CANTAS Fashion Boutique
Semiha Cantas, owner of CANTAS Fashion Boutique on the famed Sussex Drive of Ottawa, has a unique message behind her brand image.
“I would like to teach women my age how to love themselves”, says the bright-eyed Semiha in her spacious boutique. “No woman should feel unattractive in her own skin after a certain age. I find it sad that somehow, society’s perception of women can trigger low self-esteem – among strong, well-established women”.
Semiha makes a great point; the representation of women in media is highly geared towards messages that emphasize youth. However, there have been significant inroads in changing this trend. As a businesswoman and boutique owner whose pieces have recently been featured in several magazine spreads, Semiha has long term goals that encompass the idea of women embracing confidence at every age.
Semiha has been heavily involved in charity work in the Ottawa area. She has worked with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to organize charity fashion shows, making a true impact with her fashion and vision. Semiha is currently in the process of planning photoshoots that not only feature her new collections, but also reflect her company’s philosophy on style, women, and the beginning for her own charity. The CSR initiative would involve CANTAS fashion helping women to increase a positive self-image and to let go of the “fear” of aging.
The Ageless Photoshoot
Barbi Guild Cameron, Ariana Assadi, Semiha, Wisdom, and I have collaborated on a small photoshoot, one of many for CANTAS fashion boutique, which conveyed an important message linking notions of confidence and agelessness within the fashion industry.
As one of the models who has worked with Semiha for years, I was excited to be a part of this concept, which is just the beginning for Semiha. Semiha plans to continue to create images while branding her boutique to go beyond our norm, specifically speaking about age. Semiha believes that a great way to represent her boutique through photoshoots is to highlight interaction between women of all ages – creating positive images of women having a night out, shunting aside the concept of age segregation.
Sending the Right Message
Semiha, who has lived all over Europe, notes the difference in perceptions of women in different parts of the world. Freedom of expression and the tendency to dress up or down vary greatly between nations and cultures. While in Ottawa, she has remained firm in her resolve that a woman should never feel chided for being “too sexy”. Semiha’s viewpoints on a woman’s representation is refreshing. Most important to her is the emphasis on beauty being closely linked with confidence.
“I want to make sure I’m sending the right message”, she says earnestly. Semiha’s messages are clear; she is proud of her imported pieces and the liberty of self-expression at any age or shape. She is also adamant about emphasizing confidence as part of her business plan. “Everyone has insecurities, and no one is perfect. I encourage women to wear what makes them feel good, and not follow fashion. Just because fashion dictates that we should follow a certain trend one season, doesn’t mean you have to. Do what you think looks good on you, because then you will define your own style and feel confident”.
Gender-Based Criticism in Fashion
Semiha is no stranger to negativity and gender-based criticism, citing examples of women criticizing the dress choices of other women. She is aware of the fact that pressures of society can constrain women into a narrow path of what is and what is not acceptable to wear. However, her visions for what CANTAS fashion represents transcends this.
Countless number of clients and customers come into CANTAS fashion, and their tag lines are, “I’d love to wear this, but I’m too old”. Semiha holds up a form-fitting piece, bewildered and indignant. Her strong, disbelieving eyes ask clearly, “Where on earth did you get that idea?” Our clothing and style does play a role in our outward perception of ourselves. How one presents oneself, coupled with the notions of body image, are salient issues. Women’s bodies are in constant scrutiny in the media and in daily life. Issues of self-confidence plague people of all genders, shapes, and sizes.
The Fashion Industry Can Empower Women
The fashion industry plays a huge role in emphasizing how to dress for whatever features they believe makes us stand out, but most importantly, to create an atmosphere of positivity where a woman’s desirability does not decrease with age. Fashion thus can be conceptualized as creating a positive atmosphere in which we can grow and gain confidence, knowing that we are beautiful and that our age is not what defines us.
CANTAS fashion is about the beginning of a collaboration between women who had an idea that the fashion industry should continue to be more representative of women of all ages. Women who have confidence and who see positive images reflected back impact society positively. Semiha believes that when women are at peace with themselves, we are able to work together and collaborate better. The fashion industry has an important role to play, one that empowers us to respect ourselves and each other, and Semiha – bubbly, passionate and confident – is most definitely one of the faces of this optimistic philosophy.