Changing the Future and Influencing the Retail Industry
There are many things we are not. We are not a big-box store. We are not a heavy-sell store. We are not a fast-fashion store, and we are not a store which carries mass-produced items. We are not a store which follows a scripted greeting or sales model. What we are is a store, no, scratch that, we are a community of people who love the fashionable arts, and love using them to make people’s days just a little bit brighter. Its not unusual to pop into one of our locations and find total strangers chatting like old friends, or to find our store staff dancing around with customers as they celebrate a first date, a big promotion or a new baby. We strive to make relationships, not sales, and we’re committed to having a BLAST each and every day we come to work. We’re not a typical store, and we don’t have typical days. We start off every day with a positive outlook, and a commitment to inspiring joyful living through confidence, self-expression and creativity.
I’m My Own Boss!
During my interview at Laura-Jean’s outdoor boardroom (aka lovely backyard… but seriously, it was like stepping into Narnia) I was asked some pretty typical questions. The magic came after the “interview” questions subsided, and we began to chat about what she wanted to see in her business. She told me that they were looking for someone to step out of line, suggest the craziest ideas, and dream big – they were looking for those outside-the-box people who could take on the store and run it as though it were their own. Apparently I fit the bill (hoorah!) and ever since I’ve been taking the first of many, many steps to a long and delightful career with FC. Each of our stores has such a different flavour because they are managed, curated and populated by a signature team of individuals who truly understand the clientele and vibe of the neighbourhood. Each and every person who works for FC is given the opportunity to lead their own projects, create their own systems, and establish their own career paths in any direction they choose. FC has been in business for TEN years now, but this is just the beginning for our team and what we’re going to accomplish in the fashion industry!
Relationships Beyond Compare
A few weeks into my position with Fresh Collective, a customer walked in and chatted with myself and Jane for a bit. She worked across the street and was super funny. Wicked! Friendly neighbours! The girl came back the next day, and several more after. You may recognize her from some of our pics, she’s the blonde with the black glasses, and her name is Emily. Over the last few months, Emily has turned from a customer to a neighbour, and from a neighbour to an amazing, hilarious friend. We’re road tripping together next weekend! I’m fortunate enough to know customers like Krista, Robyn, Shawna, Nuria, Melissa, Sandra, Anna, Kayla, Tasha, Tara, and countless others who I look forward to seeing each time they come in! I’ve spent hours with some of our designers, talking about the dating scene, moving, movies and eating grilled cheese from up the block. Fresh Collective encourages amazing, open relationships in AND out of the workplace, and I’ve never been a part of an environment as friendly, welcoming and truly awesome as this!
Company Culture Allows for Growth
At a typical place of work, an employee is hired, and after three months, their performance is reviewed to decide whether the individual will be kept on as permanent staff. Once or twice a year, their performance is reviewed again, and if they excel, a promotion or raise is offered. Before I was even sent the job offer, I was asked in which area of the company I would like to advance to, and an action plan was discussed to get me there. What? Seriously? There is no such thing as “sales staff” or “shift managers” at FC, but rather the understanding that you’re given as much leadership and authority as you desire, and there’s always support to make your career goals a reality within the company. Some people take on jobs to advance their resume, or gain a skill set, then move on. At FC, there is no need to move on, because there is truly no better way to build a skill set and challenge your abilities than among a group of your supportive, understanding and accommodating peers. Life here is awesome.
Supporting Local Artists, Launching New Ones
When we introduce new artists to the Collective, we know that we have a hand in creating a future for them within the industry. Local designers often shop their products around to various stores before landing a spot in one, only to receive little to no support in marketing, branding, production strategies or progression. This is where many designers and artists falter, and many eventually give up on making their dream a reality. At FC, the process is indeed an interactive one, and our designers receive very active feedback, coaching, and support. We actually care about the success of our designers, which is why we’re in contact almost daily, be it a strategic email regarding marketing and advertising, or simply a string of cat videos. Yeah, we’ve totally all seen the cat riding around on the Roomba in the shark costume, and it’s fabulous. We care, and we’re so, so happy to see our designers flourish as they interact with their fans! Oh, by the way, there’s an amazing trunk show with “Fangirl Chic” artist Mady Bone
at the Kensington Market store on Saturday and Sunday, come by and meet her! Her stuff is amazing!
Allowing customers to contribute
We believe in guerrilla marketing. Yeah, we could take out some massive billboard ads, or create a TTC stop poster for those funky new bus shelters, but we know that the best advertising is word of mouth, and we’re committed to being the type of store which you want to bring your friends to, try on a million dresses and chat with the store staff about your ex boyfriend. We open up our social media channels for input, and we’re always curious to pick your brains about your favourite fabrics, colours, designers, etc, so that we can give our amazing customers EXACTLY what they want! Our designers are creative folks indeed, but they’re always willing to hear what their fans and customers have to say. After all, they’re designing clothes for YOU!
Real women – celebrating your body
Have you ever come in to an FC store and seen shots of our models? Like the tall redhead with the sleeve of tattoos in the striped shirt? Or the other redhead in the white pants and the aqua sunglasses? Or the petite girl with the strawberry blonde hair, freckles and a parasol? (Holy cow, we have a lot of redheads.) Yeah, those ladies are Kat (the designer of Curious Oddities) Allison (our fantastic social media manager) and Jane (our regional manager) and they’re real live people who have never taken a single modelling class and did NOT diet for the shoot. We believe in incorporating real people into everything we do. We make clothes for real women, be they petite or fuller figured, and we want that to be expressed in our marketing.
I love dresses. Oh my goodness, how I love dresses.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it on that topic. I love dresses. Fresh Collective carries lots of dresses, all the time. Therefore, I love FC all the time. DRESSES, OMG. Dresses and jewellery.
Change… and lots of it!
There’s no such thing as good enough. There’s no such thing as “the way it is”. There’s no such thing as permanence. When we think we have something figured out, we turn it on it’s head and inspect it from every angle, then dream up something new just for kicks. Its like giving a four-year-old a box. To a normal person, a box is a box, or maybe a low-budget cat bed. Working with a team as creative and fun as this, there is always the possibility of change, growth, new ideas, and fun new ways to reinvent the wheel. Is it more work than just following the retail mold? It sure is, but we have a blast doing it and you bet your bonnet we’re not stopping anytime soon.
Living the dream – it all comes together!
All these areas indicate that Fresh Collective is the most amazing place in the world to shop, work, hang out or share ideas, but when you roll then into one big ball, you have what I’m proud to call my day-to-day life. I love the quirkiness of the company, I love the enthusiasm of our fans, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come for ALL of us, including you! Thanks so much, guys, for being a part of this experience and making my time with FC inspiring, fun, challenging, motivating and totally, totally different from anything else I’ve experienced. Here’s to ten amazing years of FRESHening up Toronto, and to ten (Twenty? A million bazillion?) more!