Canadian brand Smythe opens its first physical store

Photograph courtesy of Smythe

What could this mean for the future of IRL shopping?

This week, the doors of an alluring boutique in Toronto’s Summerhill neighborhood opened wide, welcoming new and long-time customers to browse its selection of impeccably tailored blazers, jackets and other wardrobe essentials. . Womenswear brand Smythe has launched its first-ever retail storefront.

Co-founded by Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe, Smythe has paraded in the womenswear market for 18 years, first as a wholesaler and then via e-commerce, and rose to prominence for fashioning fashion-loving celebrities. modernity (the brandDrops’ list of names includes Meghan Markle, Madonna and Blake Lively).

Developments for the Smythe store began in 2019, before the headlines of an earth-shattering pandemic swept across our screens. While it may seem “risky” to open a retail store as we navigate yet another wave of COVID, Lenczner and Smythe found that the benefits outweigh the perils.

“We always dreamed of having our own store. Presenting the collection the way we envisioned it and creating a space that represents our brand and a lifestyle has always been something we were very excited to do at some point,” says Smythe .

This presentation includes activating all the senses, not just sight. Smythe’s new showcase includes a custom room fragrance, which smells the same as the brand’s newly launched fragrance, made in collaboration with Julian Bedel of Fueguia, an Argentinian perfumery. The two co-owners also created a playlist for the space and joked about being “pretty controlling” about visual merchandising. “We chose every little detail in there. That’s how I think you feel our presence,” said Lenczner, while paying tribute to the interior design team of the duo, Ashley Botten (Ashley Botten Designs) and Tommy Smythe (TOM).

Photograph courtesy of Smythe

“Andrea and I have always followed our instincts. And from a retail perspective, we wanted to shop in a store again. So we listened to that. And I think other people [want to] too.” For Smythe and Lenczner, digital and in-person shopping are mutually supportive.

In 2020, 58,000 Canadian businesses become inactive. Shutting down for months has forced businesses to rely on digital sales. But with the opening of a showcase by Smythe after the pandemic stop thousands of stores, what could this mean for the future of brick and mortar? What exactly does IRL shopping look like from now on? Lenczner and Smythe prove that while so much has changed, the deep desire for personal connection means the world of retail is taking on a new shape. The stakes are higher and the customer wants more than just an exchange of currency for a product. They want a special shopping experience.

“You need to meet your customer where they want to be met, which is online, at Holt Renfrew [where certain Smythe pieces can be purchased] and in your own store – where they can absolutely see and try on everything and not just see changes made by other wholesalers,” Lenczner shares. Customization is not only an asset; it is essential to the survival of many of these businesses.

Smythe Store
Photograph courtesy of Smythe

According to a study from the Department of Textile and Apparel Management at the University of Missouri, companies with a strong online presence have weathered the impact of the pandemic better. Perhaps what spurred Smythe on to this opportunity was that she had mastered the science of e-commerce and developed her digital presence before laying her pebbles at 1116 Yonge Street.

“I feel like a newbie,” Smythe jokes about opening a storefront. The duo express that learning what you don’t know is so important. But for the co-founders, there is less to UNlearn, like the obsolete dogmas of traders who did not survive the pandemic. Entering the IRL retail space early in this new era of retail could be the key to continued success.

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