Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In which I reunite with an old love

Years ago (okay, a lot of years ago -- like, say, 20?) I used to shop at small store on Elgin Street, owned by a woman whose eclectic tastes in clothing design resonated deeply with my own.

I bought many of my best things at Kaliyana -- a purple zip-front hooded anorak with Chinese-coin buttons and huge patch pockets; a long black dress with coloured batik zigzags sprayed across it; a pair of earrings fashioned from smooth round pieces of coconut shell, with stainless steel wires arced like tiny ultra-modern sculptures. Many of the pieces I no longer own -- though I still have the earrings and a couple of batik scarves that I wear often.

Jana, the owner, was known for jaunting off to Indonesia in search of fascinating hand-dyed fabrics, which she'd bring back and turn into amazing garments. The shapes were often offbeat, even for the 80s, and the fabrics themselves were unusual enough that I could count on getting several comments a day when I wore a Kaliyana piece.

But Kaliyana has changed over the years.

For one thing, the store is no longer tucked away above a pub at Elgin and Gladstone; rather, it's along the much pricier Sussex Drive strip. And the clothing is no longer funky Indonesian prints -- although the Asian influence is still pretty obvious.

I hadn't been in the store for a few years, but last summer I dropped by one afternoon, and found that while the fabrics were mostly more subdued, the shapes were still unusual -- sometimes whimsical, sometimes seriously odd, but always attention-grabbing.

That day last year I bought a plain long black linen skirt and a sleeveless long linen top, cut on the bias. Sounds drab, but in fact they are the opposite -- the skirt's hem attaches with a small snap to a cord on the inside, pulling one edge up so that it drapes; and the top's asymmetrical neckline is echoed in its angled hem, which dips down to a point on one side.

Since last year, I've acquired a few more pieces -- an open kimono jacket with huge freeform chrysanthemums drawn on it; another top, this one the softest black cotton jersey, that a younger person might wear as a very short dress.

On Monday -- Victoria Day, when most of Ottawa's shops are shut up tight to celebrate the dear old ex-Queen's birthday -- I stopped in at Kaliyana, which is exempted from the Everything Must Close on Victoria Day Law by virtue of its location on the Byward Market, an official Tourist Destination (I could not make this stuff up).

And what struck me most forcefully as I browsed through the racks?

"Wow. Practically everything here would look fantastic with a Clapotis."

Is that sad, or what?


Lucette said...

I have liked their styles over the years, though have not bought anything there. Could you be coaxed to post some photos of the clothes? curious

Northmoon said...

My appologies for being picky, but I think Queen Victoria was never an "ex-queen" ... just a dead one.

Karen said...

True, it's not like she gave it up voluntarily, is it?
And Lucette, I wanted pics last night, but it was too dark for my camera, so I wound up looking like a far-out Darth Vader. Will try again soon.

Kathleen Taylor said...

anxiously awaiting pics...

Stacy said...

Okay, that's just a funny (but spot-on) thought! :-)