By Jenna Mohammed
On the north side of Lakeshore Rd. E., just east of George St., is the Town of Oakville’s oldest family-operated brick and mortar store. Since 1951, Barrington’s upscale boutique has been a mainstay in this community and, over time, has built a reputation among discerning shoppers for offering the finest quality in outerwear and accessories.
Paul Barrington, who runs the store with his wife, Brenda, was born into a long line of furriers that date back to 1815 and is the sixth generation of his family to work in the outerwear and fur industry.
“When my father opened Barrington’s 70 years ago, we were solely furriers and have moved locations on Lakeshore Road four times since then,” explains Paul. The current Barrington’s downtown location has been in the same spot for longer than Paul can remember.
At the age of 15, Paul embarked on his fashion career when he took an apprenticeship in Vienna, Austria. Describing his four-year fur apprenticeship in Europe as his head start in the industry, he says there was nowhere in Canada at that time offering the same level of training for the fur and fashion business. “I was very fortunate to go at a young age and learn the trade from professionals,” Paul says.
As the fashion industry evolves, so too have Paul and Brenda who continually pivot their business model and couture offerings to stay abreast of market changes.
“Thirty years ago, we made the transition to carrying cloth coats. At the time, the fur industry was very strong, but we wanted to offer something for everyone,” explains Paul. “We understand you don’t go from wearing no coat to a fur coat. You go from medium-weight coat or cloth and build your way up to a fur coat if that’s a piece you want in your wardrobe.” The decision to meet the high demand for cloth coats was a smart one; today, their coats and accessories are shipped to customers across Canada thanks to its e-commerce business which thrived throughout the pandemic, as well as during the downtown Oakville road closures.
The couple’s annual trips to France and Italy are an essential part of the boutique’s commitment to carrying the finest quality in outerwear design. Paul says that while they source from European suppliers and manufacturers, Barrington’s always strives to add a local touch to their coats. Customers enjoy a wide selection of well-known brands including Longchamp, Cinzia Rocca and Barbour, as well as its own private label collection that is made in Canada.
Continuing with the Barrington’s family tradition, Paul and Brenda have introduced their daughters, Carly and Brooke, to the business with plans for them to take over the store in the future. “Brooke is terrific in sales, and Carly manages our social media and online presence, which is essential for small business today,” says Paul.
With the worst of the pandemic behind us and a gradual return to normalcy, Brenda says the trend for this fall is all about colour. “We’ve come out of such a dark period, and a colourful wardrobe is a great pick-me-up,” she says. “I haven’t seen this much colour in our collections in a long time, and I think our designers want a bright start for a new season.”