In her new weekly column, Emily Ramshaw, Assistant Fashion News Editor, starts a conversation inspired by the insiders and newsmakers shaping the fashion world now. Check back every Tuesday for her latest report.
Lately, Toronto has seen a huge push from prominent international brands buying up storefronts for their first Canadian properties—most notably at Yorkdale, with Mulberry, White House|Black Market, and John Varvatos, among a panoply of others opening in the next few months. Then there’s Target and their impossible to miss “Neighbour” campaign bedecking every streetcar and billboard and filling every spare prime time commercial slot. We could bemoan the threat to native Canadian chains, but for the most part, this is an exciting moment for consumers (myself included).
But at this point, new brick and mortar stores are old news. I remember my teenage anticipation when Abercrombie & Fitch opened its first Canadian door (my taste has improved since then, promise).
For something completely different, e-commerce site Everlane is entering our market in a totally new and modern way: crowdfunding. Talking to founder Michael Preysman on the eve of the Canadian launch a few weeks ago, he said they used the proven viral technique for PR more than funding. Their campaign, #CrowdFundCanada, proved that there was a worthy Canadian market to be exploited and that customers here would be buying their product. It was a clear instance of money talking.
And why not? The meeting Market Editor Erin O’Brien and I had with Preysman was the furthest thing possible from usual fashion industry previews: there were no rehearsed pitches, no smoke and mirrors. In fact, the San Franciscan former venture capitalist seemed more interested in the Canadian community and the Toronto arts and culture scene than selling us on the company. Right away he noticed I was wearing a silk shirt by French brand Equipment—good eye for someone who doesn’t have a background in fashion. He told us the quality of Everlane’s silk shirts was just as good. They are: I’m a proud new owner.
The secret to the brand, and a good reason why Canadian customers have embraced it (nationwide shipping launched last Thursday), is that they promise to remove the middleman from retail. By selling online only, there is no retail markup: the products go from the factory to the wearer. Preysman was inspired by high quality basics by the likes of the aforementioned Equipment, as well as James Perse tees and luxury cashmere, but is able to avoid the expenses that those labels incur. All of his items are basics and the prices feel right: t-shirts are $18 instead of $80; silk shirts are $105 instead of $225. It’s clever, and although the pieces are seasonless and simple (designed in house by a team split between San Francisco and Los Angeles), the separates are cool enough to be wardrobe staples. One of their military-style backpacks is my next purchase.
Speaking of fashion and crowdfunding: former GAP creative director Patrick Robinson, recently hired by Emporio Armani, is starting his own company through Kickstarter. With a goal of $50,000, Paskho, another line of basics, has raised $55,620 and counting. Fashion entrepreneurs: welcome to the era of fashion opportunity.