Former Nordstrom Canada Leader Launches Dream Alterations Store in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre [Interview/Photos]


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Northern Alterations & Designs Inc. has recently opened its first location in Yorkdale Mall in Toronto and has more plans to expand in Canada.

Wazhma Azamyar

The owner, Wazhma Azamyar, was the leader of Alterations and Personalization for Nordstrom Canada and after Nordstrom closed its doors, she decided to venture out on her own to open her dream alteration store. Northern Alterations & Designs Inc. opened its doors this summer on July 14th.

“On March 2nd, 2023, Nordstrom announced they were exiting the Canadian market, and on June 13th, I was let go from the company. I am now embarking on an exciting new adventure as I proudly announce the opening of Northern Alterations & Designs Inc. on July 14th in Yorkdale Shopping Center,” says Azamyar.

Image: Northern Alterations & Designs

Azamyar decided to open in Yorkdale Mall as a lot of her customers from Nordstrom were from around the area and supported her opening her own business. The location is 500 square feet and Azamyar designed the space herself.

“I spent a lot of long days and nights cleaning and designing. People stop by to wish me luck, and want to take pictures of the beautiful space. It has been weeks since opening, but customers are giving feedback already and I get lots of love from people in the community.”

Northern Alterations & Designs Inc. offers alteration and tailoring services for men and women’s clothing. Azamyar said her team can repair clothing as well as create customized projects for customers. They work with a variety of fabrics such as leather, fur, suede, silk, organza, double-face fabrics, satin, and more. Customers are welcome to schedule an appointment or walk in to discuss alteration needs.

Rich History of Sewing and Secrecy Under The Taliban

Image: Northern Alterations & Designs

Azamyar has been interested in sewing and making clothes since she was four years old. Once she was older, her father enrolled her into sewing classes, bought her first sewing machine when she was 14 years old, and then hired a tailor to teach her in their home in Kabul. It only took two weeks for Azamyar to learn everything she needed to start sewing for her family and friends.

In school Azamyar was interested in going into medical school, was prepared, and passed the exam which gives a 90 percent chance of acceptance; however, the Taliban took over before she was able to do that and closed everything for women and girls.

“When I was in grade 11, the Taliban came and took control of the country and I wanted to go to medical school. But when the Taliban came, I had to stay at home and the government closed all the doors to education for women and girls. When we wanted to go outside, we needed a man to be with us, and that was my dad – it was hard for my whole family.”

Six months later, Azamyar decided she wanted to do something other than just sit at home, so when she was 17 years old she started teaching sewing to girls and women in her community – in secret from the Taliban.

“I was so scared every single day that the Taliban would find out what I was doing, but I continued. I had the support of my community and they were so happy they were learning. My three sisters were at home too and were in grade five and six. Like my sisters,I thought to myself that there are girls out there that want to continue learning so I started teaching the school curriculum and also sewing in homes.”

Azamyar taught for five years and had around 250 students and in 2008, decided to move to Canada. Azamyar went back to school to study business management and started working.

Learnings from Nordstrom

Image: Northern Alterations & Designs

In 2016, Azamyar started working for Nordstrom and always had a dream of opening her own businesses and when it closed, she jumped on the opportunity.

“My seven years with Nordstrom was the best experience with the culture and people. It really changed me. I remember the day I joined seven years ago and there is a huge difference in my leadership skills. I want to say thank you to Nordstrom as I worked with lots of great people, great leaders, and I have learned so much and I am grateful.”

Now after opening her first business, she is dedicated to providing the best service, best quality, and wants to “make sure every single customer that walks through the door will leave happy.”

Future Growth Plans

Azamyar says she would like to continue to expand throughout Canada and would be looking to go where the previous Nordstrom locations were. The top cities that came to mind for possible openings were in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and would be interested in looking at other provinces as well. No expansion plans have been made at the moment as Azamyar’s goal right now is to focus on the new Yorkdale location.

In addition to her current location and thoughts on expanding – Azamyar is also considering writing a book on her journey.

“My journey will continue and hopefully one day I will make another dream come true and write a book. It is all so special to me and there is so much detail inside my story. I also want to be very successful here and to hope I will be able to expand to other malls – I really hope I can do it and that is my goal.”

Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.


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