“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.
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.