Going dotty on Bayview

Left: Heather Bolt, owner and designer, and her assistant Sylvi Oja. Photo Suzanne Park.
Left: Heather Bolt, owner and designer, and her assistant Sylvi Oja. Photo Suzanne Park.

“Darling, you look marvelous!”

With apologies to Billy Crystal and his 1980s Saturday Night Live persona Fernando, fashion retailer Heather Bolt’s Dotty business is helping her clients look and feel marvelous in outfits ranging from frilly, short-sleeved eyelet tops and Von Furstenberg-inspired wrap dresses and comfy jackets, to pantsuits fit for the office.

The bulk of her business comes from four sources: sales to retailers, the One-of-a-Kind Show, loyal customers, and those who spot her clothes on others and ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ Heather elaborated, “One of my clients said she doesn’t wear her dotty.ca polka dot dress anymore for business as she doesn’t have time to stop and chat about where she bought it. Clients love wearing my dresses to the office. They comment on how great it is that most have sleeves versus spaghetti straps, so they don’t need to wear a jacket to cover their shoulders.”

Describing her career path in fashion and how she ended up on Bayview Avenue above Hollywood Gelato, Heather said, “My passion for fashion started early, at 10-years-old, when I started sketching dresses. My mom corrected me, saying, ‘It started when you were three and refused to wear pants that were too short and out of fashion for nursery school.’ On my 10th birthday, a prized gift from my dad, the September issue of Vogue magazine, had me enthralled for weeks noting all the intricate details of every garment.”

But Heather didn’t start out in fashion. She started university, with a plan to become a lawyer, but in second year, had an epiphany when a friend asked, “What are you doing here? You’re always sewing. Your room is crammed with sewing paraphernalia. Why aren’t you at design school?” She switched to studying fashion design.

“After graduating, I was hired in the wholesale division of New York designer Ellen Tracy, which was a steep but valuable learning curve. I traveled to New York four times a year and made a great friend at the company. A few years later she and I started our own wholesale company, which morphed over the years. I ended up with my own wholesale showroom, where I employed three staff and managed nine different collections. I was selling to stores like the Bay and Eaton’s.”

Heather’s career path reminds us that many obstacles have an upside. “As a commissioned wholesale sales agent, I soon learned that regardless of how much you’ve sold you only get paid on what gets manufactured and shipped to the customer. This knowledge soon propelled me to go out on my own. I started this new chapter by hiring a factory on Lansdowne Avenue. They produce our clothing line; having it made right here in Toronto has many advantages. We employ locally, reduce our environmental footprint, increase quality control, and speed to market as we’re not hindered by lockdowns or global supply and shipping issues.”

How did she end up on Bayview, at 469 Manor Rd., near Hollywood Gelato, after years of operating a home-based business? Her success meant she needed more space, and she found it, right on Bayview, a short walk from her home.

“It’s perfect for my showroom and office,” she said. “The compact bright space reminds me of a charming Paris atelier.”  

About Suzanne Park 62 Articles
Suzanne Park is a leadership and conversation coach and writer who enjoys bringing to the pages of Leaside Life the unique experiences and community contributions of her Leaside neighbours. Her daughter Zhen, a student at Leaside High School, is also a contributor to Leaside Life with a fresh perspective on her community.