For a small business, we've got some big hitters in our history! We started out throwing launch parties with no turn-out and setting up awesome booths at comic book markets that had nothing to do with our target consumer. But hey, we hard to start somewhere! Our products were mainly t-shirts, thongs and barrettes, and while that hasn't changed, our positioning in the Toronto fashion scene definitely has.
Stratford Pride Art Show.
Our first EVER retail appearance was at an art gallery in Stratford, Ontario for their annual pride art show. The gallery was called York Lane Art Collective, by our friend Claire. Carly and her mom drove out to Stratford with a red mannequin in the trunk, beaming with excitement for the show. It was a fantastic turn out and we made some connections we still cherish today. Carly's mom was very proud.
Untitled & Co.
Our first big gig was at the local boutique on Queens St. W. titled... Untitled & Co. This brand had their own storefront featuring their clothing and clothing from other Toronto brands trying to get their name out there. Miraculously, by the grace of Instagram, we caught their attention. The induction was super quick and we had never really made inventory before (we were working mainly on a made-to-order basis). So the hustle was on. We manufactured 2 bralette styles, 2 underwear styles, each in 2 colour ways and 4 sizes, in less than a month and a half. Oh and some hand-painted tees too. It was pretty intense but the feeling of walking into a store in downtown Toronto and seeing Herelove on the mannequin in the window, laid across the front table when you walk in, and hung around the store amongst other awesome local brands... well, that made it all worth it. Not to mention the exposure and cultural relevance it gave us... cue our first celebrity endorsement.
On a random late August afternoon, during a collaboration meeting with Toronto tattoo artist Lindsay April, the Herelove Instagram started to explode. Doja Cat had performed in Toronto the night before and the photos from her concert had just surfaced on social media. We weren't aware that she had done some local shopping and bought a whole outfit from Untitled & Co. to wear on stage, featuring some Untitled & Co., sweatpants and our First Crush Bralette in heart mesh! We were truly struck by the stars. It was unbelievable. Of course we reached out to Doja Cat herself to thank her, but the true appreciation goes to the team at Untitled & Co. for believing in us and putting us on the map...*the stage.
Yorkdale Shopping Mall.
Several months went buy and the realities of starting a clothing business settled in. It was hard to produce the quality and quantity of products we wanted with the very little money we had. We were a very small team with a very big dream and it felt like we were stuck in a rut. Without any real plans or upcoming projects, we happened to receive the opportunity of a lifetime through a word-of-mouth recommendation - a month long pop-up at Yorkdale Shopping Mall. For those of you unfamiliar, Yorkdale is one the largest premium malls in North America, located in Toronto's north end. We shared the pop-up space with local beauty bar Beauty Co., selling thongs next to eyelash extension appointments. It was extremely on-brand and a great partnership. And of course it was great publicity as Yorkdale has a TON of foot traffic, especially in the summer. The only downside of being a small dog in a big park is that consumers typically go to malls to shop at the big box stores... not seek out new small handmade clothing businesses. So it was a lesson in positioning but it was a blessing nonetheless.
One Of a Kind Show.
The following November after our summer in Yorkdale, we had enough momentum to take on more retail opportunities. After our previous lesson in positioning, we made the shift to a handmade/shop-local vibe, applying for a 5x10' booth for 5/9 days of the winter One Of A Kind Show. Due to a last minute drop-out and the organizers familiarity with our brand's social media accounts, we were able to secure a spot. This brought on the lesson of preparation and planning. We were scheduled for the second half of the show which meant a move in time of 5AM and a market opening time of 10AM, the same day. This was truly insane and anyone who was in the show or has done the show before recognizes the insanity of it all. It takes some serious grit to set up a presentable retail display at dawn and then sell your ass off for the next 10 hours, go home and do it all again for another 4 days, "always on". Thankfully we made some amazing friends and the community of makers in that show is so supportive and kind. We had an absolute blast and will hopefully have a booth again at the OOAK shows to come.
Toronto Pride Parade
Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.