Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau connected to the wild around her. When she did, she discovered the potential in plants… and herself.
She began making soap and body care products as a teenager. After attending the University of Winnipeg to study political theory, she worked in the non-profits sector, making body care products on the side. When she moved back to Saskatoon to her family’s acreage, she found herself captivated by the native plants growing there. She studied the plants’ qualities and their traditional uses and the two interests converged.
She started selling at markets and quickly committed to making it a full time business. For the first three years, she operated the business from Saskatoon, before returning to Winnipeg and opening her studio in the Exchange in 2018.
“I’ve always been charmed by the Exchange and its history,” she said. When she first saw the 6th floor of the 110-year-old Glengarry Block at 290 McDermot, it was far from charming. Transforming the 3800 sq. ft. space was an undertaking. The windows were caked with dirt and the space was crowded with cast-offs. Scrubbing the floors also resulted in the discovery of hundreds of needles in the floorboards, reminders of the time the building was home to garment-making and sewing notion sales.
“I knew I could grow here as a studio and shop.”
Northlore products are made using botanicals wildcrafted or grown directly for the company.
Many of the plants we are most familiar with are dismissed and disregarded as weeds, she said. The ancient glacier sea bed here is also an overlooked source of mineral salts and clay used in her products.
You can see much of the harvest hanging to dry in the studio, while for other items, it is used fresh. The appearance of the natural items and equipment tends to invite comments on the witchy-ness of it all. “I don’t mind,” said Bezoplenko-Brazeau, “it’s a healthy reclamation. Healers were often labeled as witches in the past, she said.
Bezoplenko-Brazeau creates products based on the ones she wanted for herself, sourced locally and sustainably, matching plant properties to the desired effect. Northlore’s branding and packaging was developed with graphic designer Jadyn Klassen to be non-gendered, with a black and white palette and botanical illustrations.
She continues to grow the business intentionally. Northlore products can be found in shops across North America, and even in the rooms at the Four Season Beverly Hills Hotel. However when Whole Foods was looking to carry the product, they requested a change to plastic packaging instead of biodegradable paper tubes and glass containers.
Bezoplenko-Brazeau has made a series of commitments to sustainability, ethics, and supporting Indigenous Climate Action.
Bezoplenko-Brazeau’s partner is involved in the business in producing the products and now, reflecting the response to the pandemic, also making local deliveries. The property management is keeping the building closed to the public for now, but she looks forward to welcoming people back to the studio when the time is right.
Wholesale and online sales have helped Northlore weather the pandemic. Soap sales increased with an increased emphasis on handwashing, and she was able to arrive at a Northlore hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada. Fifty percent of the profits from the sales of the hand sanitizer are donated to Main Street Project, a community organization helping the city’s most vulnerable.
She said she is grateful to the community who reached out with their support. “Winnipeggers vote with their dollars and care about local makers and artists.”
She hopes people have found comfort in her products during anxious times. “The highest compliment is when people tell me a product has helped them connect back to their body.”
Please visit Northlore’s website for their complete product catalogue and operating hours.