PHOTOS BY: KIRSTEN ROY & SHAHANAH SHIVJI
Vancouver's young, creative culture is constantly in a growth spurt. Aside from having brands constantly competing against one another (which is only natural), it is no doubt a long process for brands, artists and even creative individuals who start to create a brand, to really find a space, a place and opportunity to showcase what they've been able to produce.
However, we have finally found a space, a place, a home, where some of the dopest, high quality independent brands within Vancity are collectively presented!
What is The Basement? To put into simpler terms, who is The Basement? is the more appropriate question. The Basement is an open retail space within Gastown, one of the top hot spots in downtown Vancouver, where locally based brands, are finally given a grand opportunity to showcase their product to the Vancouver community. The various roster of brands that The Basement has brought on, are able to not only showcase their product(s), but also an opportunity to take their online store(s), and bring a physical experience, and connect with local energy.
With that being said, there is one brand to really thank for this massive movement, Loyal Coalition.
The team behind the fashion and lifestyle base brand, Loyal Coalition, consists of two lady bosses, who are now feeling more closer to their business based goals, but most of all, passion based goals. We formally introduce you to Miss Ami Corin DeMelo, and Miss Heather Campbell (above).
Ami and Heather have been in each others lives for just over a decade, and it couldn't be more obvious. Their natural connection to one another as not only best friends, but also a connection as family, is easily noticed when you see them hustling together.
They coincidently came into each others lives through mutual friends, and the rest has been history since then. They are literally what you imagine Salt N' Pepper are like, as sisters from different misters. They compliment each others personalities, fashion style, and biggest of all, their business ambition and mentality. To find a connection like that, is a rare experience we are able find in this world, let alone Vancouver, but they are here to prove that when you find the right team, it can make the dream a reality.
Since having met each other, their instant connection was always talking about wanting to start 'something'. One day, they were having a phone call which ended up being a 5 hour long conversation which led to them start brainstorming about business based ideas. This brainstorming chapter for this duo started in May/June 2013, and then the following winter, in December 2013, they decided to take the plunge, where Loyal Coalition was officially born.
If you are as ambitious as the roster of Dimemond Mentality, you have to understand 'the process'. The idea behind 'the process' is almost as similar as understanding 'the secret'; the law of attraction. Whatever you attract, you will be. 'The process' is similar. You will HAVE to through stages of growth you are ready to invest not only money, but time, your creativity, your ideas and most of all, be ready to present it to the public eye. You cannot speak your ideas into existence, without you proving you fully know what you are talking about (let's be honest).
With Ami being a graduate from John Casablancas Institute, having studied Fashion Business and Arts, she embodied quite the resume which includes her doing visual merchandising with various brands, and being a freelance stylist for local designers, she has provided the Loyal Coalition brand, and now The Basement, a great pathway to understanding what it takes to aesthetically present business and fashion in a cohesive nature.
With Heather having a vast resume integrated with retail core job positions and customer service focused, she has managed to transfer those hard skills to the Loyal Coalition brand and now the Basement as well. Both Heather and Ami admit the biggest obstacle when it comes to understanding how to create your own brand, specifically fashion based, you need to know how to communicate to manufacturers. Many start up brands tend to forget the only way to have product, is to be able to prototype, sample and create the product first. Heather has been fortunate enough to have been in the manufacturing business, where her position required her to communicate with external sources to get various jobs done, as well as being able to infuse herself in the environment where materials are made, understanding the process of production, as well as being confident enough to strongly communicate what you are looking for.
The Loyal duo together as a team, have an even greater resume, which heavily displays and presents why they are good at what they do, and why they know they can reach their business and passion driven goals. The even admit as a team, they worked for "3 years to find the right sources".
There is one strong lesson that both Ami and Heather shared, and that is understanding what it means to support, and have support.
They've described their situations, where they have experienced people criticizing how they manufacture their product.
One attribute Loyal Coalition holds key to their product on their brand, is that they heavily manufacture all their product in Vancouver. There is an 80:20 balance of where all their ladies based product is made right here in their stomping grounds, and the other 20 needs to be outsourced for some of the product they produce for men. The crazy experience they've had, is have people judge their process and ask them "why do they manufacture their product in Vancouver?", "isn't it easier to create product over seas?".
The Loyal Coalition team always has the same response for these particular scenarios and instances, and they keep it simple. They only understand what it means to create QUALITY product, and to be able to find that in their neighbourhood, their home base, could not make Loyal Coalition more of a raw, authentic, Vancity based brand. A well known fact about the Loyal Coalition product, is that their common material found in their designs is bamboo, an ingredient not many brands withhold, as oppose to the cotton game most clothing brands dive into.
Another strong lesson Loyal Coalition has learned, and has also embossed when it comes to supporting other brands as well, is knowing what real 'support' is.
