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Ottawa's John Rmor fighting for sustainable, high fashion during uncertain times

“I was prepared to run the store at a loss for a year or so before I opened, but the pandemic is making marketing my fashion more challenging than I originally anticipated,” John Rmor admits.

John Rmor is a fearless fashion warrior.

Against all odds, the 44-year-old designed a line of high fashion foot and leatherwear, built a business and opened his new boutique, John Rmor Shoes, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Located on Sussex Drive in the heart of Ottawa's fashion district, John Rmor Shoes sells custom-made and ready-to-wear shoes, boots, handbags and accessories designed by Rmor. He designs every item here in Ottawa, and has them fabricated by craftsmen in Portugal and Poland using premium leathers and traditional methods of construction.

Custom made footwear for both men and women range in price from $600 to $2,100, and can take up to two months to finish. Rmor also offers a house collection of ready-to-wear shoes and boots costing between $400 and $650.

“My vision is to make creative, beautiful wearables for people who want shoes and boots that will last a long time.”

Admittedly, his products are exclusive, one-of-a-kind items. However, Rmor priced his line competitively and in line with his customer's budgets despite the costs of manufacturing and shipping from Europe.

“I want people to have a little luxury,” Rmor says carefully. “Being the capital, Ottawa is a place where people, government employees have to dress well. It's an international city full of educated people, who appreciate quality and are willing to pay a little more for it.”

Operating a shop in one of the most expensive commercial districts might seem like a quixotic flight of fancy as well as an expedient way to lose money. But Rmor's a serial entrepreneur who's created three businesses since 2014 and currently operates a successful cleaning company to ensure he has the financial resources to support his boutique throughout its difficult first year.

Another pandemic scare is only making finding customers that much more challenging.

“I was prepared to run the store at a loss for a year or so before I opened, but the pandemic is making marketing my fashion more challenging than I originally anticipated,” Rmor admits. “But there are no people on the streets. I don't know how long we can keep this up.”

But if customers can't come to his shop, Rmor intends to bring the shop to his customers.

In addition to Facebook, Instagram and his website, Rmor is currently negotiating with Shopify to bolster his brand awareness and ramp up online sales significantly.

A good portion of his sales come from Toronto and Montreal, where he hopes to open shops one day.

Originally from Costa Rica but now living in Ottawa to be close to his two daughters, Rmor studied fashion in New York City and honed his design skills working for couturiers in Paris and Milan.

“I love working with leather,” Rmor confesses. “When I was a boy, I had the same feeling for Dior and Givenchy's clothes as I did for art.”

Ironically, the first product Rmor designed was anything but glamorous; designing boots for the military.

“I'm hoping this was a special year and that life will return to normal soon because it hasn't been good for business,” he adds. “But I realize God is with me. I will always be an entrepreneur. I have ideas for new businesses all the time. I love it.”

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