In little more than a year and a half, budding menswear label WIL Studios has caught the eye of fashionistas, singer Daniel Caesar and now Hudson’s Bay.
The massive retailer says it will showcase the emerging company along with 11 other new and established homegrown talents at a pop-up showcase this September curated by the Toronto-based fashion management firm, The Collections.
Rahul Madan of WIL Studios says it’s a dream come true for his young brand, which he formed in early 2017 with university pal Eric Richards. The duo have found early success in securing the support of Caesar, who wore their clothes on tour and in a TV appearance on «Jimmy Kimmel Live!» earlier this year.
Madan says it’s especially surreal for the 26-year-olds to be selling their clothes at Hudson’s Bay because they each used to work at the retail chain in Toronto.
«There are crazy stories of Eric working and me coming around and over the course of the summer designing clothes while he’s working,» says Madan, who met Richards while both studied and played football at Western University in London, Ont.
«To think about it in that sense, I have a big smile on my face because I can’t believe that we’re going to stock the store that we used to work at.»
Hudson’s Bay president Alison Coville says the three-month project is meant to give a national platform to Canadian designers who otherwise struggle to break through.
The pop-up launches Sept. 4 at five locations across the country, including two stores in downtown Toronto, and one each in Montreal, Vancouver and Chinook, Alta.
All five stores will feature designers Mikhael Kale, Pedram, S.P. Badu, WIL Studios, WRKDEPT, Hilary MacMillan and Sid Neigum.
The Vancouver and Toronto Queen Street location will also include Atelier Guarin, Markoo and New York-based Daniel Gregory Natale, and accessories by Biko and Cuchara.
Their wares will also be available online at www.thebay.com.
While shoppers seem increasingly headed to e-commerce, Coville expects this showcase will entice shoppers back to brick-and-mortar Hudson’s Bay stores.
«There’s entertainment value to see what’s new and see what’s exciting,» she says, adding that a strong patriotism will also help encourage shoppers to buy Canadian.
«You see the impact that our Olympic wear has when we launch those collections (and) with our Hudson’s Bay company heritage line — every time we put out a new striped product and it hits social media, there’s lots of excitement around it.»
Dwayne Kennedy, co-founder and fashion director at The Collections, notes this will be the first wholesale account for many of the labels.
«We really want this to be an introduction for a lot of the brands,» says Kennedy.
«We want to make it a lot more accessible so our price points range from $40 upwards to $1,200 but we really kept it in the midpoint of that.»
The showcase is just the latest in a series of pop-ups at the department store, including one that featured eco-conscious fashion.
Madan marvels at how far his label has come since he and Richards began designing T-shirts in their dorm room years ago when he studied kinesiology.
Madan graduated from the University of Toronto in 2016, and followed that up with fashion courses at George Brown College in Toronto. He launched the brand in February 2017.
He says that now having his T-shirts, outerwear and bags in a major retailer is a big boost.
«It gives some validity to the brand, it allows people and other stores to trust your production and it allows you to sit beside other brands that are well-respected and that are already trusted in the marketplace,» says Madan.
«This is obviously a major step in where we want to take the brand and where we see ourselves going.»