INLAND’s hybrid model is the vehicle designers need
One of the biggest challenges for Canadian fashion creatives is reaching consumers in a brick and mortar context. Enter INLAND, the thoughtful retail platform opening a new two-month concept shop at Bayview Village on November 2 through to December 27.
The concept shop represents an evolution for INLAND, which launched in 2014 and made a name for itself through its bi-annual 3-day pop-ups which first took place at 99 Sudbury in the Queen West neighbourhood. These events featured independent designers from all over Canada and have attracted thousands of shoppers over the years. The format was simple, INLAND pop-ups took place in large spaces with designers minding their designated stations, serving customers directly. These events created a community and broke down notions of fashion being an exclusive thing for insiders only.
INLAND’s partnership with Bayview Village represents an evolution from its pop-up format roots. Here, it’s providing a full service retail environment, right down to merchandising, sales, support, inventory management, packaging, store design, marketing and public relations. Visitors to INLAND’s pop-up will now get to shop a rotating cast of designers throughout the two month period, including brands like Ahiri, BIDDELL, Combinist, Mindful Pigs Special activations are to be announced.
“From the fan side, the Bayview [Village] concept shop offers the customer time to really discover and dig in deep with these collections. With the traditional three day events, if you can’t make it, you miss it, or there’s the option to go online. This nine week [experience] is the ideal amount of time to have the opportunity to get close to the collections for a longer period of time,” says Sarah Power, founder and director, INLAND. “Bayview Village is really devoted to supporting Canadian design. They have a unique retail mix within [its] centre that’s really different compared to what is found across Canada. I think the values of what INLAND and Bayview [Village] are both trying to express really align.”
Though the designers won’t be on site full time, INLAND is making sure the energy is emulated within the retail space by hosting a series of ‘meet the designer’ nights, “a real essence of INLAND and a special moment that means a lot,” according to Sarah. It will also be activating virtual events for customers across Canada who can’t make it to the store in-person.
What does INLAND look for when scouting for brands? Power breaks it down as, “style first, absolutely style first. I look for something that’s unique, contemporary, and attractive to the eye [of] the customer. Second is sustainability and process. Are they using ethical manufacturers? Are they creating locally? What types of materials are they using? Are they expressing this through their brand messaging?”
Power is most excited about getting to know the customers with this new concept shop format. For the three day pop-ups, designers are onsite directly dealing one on one with customers. INLAND’s concept shop gives Sarah the opportunity to get closer to the customer and better understand their needs, wants and what excites them.
INLAND’s store is 2300 sq. ft. and is segmented into sections, ideal for a multi-vendor environment. INLAND takes care of the store’s look, feel and merchandising. Designers are given an area and they simply drop off items with a full team receiving them, checking off inventory.
There are two ways designers can participate in the INLAND concept shop – through the inventory model or the showroom model. The inventory model means INLAND will house sizes and inventory back-of-house and fully manage a designer’s stock. The showroom model means designers can simply drop off samples, submitting one garment of each style in each size available. When a garment is sold, INLAND processes the sale through the designer’s e-commerce platform and it will be shipped directly to the customer. At the end of each month, INLAND provides the designer with their sales. No commission is taken after designers pay their monthly flat fee to participate. They have the option to participate for one month or two.
INLAND’s model is designed to work for designers that don’t have extensive stock or are made to order. If they have limited stock, this workaround of the traditional retail model gives designers the opportunity to sell on their own website or at other activations while also being part of INLAND. This model consistently gets evaluated and evolves depending on the needs of the customer and the designers.
“Out of the many [retail] models that are already in place, there’s nothing really fantastically new about ours, but I think what’s unique about INLAND is that we’re really giving flexibility for the designer to choose how they want to structure their retail model with us,” says Power.
At a global scale, Canada is home to some of the most popular brands worldwide, including Arc’teryx, Aritzia, Canada Goose and Lululemon. However, these multinational brands are just the surface of the Canadian fashion industry.
Power cites her biggest challenge is educating the consumer about the quality and design that’s present locally. “I find transforming customer’s ideas about design and fashion to be a main challenge. I try to do this in a way that’s meaningful, specifically to the cohort of designers that I work with,” says Power.
Canada’s domestic spend on fashion apparel is $12.7 billion per year according to a recent report by the Government of Canada. However, the majority of that spend is awarded to imported clothing – 95 per cent to be exact. This data presents a substantial opportunity for local brands to capture a larger segment of the domestic market.
Curating Canadian brands and presenting them to the consumer is a key part of the INLAND mission. It’s been successful by positioning fashion alongside other creative industries. Coming from the art and design world herself, Power has a natural vernacular for speaking about creativity and design that’s fresh amongst her peers. Her sharp eye has done an outstanding job at curating fashion so it’s compiled to send a strong message – fashion design is alive in Canada and deserves to be paid attention to.
Disclosure: INLAND is a client of Matte PR, publisher of Glossi Mag.
Heidi is the president of Matte PR and a mentor with Toronto Fashion Incubator. She’s inspired by brutalist architecture, sculptural fashion, and Giallo films. Influences include John Waters and Yoko Ono.