Published on January 21, 2020

Walking In Their Shoes

St. Albert is one of the province’s most beautiful communities, known as the Botanical Arts City, and ranking #1 in Alberta and #23 in the country for best communities to live in. People make their way to St. Albert for lots of reasons and in 1991, Joan Barber and her family stopped in the community as one of their many nation-wide moves with her husband’s role with CN Rail. Like many, the Barber family immediately fell in love with the community and felt a sense of belonging. A decade later, after another transfer, Joan, her husband and their three daughters found themselves back in St. Albert in 2001; this time for good.

Moving and the transitions and challenges that come with it had become a foundation for the Barber family and their values. Encountering and overcoming change herself, Joan found a quick fit in the City’s Economic Development department as a tourism coordinator, helping new residents discover the community and the amazing things to see and do here. Over the years, she continued to grow in the department, taking on bigger roles and working more with the business community directly, most recently working as the Interim Director.

The changes brought on by their nomadic lifestyle had truly inspired the entire family. Joan and her husband have three daughters that were constantly challenged to make new friends and figure out new communities. As they grew older, these changes helped them develop independence and resiliency, as well as many other skills that have helped them throughout their careers. You might have heard of Joan’s eldest two daughters: Kendall and Justine Barber. In 2012, they founded the company Poppy Barley, a Canadian luxury brand that is rethinking every step of the fashion industry – from design to factory relationships and retail experience.

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Recently celebrating their seventh year in operation, Poppy Barley provides ethically-crafted footwear and accessories, selling them at fair prices and donating 1% of sales back into their communities. Specifically, the company puts a direct emphasis on ethical fashion and manufacturing, partnering with family-owned factories in both Mexico and Brazil, where Poppy Barley works to build long-term relationships and support positive working conditions for their workers and produce high-quality products with longevity.  Alongside their ethical production, Kendall and Justine also believe in sustainable fashion and proactively share their sustainability goals with their customers through an annual sustainability report. As they say on their website, “as a business, we believe that social and environmental objectives matter as much as profits and happy customers”.

St. Albert shares many of the same values of sustainability and the importance of community, as it continues to pursue the goal of being a vibrant and innovative city, supporting forward-thinking commerce and a strong and diverse economy. Joan is incredibly proud of Kendall and Justine and the business they have built, but most important to her is how socially responsible they are. Not only are they strong, independent women leading an international business, but they are also working to change the fashion industry and create positive change in the world.

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While her daughters continue to build their international, ethical empire, Joan is happy with her life in St. Albert. Out of all the communities she’s lived in, St. Albert felt like home right from the start. Her house on Mission Avenue allows her to walk to work and enjoy the views of the beautiful Sturgeon River Valley each and every day. Living right off the park and the Red Willow Trail System is incredibly energizing and is by far her favourite part of the community.

The beauty of St. Albert is the close-knit community that forms. Joan is incredibly proud of her daughters and it’s nice to be a part of a community where their accomplishments are recognized and celebrated. The City believes that community starts with the person next door, and so does Joan. Now she’ll be spending even more time in the community she loves so dearly as she retires from her role as Interim Director for the City’s Economic Development department. So be sure to say hello as you pass her or others on the trails, and don’t forget to remark “Are you Poppy Barley’s Mom?”. 


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Last edited: January 22, 2020