The word SUPPORT itself, is thrown out a lot, especially when two different brands for instance, are trying to present that they have each others back in this crazy competitive world. However, 75% of the time, in reality, in the business world, it is really hard to find support which withholds aspects of trust, honesty and genuine respect.
When DM and Loyal Coalition were sitting down for this content, the discussion got real. Each brand sharing stories about how when we launched these brands, and we think that everyone will always support. Support can be divided into many different routes and actions. From having your friends simply share a post on social media, to having people put the money down to fully support your product being in the 'real' world, and to literally having a conversation, thinking they will be a positive support system. Heather added to our conversation saying "as soon as you start to pursue something you are passionate about, it's funny to see the people who you thought would support you, not".
As a platform, DM believes it is important to consider these REAL aspects when you do decide to pursue courageous goals. Having that reality, knowing what support really means when you put 110% into a brand, ideas from paper to physical product, and literally investing money and time, irreplaceable elements, it opens your eyes to really understanding what it takes to make it. Loyal Coalition is just one of high quality brands, that is able to share their story, to only want to inspire others to be ambitious but do not be afraid to learn, even if it means facing reality, trials and errors, and having a smaller circle.
If Loyal Coalition did not stick to their true nature of being some hard core individuals, and call out the realness of being fully invested into an idea, and now a business, they would have never launched The Basement.
The Basement was recently announced to be a new project that Loyal Coalition is going to curate in late March, early April, and about a month later, the finally opened the vibrant red door, and welcomed the public to their first official store front.
Located in the heart of Gastown is where The Basement resides. Gastown is a restored 'old Vancouver' environment, which is home to many locally owned creative agencies, locally owned and run cafes and restaurants, locally owned and run fashion lifestyle based boutiques, and the infamous tourist attraction, the Gastown Steamclock. The clear common attribute these store fronts and buildings withhold is the idea of being a "local business".
Ami and Heather describe The Basement to be the physical space to present and showcase, not only Loyal Coalition product but other local based brands and product. It provides an opportunity and experience not only for the local brand owners and entrepreneurs, but an opportunity and experience for customers, neighbours, and as well as tourists to really experience the creative hustlers out in Vancouver.
Coincidently, when both Heather and Ami were scouting out potential spaces to make their storefront goal become real, they locked down a literal basement space, and could not find a more appropriate name for the store. "The Basement" simply defines the location. It plays on the idea that Vancouver does have an 'underground' creative scene, but barely to nobody really sees it. So why not call it The Basement, and give these underground, passion and creative brands and individuals a place to shine?
Below are some of the local brands which are currently rostered in The Basement product line up. The roster is going to continue to grow, as The Basement becomes a pillar in Vancouver for being one of the first storefronts to sell exclusively only LOCAL brands, an affordable price and rate.
Ami and Heather have already reflected on the overwhelming feeling having The Basement actually being real and all the positive feedback they have been able to receive from friends, family, the local brands and even new customers that have checked out the storefront.
Both Ami and Heather hope that The Basement brings various positive changes and opportunities to Vancouver. They are very hopeful, if not, determined to inspire other Vancouverites to be themselves; do not be afraid to express yourself, and initiate a potential spark that can create greater ripple effects, not just for yourself, but for all the other likeminded individuals around the city.
An important aspect that Loyal Coalition brings with this physical space, is breaking the barrier and the norm of 'online stores'. Many of the rostered brands including Loyal Coalition, in The Basement, are brands that heavily focus on creating an interactive online store. Though, this approach is beneficial for expanding the branding and product all over the globe; more eyes, more money, it does not always work. The online shopping world "is over saturated" now, and The Basement allows "daily interactions" and allowing people to speak to these creative leaders face to face, and further create a communal, enjoyable space.
So what's next for Loyal Coalition and now officially, The Basement? Easy. They are focused on continuing to build a strong community, not only full of creative entrepreneurs, designers, and even artists, but continuing to push to further unfold the young culture that needs some light in Vancouver. Very similar to Dimemond Mentality's main mission, they are here to help not only themselves to shine hard, but aid and collaborate with other dope brands to shine together!
What more can we say to that these two females are on the righteous pathway, and are determined to be some of the Vancity Queens that are really wanting to take the city to a new level!
1. YOUR SURROUNDING: Remember to surround yourself with like minded people. Having positive, motivated, inspiring individuals and groups around you, will only inspire and motivate you to be as ambitious as they are.
2. HAVE REAL CONVERSATIONS: Being stuck in a world of redundancy is boring. How can we grow if we talk about the same recycled conversations which consist of gossip, judging one another, and not staying positive. Have real conversations, with real people are full of substance, and want to make changes for the better and the best, as well stay in conversation with creative people who aren't afraid to take on challenges and risks. Learning is a process!
3. TACOS: Keep yourself full, especially from La Taqueria!