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Rideau Spotlight: CANTAS

April 9, 2024

For anyone who’s paid a visit to Ottawa’s Original Downtown, it should come as no surprise that fashion is one of the driving forces behind the area’s popularity as a shopping destination. The CF Rideau Centre alone is proud to host dozens of world-class clothing and jewelry outlets, with retailers like Anthropologie, Arc’teryx and UNIQLO making their home in the mall. And outside the doors of the Rideau Centre, they will find high-end streetwear outlets like OAK Shop and NRML as well as other incredible stores like Urban Outfitters and Crazy Moose of Ottawa.

Each of these businesses has long upheld an unwavering commitment to helping their customers look their best for a wide variety of occasions, and CANTAS is no different. Having had a presence on Sussex Drive for over 25 years, proprietor Semiha Cantas has remained steadfast in her mission to assist women in looking and feeling their best at any age while combatting the social stigmas women and aging.

An Enduring Love for the Area

When selecting a location to open her boutique, Semiha decided to forgo some of the bigger cities that Canada has to offer, like Toronto and Montreal. Instead, she believed that she had “an opportunity to make a significant impact in Ottawa’s growing fashion scene…its relatively untapped market presented an ideal environment to introduce European fashion and carve out a niche in the industry.”

Since opening her location on Sussex Drive in 1997, she has borne witness to many changes in Ottawa’s Original Downtown. New neighboring businesses have been established, and an incalculable number of people have walked through the front doors of CANTAS. Yet Semiha’s love for the area has not wavered over the years. “Being centrally located amidst prominent landmarks like Parliament Hill and surrounded by hotels ensures a steady flow of diverse clientele,” she says.

“It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of my location and the enduring charm of Ottawa’s fashion scene.”

More than 25 years later, the appeal of Semiha’s boutique continues to endure. Such a reputation is built from an undying desire to provide her clients with an exquisite selection of dresses and an unyielding belief in the power of fashion to empower and inspire.

Semiha Cantas has been one of the paramount figures in Ottawa’s fashion scene since she established her boutique on Sussex in 1997.

Expanding Upon the Family Business

Semiha’s journey in fashion is the product of her deep family ties to the European fashion industry. Originally from Turkey, her familial connections have been instrumental in allowing her to carve her own path and open a boutique of her own. Leveraging these connections has granted her access to a wide range of manufacturers and their products, allow her to procure a finely curated collection of dresses from Istanbul and Italy that are unlike anything else available in the nation’s capital.

For Semiha, the choice to curate a collection of European dresses for her boutique is more than just a reflection of her heritage, however. It’s a conscious decision that is made to ensure that both the quality and eco-friendliness of the dresses in her boutique are consistently of the highest caliber. “European fashion is renowned for its timeless elegance and superior craftsmanship and serves as the cornerstone of my boutique’s collection” she says, emphasizing their use of natural fibers and sustainable practices.

“By offering customers the allure of Italian and French fashion, I provide an alternative to mainstream North American trends, emphasizing exclusivity and quality.”

Of course, the curation process for Semiha’s boutique is far more involved than merely leveraging connections. Semiha is meticulous when selecting dresses, often traveling to fashion expos in Europe to remain abreast with emerging trends and personally observe the quality of the dresses before bringing them back to Ottawa. “Rigorous quality control measures, both at the manufacturer’s end and within my own team, ensure that every dress meets the highest standards before reaching my boutique,” she explains.

All of this has made CANTAS one of the most sought-after fashion boutiques in Ottawa, and in doing so, Semiha and her boutique have received attention from many celebrated names in the fashion industry, including Jay Manuel of America’s Next Top Model fame!

The mannequins in CANTAS’ storefront window overlook Sussex with a confident and empowered gaze; Semiha’s patrons feel much the same way after a visit to her boutique.

Say Yes to the Dress…and Yourself!

Semiha’s work as the owner of CANTAS is perhaps best described as both a professional and a personal venture. Her fascination with the world of fashion stems not just from its artistic and aesthetic components, but its ability to create real, tangible change in the lives of the clients she serves.

This starts with an earnest desire to serve each client on a case-by-case basis that recognizes the specific and unique needs of each of them. “I cater to a diverse clientele seeking individualized attention and guidance,” Semiha explains. “I strive to create a welcoming atmosphere where customers feel empowered to explore and express their unique style preferences.”

“I celebrate the beauty of every woman, accentuating their best features and ensuring they leave feeling empowered and beautiful.”

As Semiha sees it, fashion is one of the essential tools that has helped to foster a massive paradigm shift in recent history with respect to women’s beauty standards. She takes pride in knowing that her boutique has played a part in opening people’s minds to a more inclusive idea of what it means to be beautiful.

“Over the years, societal attitudes towards aging have evolved, albeit slowly. However, I’ve remained steadfast in my belief that beauty knows no age,” she explains. “By embracing diversity, I’ve endeavored to showcase the beauty of every woman, regardless of age or body shape.”

“Fashion plays a pivotal role in fostering this inclusivity, serving as a medium through which women can express themselves authentically and exude confidence at any stage of life.”

Having ventured from the other side of the world to pursue her dreams of opening a fashion boutique, Semiha hope to continue her work as a source of inspiration and empowerment for women who pay a visit to Ottawa’s Original Downtown. If you’re preparing for your next wedding, prom night, graduation or just want to make a fantastic addition to your wardrobe, visit Semiha today and discover what her passion for fashion can do for you!

From prom dresses to cocktail dresses and everything in between, CANTAS’ vast selection of clothing ensures that the boutique will carry something that can suit any occasion.

📍 700 Sussex Drive

Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sunday: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

📞 (613) 789-3806