Behind the scenes with lululemon lab

As a retail space and production studio in one, lululemon lab’s unique space is just as busy as the major city center just outside its doors in Vancouver, BC. Started as a design incubator for the global brand lululemon athletica, the lab operates outside the lines with their own collection that is designed, produced and sold exclusively in their West Broadway location. For anyone looking for something beyond the yoga pant for your next workout, it’s a mecca of fashion forward silhouettes and fabrics. Community is a huge reason why the lab exists, so local collaborations have been the name of the game ever since they began in 2009. Osei-Duro is their latest international hookup and we’re so excited to be the exclusive online retailer for the capsule collection starting this Friday, July 17th. Stay tuned!

We met up with the team at lululemon lab to learn more about their process (keep scrolling below for a look behind the scenes) and talked with Women’s Wear Designer Erika Rekis about how this new collaboration began.

HOW DID LULULEMON LAB COME TO BE? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION TO CREATE AN INCUBATOR FOR INNOVATION IN DESIGN FOR LULULEMON? The lab was born out of a desire to create a space for emerging designers to play and experiment in a way that big companies often miss out on. The combination of retail and design is modeled after the first ever lululemon store on west 4th and allows our design team to work right alongside our production team as well as chat with the guests to get direct feedback on existing designs as well as what we’re missing.

Meet the Boutique: Condor

Loriann Smoak has been putting her passport to work. Originally from Carmel, California, she moved around the world to live in some of the world’s most glamorous cities: Paris, Milan, New York. Plus, she’s visited just about everywhere else. In 2011, she decided to take her expansive fashion knowledge gathered from her years globe trotting and set up a boutique in New York City. Condor quickly gained a loyal following for stocking chic, modern clothing with a bold aesthetic. Her store mascot, an adorable fuzzy, English Angora bunny named Merlin gained his own following (follow @merlin_manhattan on Instagram), appearing in Vogue and Lucky. But this past year, Loriann decided to move back home to the sunny west coast and lay down some roots. Now based in Los Angeles, the shop has most certainly kept its New York sensibility of effortless cool. We caught up with her to talk about coming home, the best parts of California living and quiz her on her favorite things.

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Founder of iconic Canadian boutique gravitypope reflects on 25 years

“Twenty-five to life.” Gravitypope’s campaign for celebrating a quarter of a century this year is pretty apt. For most Canadians the boutique is truly an institution. What started off as an import project by Louise Dirks in Edmonton has turned into a full fleet of iconic boutiques across country. Armed and dangerous with Acne Studios, Alexander Wang, Karen Walker, Arielle De Pinto and more, it’s easy to see how the gravitypope has had Canadians swooning for 25 years. Louise keeps pretty busy with the task of shaping Canada’s fashion-boutique landscape, but we managed to catch up with her to find out how it all began, why she likes making order out of chaos and world, well, Canadian, domination.

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OKAY, WE WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING. HOW DID GRAVITYPOPE GET STARTED? Prior to owning gravitypope, I worked in retail for many years, then studied Clothing and Textiles at the University of Alberta. I loved fashion and knew I wanted to work in the industry in some capacity. After University, I  co-owned an import shop and traveled the world to find beautiful handmade art, housewares, clothing and accessories.  I learned the trials and tribulations of buying, labeling, packing, shipping, and brokering goods. In my travels, I discovered a line of boots from Czechoslovakia called Monkey Boots and the same distributor also sold Dr. Martens. We bought a few pairs and were surprised at how quickly they sold. Soon there became a growing section of Dr. Martens (and Monkey Boots) amidst beautiful embroidered Indian cashmere, Turkish kilims and Guatemalan ikats.

The shoes in the import shop quickly outgrew the space and in 1990, gravitypope was born with its first location on the flourishing Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. I was attending trade shows in Germany, London, Paris and Milan, importing footwear from all over the world.  This was rare for any store to do back then but set us apart from our competitors and was easy for me as I was familiar with the import process.

To offset rent costs, along with the unique selection of footwear, we subleased to a friend, a small area for an espresso bar, in the back of the shop. At the time, espresso bars were virtually unheard of.  This was far before the infiltration of Starbucks! After about a year, our friend decided to move back to Japan where he had moved from, and I filled the space with clothing, mostly streetwear, which was super new and exciting in the marketplace.

I traveled the world, looking for up and coming brands in both clothing and footwear, importing them direct.  In 2000,  I did a major renovation,  acquiring some extra space from my nextdoor neighbor Blackbyrd Myoozik (who fortunately also happened to be my boyfriend).  This allowed me to expand both the footwear and clothing offering, bringing in the latest fashion brands and always willing to try new, exciting products.

Today, after 25 years, my philosophy is still the same and I continue to aspire to find the best product in the market, changing as the consumer changes and feeding the every hungry desire for new, beautiful, exciting, quality fashion.

Meet the Designer: Roland Hjort of Whyred

There are a few things that Sweden does better and modern design with clean lines is high on that list. So it’s no wonder that our latest go-to for timeless classics is designed in Stockholm. Founded in 1999 by Roland Hjort, Whyred looks to inspiration from music and the art world to translate their sharp tailoring and wardrobe essentials each season so that they never feel basic. We caught up with Roland to find out more about him.

