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Chelsea Petterson is helping to carve out a niche for Saskatchewan's creative industries.  She is also the co-owner of a local boutique, Coda & Cade, pictured above.  Photo by Amanda Symynuk

Perched on a kitchen chair, with her purple hair in a top knot, wearing an oversized sweater and glasses, chin resting on hand, Chelsea Petterson looks at the laptop screen. As she and her store manager peruse potential fashions for this fall, her phone vibrates with texts urging her to get stuff done.

“I just have to send this email...so many Fashion Week distractions,” she said. She starts typing away on her own laptop, multi-tasking the two jobs.

Saskatchewan Fashion Week (SFW) is only weeks away and this year the event doubled seating capacity. Petterson says people once scoffed at the idea of having a fashion industry, let alone a fashion week in Saskatchewan, but it has blown up and become bigger than they ever expected. But success comes with a never ending to do list. The goal is to become more nationally recognized so that anyone working in the creative design industries, such as models, photographers and designers, are recognized as a whole.

At just 27-years-old, Petterson has some inspiring accomplishments under her belt: Saskatchewan Top 40, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Saskatchewan fashion week.

Unlike many young entrepreneurs, Petterson has no degree in business. She thought about it, but after attending business school at the University of Regina, she realized the classes were not for her so she transferred into theatre design at Lethbridge College. She wanted to learn how to sew.

In 2008, while at Lethbridge College, a friend of a friend, Colter Wood, was opening a clothing store and needed help doing women’s buying. She offered to do it as an unpaid intern.

“I hired her because I wasn’t going to have anybody to do the buying and I was afraid of how poor the women’s product would be if I had to choose it,” said Wood.

After a trip to a trade show, Petterson fell in love with fashion industry and chose it as a career. When she completed college she moved back to Regina where she managed Coda Clothing and Shoes. Four years later, in October 2013 the business expanded and she bought into the company.

Wood says that their business relationship is strong because it’s easy to work with Chelsea.  

“She’s really good with people and she’s really good with like seeing ideas and seeing them through to the end and coming up with interesting ways to make the business grow,” he said.

When Petterson has an idea she often has the plan to bring it to life.   When local designer Dean Renwick first met her she not only had an idea to showcase Saskatchewan fashion but the business plan to go with it. Renwick describes Petterson as having “a great business mind” and “a wonderful sense of style.”

“When she truly believes in something I think that she does do her best to make sure that it does come to fruition,” says Wood.

The next step in her career has taken Petterson to the Coda & Cade’s, the new store, back room. But the promotion has a drawback: she misses interacting with customers. She takes a genuine interest in customers and what’s going on in their lives. There are people who pop in weekly or come in from out of town that she rarely sees anymore.

“I really just miss the personal interaction with people and with the staff as well because our staff is like a family. So when I spend more time in the back room and in an office I definitely miss the people interaction,” says Petterson.  

She also misses seeing how new product is received by customers. She enjoys hearing what people have to say when they are bringing in trendier products and that people are not used to seeing on the shelves of a clothing store.

Petterson loves filling out orders for the store. She says that even though some trends stay the same there is always game changers, like the mens’ jogger pant.

“For the first five years of our business men were just buying five pocket denim, they were just buying jeans. We’ve never seen anything like the mens’ jogger blow up and it’s really fun to see how trends develop,” said Petterson.  She notes that when she travels it’s interesting to see what parts of the world capture certain trends and what parts don’t. Certain trends that take off in New York don’t catch on in Saskatchewan.

A stack of catalogues sits between the two women as a well as spread of coffee and Timbits on the table. Most of the ordering is still done the old fashioned way: filling out forms and faxing them to product representatives. Some brands have moved to websites which Petterson enjoys because it is more efficient.

Petterson and her manager easily filled up the budget for one popular brand, joking that Colter’s budget really should be for one order because it sells out quickly.

As Lisa, the store manager, is about to send off the order Petterson says. “I’m not scared about any of it.”