been open for nearly a decade, and is one of the go-to shops in the city thanks to its range of casual and fancier contemporary wear from high quality brands such as Smythe, Mason by Michelle Mason, Rebecca Taylor, Vince, Current/Elliott, Citizens of Humanity, Joie and more.
But for Nguyen, Coco and Violet has become more than just a clothing store – it’s a lifestyle store where she strives to help local shoppers through her styling.
“I find that especially in your 30s, you go through major changes in your life. And I find, especially after having kids too, you lose your sense of style and you don’t know where to go with it. I love being able to help people because it’s incredible to see how happy they are after and how much confidence you’ve given them. Just to show them how to put a shirt and pants together and put things together that they never thought would work and work with their body type,” Nguyen says. “I hate saying that I own a shop sometimes because I feel that’s so materialistic, but really, there’s a deeper thing to it. It’s about the people.”
The people are also part of what makes the shop’s neighbourhood of Mission so special as well. It’s an area that’s constantly striving to better itself and its connection to Calgarians through neighbourhood improvements and hosting hugely popular community events like the Lilac Festival every June. Mission’s tight knit and community-focused environment is just one of the many reasons Nguyen enjoys calling it Coco and Violet’s home.
“The community is just so supportive. There’s a lot of homes around here, and this is a community that supports this area,” Nguyen says. “For people who don’t live downtown, when they come down and they want to find something fun to do, they can find everything here on 4th Street. You can go work out, you can go to a restaurant after, you can go get your hair done, you can go get your nails done. It’s all here.”
Here are six places Nguyen likes to shop at in Mission
“They’re my neighbours here and they’re just great. They’re from Germany, they have this huge spa in L.A., and these ladies have brought this brand into Calgary and into Canada. They’re the first Babor spa in Canada. We’re so lucky to have them here on 4th Street. Their skincare is really good, but their facials are phenomenal. They’ve got two aestheticians, so what I really like about it is anytime you go in there, you’re always going to have the same aesthetician. Sometimes when you go to the bigger spas, I find you never know who’s touching your face and they won’t remember what’s going on with your face because it’s always someone new. Whereas [at Babor], it’s a boutique spa so you always get the same person, they’ve taken care of your face and they know exactly what’s going on and they can give you recommendations.
“My favourite item from there is these little glass vials with a serum inside of it. You shake them up and crack them, and then you just put it onto your skin and it just sucks up all these good nutrients. It really helps the skin once winter hits here or when it’s dry in the summertime as well. It’s seriously one of my favourite products. It just makes you feel so special to crack a little glass vial, it’s super unique.”
“I know a ton of people that go there constantly. The space is just gorgeous; you feel like you’re in L.A. [and] they’ve got this huge “Venice” sign. If you have an event or something special that’s going on, you can go get your eyebrows done, your nails done, your hair blown out and you’re ready to go. It’s not even just for events, it’s for everyday [when] you’re super busy and you don’t have time to wash your hair. Pop over there and they’ll do it for you. You’re in there for less than an hour, you’re taken care of and you can go on with your day.”
“I love Krickets. They have the best cards in there, and for every occasion. I just read one [that said], ‘I promise to tolerate you even when you can’t decide where you want to eat.’ If you have that funny person in your life, it’s a place to go get a card for them. They bring in special things for Christmas, like they had those little light boards that have been everywhere with the little quotes on it, and then they’ve got little stocking stuffers, ornaments, candles and bags. So if you’re in the area and you need to get a quick little gift for somebody, it’s the perfect place to go see if you can get something quirky.”
2306 4 St. S.W., 403-244-9330, facebook.com/kricketscalgary/
“It’s a flower shop here on 4th Street and it’s so cute. I wish I had my store in their location because it’s a little house. It reminds me of something you’d see in Toronto or a bigger city. She’s always got such a beautiful display out front and anytime you order a bouquet, you’re never disappointed. She does such special stuff there. The one thing I really love about them is there are workshops that happen in there. So she’s got an upstairs and she does these awesome little workshops where [you can] build a wedding bouquet or a wreath. They just recently had a little class on succulents. It’s great because she’s very informative and she’s really good [at] teaching people about flowers.”
“[Lisa’s] the owner there; she actually used to live out in London and Neal’s Yard is an area there. They have organic skincare and they’ve got baby products. They’re very good at informing people about what’s in their products and what you’re putting onto your skin. Obviously these days that’s really important because there’s so many chemicals, so for them to go organic [with] their skincare products and for them to work really well is pretty awesome. They also do these little workshops, so like mixing your own bath salts and essential oils. They’ve got everything for men, women, kids. You name it, they’ve got it.”
“Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of house renovations, so Royal Flush is on my list. It’s so inspiring to go in there because it’s a loft-like space and it’s just so airy. But then you’ve got these beautiful fixtures … like their taps. You can find whatever you want in that shop, which is fun. And they have little cool knobs that are little diamonds and fun stuff for the kids too. I think it’s just a really cute place.
Bonus restaurant pick
“I’m going to go with Mercato because I just had their steak recently. It’s this large bone-in steak that you share, you cannot finish it on your own. It comes out on this huge platter and it’s sliced up with this big lemon and it’s just so delicious. It’s cooked perfectly every time. And I’ll eat that with pasta obviously, and my favourite pasta there is the tagliatelle. It’s always nice to go there and have a glass of wine and a big steak and some pasta to go with it. I love it because you’ve got the market there as well.”
2224 4 St. S.W., 403-263-5535, mercatogourmet.com