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Artist Ola Volo on modern folklore and traditional storytelling

Every work of art by Vancouver-based illustrator Ola Volo tells a story. Her intricate works weave a narrative motif with animals, people, elements of nature and architecture, all with a distinct style that is drawn from the traditions of her heritage and contemporary whimsy. Lucky for us Ola regularly shows her work around town while working on commissions from such clients as Hootsuite, Lululemon and the Vancouver Opera House. We love what she does, so we had to find out more.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST IDENTIFY AS AN ARTIST? I grew up attending art classes in school and out of school all my life. However, it was my final year of university where I completely fell in love with art. From that point, I couldn’t wait to dedicate all my time towards illustration and fine art.

YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM KAZAKHSTAN. HOW DOES THAT INSPIRE YOUR WORK? My world has been greatly influenced due to being raised in Kazakhstan and Canada. A big part of Kazakh culture is storytelling and use of intricate patterns. Blend this with multiculturalism, and often that’s where the root of my concepts are inspired from.  Having had the chance to live in Asia, Europe and North America, I’ve been directly impacted by the cultural styles and themes from these diverse regions. In fact, at the moment I’m visiting Kazakhstan and writing from a small town near China called Tekeli.

Meet the Boutique: Stand Up Comedy

We love everything about Stand Up Comedy. Owner Diana Kim, more fittingly a curator, casts off traditional retail rules with a boutique that is one part retail space and one part haphazard gallery. She picks an assortment of garments, books, and jewelry to fill her brainchild and has an amazing eye for new talent. Carrying brands like DRKSHDW by Rick Owens, KAAREM, BLESS, Mansur Gavriel and Arielle de Pinto, Stand Up Comedy takes a seriously needed tongue-and-cheek attitude to serious fashion. We caught up with Diana (who just had a little baby girl!) to find out more.

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WHY STAND UP COMEDY? We wanted a reference to something live, since the most interesting design is dependent on its relationship to an audience. But also something quite absurd. The nihilism of comedy has always been appealing, and is a reflection of our approach to fashion and retail on some level as well.

Seasick Mama on indie pop, stage style and disco

Marial Maher, better known as Seasick Mama, is a woman of many talents: singer, songwriter, performer and model, to name a few. The Brooklyn-based indie pop singer’s voice is as sweet as a summer’s day laced with serious undertones of badass. Her musical abilities shatter the notion of what it means to be a pop artist. Her first EP, Dead Like Money, is an awesomely playful experience where every track has its own story and genre. It’s hard not be intrigued by the siren. Her persona riddled with complexities lures you in: a self-proclaimed exhibitionist with a dash of the reserved. We chatted with Marial about how she got her start in music, her style and some personal stuff too.

HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING MUSIC? When I was really young, my dad used to get me to stop crying by playing the blues on his guitar, throwing in poop jokes and not being very serious. So I think naturally, I have always taken a relaxed approach to music. I started to sing with him at local bars to build confidence. Then when I moved to NYC. I got a job at Sticky Audio Labs and I started writing songs.

ON YOUR LAST EP, ‘TIP TOP SHAPE’, YOU WORKED WITH SOME REALLY AWESOME PEOPLE: DAVID SITEK (TV ON THE RADIO), SAM FARRAR (PHANTOM PLANET), PETER WADE (MNDR), LESTER MENDEZ, AND JOEL SHEARER. HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE? It was a little stressful at first because they were strangers when I walked through the door. But at the end of the writing sessions I made some really cool friends – and really amazing songs! They all had their personal impacts on my life, especially Peter Wade. He is a great songwriter (we wrote “Man Overboard” together.) He definitely made lightbulbs pop off in my head.

Meet the Boutique: Table of Contents

A visit to Portland’s Table of Contents is a lot like walking into the pages of a magazine. And not just because of the rad the prop styling.

Created by aesthetic power couple, Shu Hung and Joseph Magliaro, Table of Contents started off as a series of experiments with street vending in Berlin, selling objects from single tables around the city. Talk about next level curation. TOC officially opened its doors in Portland in 2012, fully equipped with a design studio that can basically do anything and everything: art direction, make objects and furniture, publication design, interior styling, branding, and events. Hung and Magliaro have totally reworked the basic boutique experience by approaching the curation much like a publication. We caught up with one half of the power duo to find out more about her vision for the store.

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Meet the Designer: Sunja Link

Motivated to make clothes that matter, and last, this Vancouver designer takes each piece from fabric to fit.

Using fabric sourced from Italy and Japan for her signature sheath dresses to Sixties-inspired coats, Sunja Link is all about making clothes that are feminine and easy. She launched her line in 1999 and spent 10 years building her business before taking a time out for family. Now, back in full force, she has a new Vancouver storefront with longtime friend Dace and a whole new perspective on designing with intention and instinct. We caught up with her to learn more and asked her to spill on all her favorite things.

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Meet the Boutique: In Support Of

In Support Of is more than just a name for this New York City boutique dedicated to featuring independent designers while supporting charitable causes.

The new retail concept is an extension of Aikaz Showroom, founded by co-owner Tanya Sheikh, which supports emerging talent with unique perspectives on design. She and her partner Ivan Gilkes open their doors just this past year so they’re just getting started. The Meatpacking District location serves as a jumping off point for collaborations with featured designers they love and charities they believe in. With designers like Steven Tai and emerging labels like Nomia already on their roster, we can’t wait to see what’s next.

We talked with the duo about their upcoming projects and things they love, like random sweatshirts.

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