March 11 2021 – DAUB + DESIGN
by Chantal Eustace from The Vancouver Sun - Mar 06, 2021
It's no surprise sweatpants are having a real moment. For Lexi Soukoreff, owner and creative director of Daub + Design, this shift has helped see her fashion label overcome some serious hurdles over the past year — and grow.
Elasticized waistbands are one of the few much-needed comforts of Zoom-exhausted, pandemic work-at-home life.
So it’s no surprise sweatpants are having a real moment.
For Lexi Soukoreff, owner and creative director of Daub + Design, this shift has helped see her fashion label overcome some serious hurdles over the past year — and grow.
“I’m super busy,” she says, speaking by phone from her Main and Broadway studio, with a lengthy to-do list including things like choosing Pantone colours and managing orders.
Right now, clothing shoppers just can’t get enough comfort.
And leisurewear’s rise is not just in Vancouver — the land of ubiquitous yoga pants and the birthplace of giant, lululemon — its popularity has gone global.
In August, the New York Times ran a story titled, Sweatpants Forever, citing the collapse of fashion as we know it. In February, The Washington Post argued that wearing sweatpants shouldn’t be seen as a defeat since just the act of getting dressed right now is a win. (Who hasn’t accidentally forgotten to step out of their pyjamas on a Tuesday?)
Like always, fashion echoes culture. Right now, our personal worlds have shrunk considerably, so living rooms have replaced runways — or rather, brunch line ups and latte runs.
Untethered by the constraints of pre-2020 fashion, we’re now encouraged to pair tracksuit bottoms with everything from combat boots to ballet flats, and yes, the symbol of at-home comfort, UGG boots.
Loungewear is now, officially, all-day-wear.
“There was a massive shift in what people were wearing and wanting,” Soukoreff notes, adding people are looking for greater versatility in their attire, from function to fit.
For instance, her line’s hand-dyed “blanket scarves”— something you can wrap around your shoulders for an instant Zoom style boost — sell out quickly. So do joggers.
She’s thoughtful about her customers. “The key to any business is really listening to your clients,” says Soukoreff. “What do they need? What do they want?”
What we wear impacts how we feel, she notes.
“I want to keep women feeling confident, strong and comfortable in their clothing and everyday lives, as well as keeping design and manufacturing here in Canada,” she says. “Whatever makes you feel good is how you should be dressing.”
Because her company is smaller, it’s also nimble.
“The pandemic brought my business, as I knew it, to an abrupt halt, and I knew we needed to pivot immediately,” she reflects. She was about to ship her collection out to Eastern Canada for trade shows last March when one by one, the events were cancelled.
It was a difficult time, she says, since in-person sales were key to her bottom line.
“In fashion, you produce everything, and then you get paid,” explains Soukoreff.
“Everything started collapsing.”
She says her quick-thinking sewing team encouraged her to begin selling non-medical-grade cloth masks. They had the sewing machines and the know-how. And at that time, washable fabric masks weren’t easy to find.
They were able to get masks to market within a few days, launching on April 8, right around the time when people were being advised to start wearing them.
“The response was incredible and overwhelming.”
In that first month, they sold about 5,000 units. She recognized the importance of making them look and feel good, offering masks with interesting fabrics like animal prints and tie-dye.
“It’s not part of North American culture to wear masks. I wanted to have something that was stylish, not scary,” Soukoreff says. “I tried to find fun prints that would make it a little bit less daunting.”
From there, she worked to expand her brand’s online presence and used social media and targeted advertising. It paid off, since she estimates e-commerce sales are up about five times from last year. And now, she’s set to take another big step, opening her first-ever brick-and-mortar shop. (Specifics to be announced soon, says Soukoreff.)
“There’s been very strong support for ‘Made in Canada’,” she says. “As well as supporting women-led businesses.”