What made you choose a career in fashion?
It happened pretty organically. I started working in retail fashion, first at a bigger chain and eventually at a smaller, independent chain. I fell in love with the retail and fashion industry, especially the behind-the-scenes and the strategic and creative decisions. I've always enjoyed creative projects and I have always been a bit of a dreamer, so I really fell in love with fashion when I discovered how personal style could be a creative outlet and a way for individuals to express themselves and connect with their inner beauty.
How did you end up opening your own clothing boutique, Bicyclette?
It started during my final year of study at Ryerson University for Fashion Communication. I started dreaming up the concept of Bicyclette and building the brand as part of my creative thesis, and it grew from there, developing into an online store, then into a series of pop-up shops in different neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto, and then eventually leading to the storefront on Queen West.
It was a mix between having a dream and a vision for a boutique that I wanted to share with others, and seeing a gap in the market that I knew I could fill. Online has always been a really important aspect of the Bicyclette brand, and we've created an integrated shopping experience that creates a magical and unimagined shopping experience both online and in-store.
How do you source the clothing for your store?
We only carry products we love and are constantly searching for unique pieces that are hard to find and special in their own way. I always have my eyes out for new lines that feel like a good fit for the shop, and try to keep tapped into what's going on in the fashion industry, whether it's the tradeshows, runways, or street style.
Frequent buying trips are important to the process, and you'll see us constantly traveling to Los Angeles and New York, among other places, looking for new lines, connecting with existing brands, and also gathering style inspiration from elsewhere, which is extremely important to the process.
What is your typical day like?
There's really no such thing as a typical day! My schedule varies quite drastically from day-to-day, and depending on the season as well. To say my schedule is a little crazy would be an understatement, but it's also one of the things that I love most about what I do. There's never a dull moment at Bicyclette! I spend the majority of my time at the shop, on the floor helping customers, merchandising and designing window and in-store displays, and also connecting with my team. Most of the magic happens at the shop, and we do a lot of our planning and styling there as well. We always have some sort of project on the go, whether it's styling our next lookbook, brainstorming blog posts and styling ideas, or other creative endeavours.
When I'm not in the shop, I'm either working from my home office (aka 'Bicyclette HQ), working on planning and daily logistics or focusing more on the online components of the brand - product shots, the online store, blogging, social media, inspiration gathering, etc. I'm also kept quite busy with buying appointments and other meetings, whether they're in Toronto or quick trips to LA and NYC, and you'll often find me running around the city.
Tell us about some cool opportunities you've experienced because of your job!
I've been able to work with some incredibly creative and talented people and I'm always so impressed by the local community we have in Toronto and the opportunities that come with collaboration. Whether it's bringing them in to work at the shop as part of our team, or dreaming up a specific project that is outside of my normal skill set, it's been really amazing to build a network of people around me and create some truly amazing things.
Travelling has always been something I love to do, and it's so amazing to be able to do that as part of my job. It's exciting to be able to bring other members of the team along as well, and we're starting to take advantage of our trips in new ways as well, planning photo shoots in different cities that we visit, and gathering styling inspiration from wherever we go. The potential to grow the business is really exciting right now, and we're focusing on new adventures and opportunities to take the Bicyclette brand to the next level.
What is a disadvantage of your job that maybe we don't think about?
One of the hardest things about having my own business has always been taking everything really personally and finding it difficult to detach myself at times. Especially in retail, where so much of your business depends on traffic and there are extreme seasonal highs and lows, it can be hard to not let that get you down and take it as a personal blow. It's something that I've made a conscious effort to work on, and instead turn it into more of an advantage.
I think one of the reasons we've been able to connect with our customers and why Bicyclette has been successful is that it's very much a product of who I am, and also the personality and unique style of each of my team members. People can relate and identify to that, and it allows us to create genuine relationships with our customers and followers.
Is there anything you would have done differently or advise others about?
I can't stress enough how important it is to spend the time doing the research and planning before embarking on an entrepreneurial adventure. I've always liked a challenge and am extremely project-oriented, and that's served me well, but it's not for everyone. It's not easy at times, and being passionate about whatever you're doing is essential. It's about the balance of practicality and reality with adventure and risk.
Where are your favourite places to hang out in Toronto?
I'm constantly exploring the city and love acting like a tourist in new neighbourhoods. Toronto has so much to offer and I'm really trying to take advantage of that, though I do tend to spend a lot of time in the West Queen West, Dundas West and Parkdale areas, since I live and work there.
I've always enjoyed Sundays, primarily for the leisurely brunches (especially on a patio), gossip sessions with girlfriends, and antique markets such as the Junction Flea (a recent favourite) and the St. Lawrence Market.
I'm definitely a summer person, so I'm happiest when I can bike from one end of the city to another, pack a picnic and a bottle of wine, and see where the day or night leads. The proximity of the shop to Trinity Bellwoods Park is such a blessing, so you'll find me there quite a bit in the summer as well. I'm also a fan of live music and heading to a small local venue is probably one of my favourite ways to spend an evening, either listening to a local favourite or being introduced to a new act.
Who inspires you?
I tend to be inspired by other businesses that are closely aligned with Bicyclette and what I want to build the brand into, especially independent companies run by other women. Sophia Amoruso, the founder/CEO of Nasty Gal, has built an amazing brand and online following, and though it's quite different in style from Bicyclette, what she's done is amazing, and I've really enjoyed watching the brand grow and seeing where she takes it.
Creatively and stylistically I really look up to Free People, and love how they've created a lifestyle brand, which I think is something we've accomplished as well. Ban.do is another amazing brand that I love to follow, started and run by two women and extremely creative in all aspects of their business.
What would you tell your 20 year-old self?
Sleep in, and don't be afraid to dream big!
What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
Explore, look for inspiration everywhere, talk to people, find out what your passion is and don't be afraid to take a risk.
Photos also provided by Sian Melton and Shaun Benson