Shop local with timeless pieces handmade by artists and sold independently

Buying clothes, for some, is a tedious experience. Visiting store after store in the mall searching for the lowest price, only to find a hole or unraveling hem just months later. Stores sell clothes on trend, but unfortunately the styles don’t hold up well for future seasons.

White Elephant, an independent boutique in Hamilton, was opened by co-owners Jane LaBatte and Hollie Pocsai to fill a need they saw for quality garments made with care and attention to detail. They focus on Canadian-made goods, including women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, skincare, gifts and paper goods. Their decades-long friendship meant they shared the same vision for their retail space, with whimsical wallpapers, exposed brick, and vintage furniture.

Photos by Lauren Glegg

Nestled in the downtown neighbourhood of James Street North, White Elephant has been the go-to spot for shoppers looking for handmade goods from independent artists since October 2008. Finding positive response in Hamilton, they opened their second brick and mortar location in Westdale Village near McMaster University in 2014.
Continuing to grow, the entrepreneurs expanded to have a greater online presence, opening their online store this past April. Orders have come from all over the GTA and the United States, though many still ordering from within Hamilton, opting for the local pick up option. “The increased mentality of shopping more sustainably has grown with us,” explains Hollie. This shows how Hamiltonians see the value in supporting their community makers and business owners.

Shopping Locally

So what is sustainable shopping? Sustainable shopping is buying items that are made ethically – whether that’s through the material choices, the local workers assembling the product, or the goods made in small batches. Sometimes customers unfamiliar with this type of shop wonder why the costs seem higher than a typical store. “You know the story behind it,” says Jane. “You’re paying to know that it was made locally and ethically; you don’t need to worry about factory conditions.” White Elephant also concentrates on classic pieces you can wear for years to come. Hollie explains, “Not only do these garments hold up, but they stay in fashion. You don’t need to purchase a whole wardrobe, instead buy key pieces and slowly add on over time.”

About the Makers

White Elephant features over 60 different artists and designers from Canada and internationally, ensuring they are always selling quality goods their customers can be proud to own. When the shop opened, Canadian designers Birds of North America, Eve Gravel, and Valerie Dumaine were some of the first clothing brands to be sold. Nine years later, Hollie and Jane have developed great relationships with the three designers as the store provides them with exposure in Hamilton. Their pieces continue to be some of the best-selling, turning customers into shop regulars. These women’s clothing lines are both designed and manufactured in Canada, fitting perfectly with White Elephant’s values of supporting home-grown talent.

Using sustainable, natural goods with a socially conscious company is something Hollie and Jane look for when deciding on a new brand to stock. Northlore Goods bodycare based in Saskatchewan is a line including facial serums, oils, and soaps created and crafted with elements found on the Canadian Prairies.
Want to shop hyper-local? Hamilton-based Cat Mamola’s ceramic jewelry is a customer favourite, with colourful porcelain shapes hung on delicate chains. Hutchison designer Sofia Del Giacco relocated to Hamilton in 2016 and makes the coziest sweaters that White Elephant can’t keep on the shelves. Co-owner Jane has her own line of raw crystal jewelry under the name Rare Specimens, where she hand-hammers pyrite, citrine, Herkimer diamond, peridot, and more at her home in the city.
Shopping at a place like White Elephant really allows you to see who you are supporting when you buy local – the artists and their families, the shop owners, and the store employees. What’s better than that? Head to James Street North, King St. West, or www.whiteelephantshop.ca to start shopping!