Formerly a fashion designer, Abby Kanak's career reached new heights in the 80s when celebrities like Sarah McLachlan, Kirsty Alley and Goldie Hawn decided to don her dresses.
That successful career took a turn when her and Steven McDuffee's daughter suffered a serious cerebral haemorrhage just days after she was born. It was then that the husband and wife team decided to make a major change in their lives in order to better care for her, and themselves.
“[I] just couldn't figure out how to be the mother Pallas needed and keep my career soaring…so our lives were forever changed,” says Kanak. “In 2002 her health became more stable and I realized I needed to reinvent myself. We allowed ourselves to dream about a new creative future.”
That dream came to fruition in 2002 with the opening of Pure Home Couture in the heart of Hamilton's Locke Street shopping district.
The shop houses perfumes, lotions, soaps, candles, home fragrances, jewellery, organic skincare, glassware, dishes and baby gifts displayed across harvest tables, tucked into French armoires, piled atop cake stands and draped over mannequins.
Both polished and rustic at once, the warm interior evokes memories of Parisian boutiques, making it easy to see Kanak's past life in the design world shining through in the finer details.
Though not immediately obvious, this attention to detail has manifested itself in the house “Apothecary” line. Bubble bath, bath bombs, soaps, diffusers and candles are all handmade in small batches in Hamilton by Kanak herself. “I realized that as long as I was making something, I would be ok,” says Kanak.
Though each of these products have their own story to tell, it's the candles that have garnered somewhat of a cult following in the community.
The biodegradable, water-soluble candles are made from 100 per cent soy wax with a high fragrance load produced from a blend of essential oils and high quality Phthalate-free fragrance oils. Completely natural, non-toxic and petroleum-free, and available in 32 scents from French Lavender to Prosecco and Bergamot Tea, each candle has a burn time of approximately 50 hours.
“We've always felt very proud of our city, and there seems to be a renaissance right now, lot's of creative people opening everything from great little shops to restaurants,” says McDuffee.
“I grew up in Hamilton and lived in Vancouver for most of my adult life, so when I moved back here for family support, I had a lot of hope for a cultural awakening in the city,” says Kanak. “I feel like we were pioneers in [Locke Street's] growth, that we saw the potential that it would blossom into the hive of our community.”
As a way to give back to the community they feel so passionately for, Kanak and McDuffee introduced the specialty No. 905 Made in Hamilton line of candles featuring scents named for places in the city like Cootes Paradise, Bruce Trail and Devil's Punch Bowl. With each candle sold, $2.50 of the profits are donated to The Hamilton Food Share to help provide food for those in need. Along with the Made in Hamilton line, the company also donates $1 to the food share for every like they receive on Facebook.
This past year the couple managed to raise $1,135 through the sale of Made in Hamilton candles in December alone ““ when you take into account that each of the 454 candles sold was handmade by Kanak, the total becomes all the more impressive.
“We feel like the world is a little bit more connected these days and our customer's aesthetic has been elevated…there is more local pride. People are looking for products that are equally as beautiful as imports, but locally made with pure, natural and ethical ingredients.”
“Over the years I have developed a fragrance obsession. My olfactory buds have been sharpened by the exposure to many of the world's most iconic scents and I am fascinated by the way fragrance and memory are so interconnected. I asked for a perfumery lab kit for Christmas a few years ago and started playing around with developing my own fragrance accords. The sense of smell is an amazing and complicated gift! That is my new passion,” says Kanak.
“I think that the loss of my fashion career has led to my Paris obsession. I adore French style and a vintage sensibility. I am drawn to French parfumerie and old world apothecary style”š the charm of faded grandeur”š Marie Antoinette, the French countryside ““ probably because I cannot go there”¦we love what we cannot have.”
For more information visit: purehomecouture.com