Downtown London - News

September 2018

  • Embracing a high-fashion experience on Richmond Row

    September 24, 2018

    Embracing a high-fashion experience on Richmond Row


    By Sean Meyer


    Saffron Road has been a Richmond Row fashion fixture for nearly three decades, having only moved once since opening its doors — mind you, that move was literally just two doors down the street.


    Gail-Lynn Gastaldi helped Saffron Road (alongside the late Linda Boniface) in August 1989, with one particular shared passion bringing them together.


    “We both loved fashion, Canadian fashion . . . and that was really what it was all about,” Gail-Lynn said. “Richmond was really vibrant . . . there were so many different shops. Malls were not as big a deal back then. So, this was about bringing a different element to London.”


    Saffron Road had been around for about six years before, in April 1995, the boutique shifted a couple doors south and opened up at its current home, 577 Richmond St. 


    Gail-Lynn’s daughter Brianna was going into Kindergarten when the store first opened, but she admits to having “little memories of being an awkward child in the store.” 


    That said, the experience clearly stuck with her.


    Fast forward many years later and Brianna was taking Pilates instructor training in Toronto, which is where much of the buying happens for her mother’s store. And so, Brianna started tagging along on those buying trips, checking out how things worked and getting a taste for the business. 


    Although she still teaches Pilates in Toronto, and she travels between the two communities to this day, in 2008, Brianna officially came onboard at Saffron Road.


    “I liked the creativity of it. I don’t think I realized growing up how much work goes into a business. There are so many different sides to it,” she said. “You come into a shop like this, see so many beautiful things, but they didn’t just magically appear. Going to see collections, deciding what you want, how you’re going to dress people. It’s a lot of fun.”


    Gail-Lynn — who was born and raised in Trinidad and settled in London in 1984 (after stops in Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto and Victoria) — admits even though she and her daughter don’t always get along, she loves having her at the store.


    Brianna agrees, adding her mother, along with her grandmother, has been a great influence on her.


    She also spent a few years living in Trinidad with her mom’s parents, which only furthered her sense of family.


    “It gave me a really good sense of matriarchy; it gave me that strong female lead. Developing that with my grandmother I realized I had it with my mother as well. She has been a big influence on me, both professionally and personally,” Brianna said. “It’s amazing watching her work. She’s been in business a long time, put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I see that, respect that, in a different way than I would if I wasn’t in the business.”


    When she’s not working, Gail-Lynn has embraced her role on the Rowbust Dragon Boat team, something she is proud to say has become “a major passion” for her.


    She also loves travelling and spending time with friends and family, but even after all these years, coming into the shop remains a thrill.


    “You build relationships with customers who become friends. The relationships are great,” she said. “I like seeing how happy people are when they find things that suit their personalities, suit their styles. I was an elementary school teacher and I think I’m still teaching, you’re teaching clients on fashion, what makes them feel good about themselves.”


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