Have Baby. Leave behind fashion industry gig and sell apartment in Brooklyn. Take family hiatus for 5 months to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Scotland. Move back home to Toronto. Open a Moroccan rug store and get cozy in a rental until the new condo is ready. This isn’t a millennial-minded bestseller. This is Miriam Zittell’s unconventional trajectory since having her daughter Zelda a little over 2 years ago and opening her store, Mellah, with her husband John this past April. While getting settled, she also helped launch a Toronto-based capsule workwear line called Grayes, is consulting for an NYC-based women’s wear startup and is mentoring young designers through the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards organization. Naturally, we needed to get up close and personal with a renegade mom this energetic and fearless.
“We were going through the motions in New York. After we had Zelda, we moved out to Brooklyn and I started taking the long train ride into work. Olivier had left the company and while it was still amazing to work there, I just felt like something needed to change. We thought about getting an income property, then we were like let’s do something really different, and if we sell our place that will give us the capital to do whatever we want. We’re both impulsive and adventurous and it felt like a good time to take a pause and shift gears.
We had always discussed trying on a nomadic lifestyle and we definitely liked the idea of breaking away from convention and not doing what’s expected. I like juggling a lot of things at once and travelling is what we wanted to do. The idea of a rug store was in our back pocket before we left. With my background in fabric and textiles, it felt like a natural transition. Plus, we had a heck of a time finding rugs for our place in Brooklyn (co-op laws required 80 percent of floors to be covered which equals buying a lot of rugs). We came across some really cool people selling vintage rugs and thought, maybe we could do this too, especially in Toronto with it’s booming and beautiful housing market.
People often ask how we managed the trip. It was a lot of the going with the flow and Zelda was a calm baby. She ate well and slept well no matter where we were. I don’t think we could have imagined travelling if she wasn’t such a chill kid. We had good but minimal gear and we didn’t move every day so she could get used to each home base. We realized quickly having her own room made a huge difference, but she certainly slept in kitchen and bathrooms when we couldn’t find that luxury. Airbnb was a game changer; it made everything easier for us to live on the road comfortably.
On the trip, we fed her whatever food was at our destination. I wasn’t stressed out about her diet at all. It was a pleasure for us to feed her. Everywhere we went, the food was organic and fresh. She would eat rice, beans, chicken and lots of French fries. If I really needed something like apple sauce, I could go to the modern part of the city or the mall if there was one. That’s my travel tip: Always go to the mall. They have nursing rooms, changing rooms and play areas to help you get things done.
After 5 months, we came home. We never thought we would come back to Toronto, and now we’re so happy we did. It’s calmer than New York. Once we left, we realized how much more livable other cities can be; it’s so much easier, especially when you’re raising a family. We’re still settling in, but overall, I love the speed of our lives. From our house, it’s only a two-minute walk to the store. Tonight we’re going to dinner with friends and my brother is babysitting; both our families are here and ready to help. Your life gets so much less complicated when you have support. Especially when you’re a busy body like me. I like being a wife, I like being a mom, I like being a designer and I like having the store. I am all of these things; I’ll never just be one thing or another and who says I have to be.”
HOME TOUR How to make a rental feel like home
PUT UP YOUR ART
CELEBRATE THE PAST
SHOW OFF YOUR SEATING
DON’T FORGET A COSY COUCH
UNPACK YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS
STYLE A MINIMALLY CHIC BEDROOM
ROCK OUT FAMILY HEIRLOOMS
PUT THE LITTLE’S STUFF ON DISPLAY
KITTY NEEDS TO FEEL AT HOME TOO
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
“This bowl was an engagement gift. It’s an idea that I’ve copied for other people.” Her keepsake rings include the showstopper face from John that he bought from friend and designer Monika Wyndham to celebrate her pregnancy and naturally, her vintage engagement ring from Birks.
“I can be sentimental and making these little treasures feels sweet and special. I have friends whose bigger kids think of these mobiles as protection from monsters while they sleep. It’s nice to create an object with meaning, even if it’s just a few strings and knots on a stick or piece of copper. I’ve even had friends give me special ribbons and things to incorporate when they know I’m making them one.”
“I’m obsessed with Maison Louis Marie. Bois de Balincourt—that scent is a knockout. I love earthy scents.” Also on her beauty tray, Glossier Boy Brow, Eucerin Aquaphor Lip Repair, YSL Touche Eclat, and more luxe hippie fragrances, Nemat White Muskand Comme des Garcons x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki.
“I was wearing this Nirvana t-shirt when I met Olivier for the first time and he said he had exactly the same one, and that’s how we first bonded.” When she’s not dressed hippie chic, she dials into her skater girl persona. Her uniform is a worn-in tee and jeans and Chanel velvet combat boots. “I think I bought those with my very first pay check from my first job out of school.”
A preppier version of her street-wise look includes this worn-out J. Crew shirt that she nabbed from her dad. “I cropped it and even slit the back so it feels sexier.” Khaki pants, Frank & Oak and sneakers, Vans.
Her beloved blazers included a Chanel jacket from her grandmother’s closet and a Theory jacket from one of her first collections for the brand. “Even though it’s a few years old, it feels so new again.”
Don’t call these hand-me-downs. Miriam’s most prized dresses for Zelda were handmade by John’s grandmother for his own mother.