Designs on local shoppers: New organization launches to promote Winnipeg's design community

Design Quarter Winnipeg, a new non-profit group aiming to connect and showcase the cities design community, held its public launch Friday morning.

Design Quarter Winnipeg connects and showcases design community in downtown, Exchange District and The Forks

Zephyra Vun, Design Quarter Winnipeg's executive director, stands with Mayor Brian Bowman and Johanna Hurme of 5468796 Architecture, who brought the idea of a more connected design community back to Winnipeg after a trip to Helsinki. (CBC)

Winnipeg has a lot to offer "design-conscious consumers" — and a new non-profit has launched that aims to help them find what they're looking for.

Design Quarter Winnipeg, which aims to connect and showcase the city's diverse design community, held its public launch Friday morning. The member-based organization includes 45 businesses and organizations so far, covering fashion, art, housewares and restaurants.

"We have such a strong arts and culture scene, very strong and influential design scene as well, and we're becoming more internationally recognized," said Zephyra Vun, Design Quarter Winnipeg's executive director.

Through a new map and online tools, Design Quarter Winnipeg showcases member businesses and organizations that are all in one central, easily navigated and walkable place, Vun said.

"The design quarter is about having this go-to place, this go-to platform for the public — not only visitors to our city, but locals as well, who may not be aware of it, to have a place to go to experience all of these things." 
A view of the interactive Design Quarter Winnipeg map. (

Vun and others are careful to point out that they aren't trying to rebrand well-known districts like the Exchange or The Forks, but are rather trying to bolster the vibrant design community that is found within those neighbouring areas. 

Mayor Brian Bowman was on hand for the launch and said efforts like this are further examples of why removing the barricades at Portage Avenue and Main Street would bolster connections between popular destinations like The Forks, the Exchange and the downtown Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District.  

"It's one piece of that broader vision of a more connected and a more accessible and vibrant downtown," he said.

Local fashion designer and artist Lennard Taylor was quick to sign up his boutique Exchange District shop.

"There is a huge boom right now on buying local. This map is the best of the best of buying local. So anyone who picks up this map is going to get the best international designers who are locally making their product and locally positioned in our city," said Taylor.

Local fashion designer and artist Lennard Taylor in his Exchange District boutique. (CBC)
He said being listed on the new digital database of local designers is a good chance to show more people what his expanding business is all about.

"It's the experience. You come to a Lennard Taylor store, you get to actually see the sewing machines, you can see where I paint the garments. You can see the different way that I display my clothing."

Vun said part of the DQW is expose design in everyday things.

"It's not just your art galleries and design studios, though we do highlight those as well, it's your restaurants, your hotels, your event venues, your events. So people can kind of curate their own experience," said Vun.

Printed maps are available at member businesses, through travel Manitoba and Tourism Winnipeg. An interactive map is also available on the Design Quarter Winnipeg website.