Britt Barkwell left her hometown of Winnipeg 17 years ago, and since then has lived in Montreal, Paris, London, New York, and is now settled in Toronto. While in Paris, she did as the Parisians do: she fell in love with the world of fashion. The style-savvy Canadian quickly built up a successful career in the industry, working as a digital maven for Club Monaco in New York and then moving to Holt Renfrew in Toronto. After becoming a mother, she transitioned to entrepreneurship and launched her own digital project: Trouaille (French for “a lucky find”), a wardrobe styling service-meets-editorial content platform that helps women discover and refine their personal style. This season, Britt has partnered with eBay Canada to release a curated collection of handpicked items—including pieces from brands such Staud, Zimmermann, Vince, Nanushka, Diane von Furstenberg, and Steve—based on six of the top trends of the moment: belt bags, coin jewellery, polka dots, platform sandals, utility chic, and crafted bags.
Shop the collection here, but in the meantime, read on as we chat about her career path, her styling tips, and which trend she is most excited about.
Could you walk us through your career path leading up to Trouvaille, including your education and your time at Club Monaco/Holt Renfrew?
I went to McGill University and received a Bachelor of Arts and then went on to do a Masters in International Relations… I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and it wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I decided to pursue a career in fashion. My first real fashion job was in New York working for Club Monaco. I was part of the team that started to create content for the website and launched the original “Culture Club” blog. I was hired at Holt Renfrew when social media was just beginning to become a powerful marketing tool and it was exciting to lead the area and launch their first-ever online magazine.
Did you always want to work in the fashion industry?
Absolutely not! It didn’t occur to me throughout school, but while living in Paris I was really inspired to follow that passion and turn it into a career.
Do you have a favourite memory from your days jet-setting to international runway shows and meeting style icons and designers while working for Holts?
I think the best part about that experience was getting to really understand how the business works. We would see the looks come down the runway, and then within a day or so we would be in the showroom touching the products and getting to see them up close. I loved seeing the Fashion Director and the buying team select the pieces that would resonate with the Holts customer and to eventually see those pieces end up on the floor a few months later.
I understand you briefly returned to Holts after your maternity leave but decided to leave again to focus on entrepreneurship and motherhood. Is that correct? When was this, and what influenced this decision?
That’s correct, I had been with Holts for over seven years and I felt that it was time for a change. With the dramatic growth in online shopping, it seemed like there was a hole in the Canadian market, and that we could add value by helping women navigate the overwhelming world of online shopping and simplify the search. Given my background, I constantly had friends approaching me to help them shop and for styling advice, so I figured I was on to something…
Do you think that being your own boss and being a mother have been complimentary roles? Or is it a balancing act?
It is absolutely a balancing act, but in the best way possible. I love that I can now control my schedule and be around when it counts.
On a similar note, do you have any advice for new working moms based on what you’ve learned?
Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to celebrate the daily wins. Your child will ultimately benefit from having a mother that is independent and passionate about what they do.
Tell me a bit more about Trouvaille. What exactly does it offer and what inspired you to launch it?
Trouvaille is a bespoke shopping site. We aim to help on-the-go women navigate the world of online shopping. Through curated collections, editorial content and customized wardrobe solutions, we help women discover and define their personal style.
Congrats on the launch of your exciting new collection in partnership with eBay Canada! Tell us a bit about this project and how it came to be.
We’ve always been huge fans of eBay and consider it a great resource for lucky finds at different price points. As our mission at Trouvaille is to help women navigate the endless possibilities of online shopping, eBay is a great fit. Their fashion offerings are constantly evolving, and so is the site itself—it’s certainly not the eBay you may think of from 10 years ago. For example, many people actually don’t know that over 80% of eBay purchases are for new items, and fixed prices versus online auctions. This season, we’ve partnered with them to launch a curated collection of fashion finds on eBay.ca/trouvaille, highlighting our take on the top six trends for the season! It was so fun shopping the site because we were able to find some many amazing pieces that played into our must-have spring trends, and at all different price points.
I believe part of Trouvaille’s mission is to help consumers move away from fast fashion and look more towards building a wardrobe of timeless pieces. Is that right? Did you have this in mind when curating the eBay collection?
There has definitely been a shift towards more sustainable fashion. At Trouvaille, our mission is to encourage woman to buy less and choose well. We believe in simplifying your wardrobe and making fashion choices that are seasonless. We try to offer a wide variety of products with a focus on timeless, simple pieces that build the foundation of your wardrobe. I think that people are starting to see the implications of fast-fashion and want to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s not just about buying and selling through consignment shops; it’s also the fabrics you choose, supporting brands that use sustainable methods, and also buying less but buying better.
Don’t get me wrong—there is absolutely a time and place for fun and thrifty trends but being more intentional about buying items that you really love and will outlast any trend means that you will consume less but end up with a better wardrobe. eBay is such a natural fit for this kind of mentality—they have the fun trends, but they also have an unparalleled selection of investment pieces and high-quality staples to unique and hard-to-find items. For an avid online fashion shopper who knows quality and brands and loves to mix highs and lows, eBay is a goldmine.
The collection features six trends for this spring. If you had to pick, which trend are you most excited about incorporating into your own wardrobe?
I am most excited about the belt bag trend. As a mom of a two-year-old, I think that having a hands-free but stylish accessory will be an amazing luxury. The utility dressing trend is another favourite—everything from one-piece boiler suits, cargo-style pants and military jackets. The best part about this trend is that it’s wearable and in a neutral palette that can easily integrate into your wardrobe. I also can’t wait for polka dots as it’s a simple way to add a playful twist to your look.
Who do you look to for fashion inspiration?
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, always and forever.
Do you have any top styling tips you can offer us?
At Trouvaille, we are all about the art of the mix. We think it’s important to invest in classic, timeless pieces, while saving on trendier items. It’s always great to add select, seasonal trends to your wardrobe but it’s more important to anchor your style with versatile, quality pieces that can transition from season to season.
How would you describe your personal style in terms of clothing and beauty?
Less is more.
What are your go-to brands or shops?
In terms of designer brands, I’m a fan of Toteme, Nanushka and Khaite, but I also enjoy finding pieces at Mango and H&M. I love to shop online for all these brands, and I also love that they are even accessible through eBay.ca as a one-stop shop.
For anyone aspiring to a career in fashion/media, what advice would you give them?
Always be yourself and NETWORK! You never know who you are going to meet. Opportunities don’t just create themselves.
What’s next for you and for Trouvaille?
We are really busy refining the services side of our business so that we can offer women a digital solution to personal styling. We are aiming to launch this fall, so stay tuned! What’s been amazing about starting Trouvaille is getting to partner with amazing brands that we love and we look forward to more exciting opportunities this summer/fall.