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On the Blog: The Story of Slate

On the Blog: The Story of Slate
Hello to you all! Thanks for being here. I thought I would start off our very first blog with the story of how Slate came to be.
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I’m Shelby, the founder and designer of Slate Wearables. Slate has been years in the making. The brand was born during my final year of fashion school in my little apartment above Kensington Market in Toronto. I wandered into the idea of creating a sustainable clothing company for my capstone project at Ryerson University, which stretched over the entire year and acted as my creative thesis. My vision was to bring to life the styles and fabrics that I encountered while studying abroad in Australia the previous semester. The east coast of Australia was filled with linens in trendy, relaxed styles, something that was not commonly seen in Canada. This became my inspiration for the project. My research took me through ethical manufacturing processes, responsible end life of a garment and took a deep dive into the slow fashion cycle, amongst other topics. Ryerson had already provided me with the knowledge about how hurtful the industry was on the environment and many people involved in the process, but to solely focus on this subject changed my perspective on a lot of things. I gathered all of my findings to curate a brand that stood strong ethically but didn’t compromise style. My second semester allowed me to be creative bringing the idea to life. Sketches turned to samples constructed from a hemp/flax blend, graphics turned to branding concepts and styling ideas turned to editorial photoshoots. I graduated Ryerson with what I thought was a strong portfolio piece, but as I started wearing my little samples out and about, people started to ask questions and wanted to get their hands on their own pieces.
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Slate Ryerson Project
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Upon moving back to my hometown, Vancouver, I slowly started sketching designs and quietly considering if I could turn this idea into a real business. I ended up reaching out to a Ryerson fashion design grad (Hi Sharen <3) who helped me bring a few select sketches to life with her pattern drafting skills. We worked back and forth with no urgency until I was invited to show a (non-existent) collection at the Little Black Dress Gala in 2018. Looking back, this opportunity was when I started to take things seriously. With the help of Sharen, we quickly turned the sketches into garments for the show. I cast models for the runway and walked into the gala pretending that I knew what I was doing. My sister, who happens to be a talented graphic designer (check her out @wickdesignco) finalized my logo and threw together some business cards to hand out at the event. The show was a success and the feedback was encouraging, solidifying that I was doing exactly what I should be.
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LBD Gala 2018
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I packed my linen samples for a 2 month trip to Australia with plans to shoot content for the brand which I was hoping to launch the following April (2019). With the help of a few friends and my lovely boyfriend, I began to build an Instagram feed with the hopes to gain a small following to bring along on my journey toward the launch.
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Slate Instagram Photos
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When I arrived home to rainy Vancouver, I started searching for companies that could help me with production. Local manufacturing was always my first choice, but I was quickly scared away after receiving a few expensive quotes that were out of my budget. Desperate to launch for the spring, I started working with a factory in Sri Lanka through a family-friend referral. After a few 3am business calls, difficulty with communication and a strong language barrier, I knew it wasn’t the right fit. In the back of my mind, I had always been interested in a new ethical manufacturing house in Bali that a classmate from my exchange in Brisbane was promoting on her Instagram. I reached out, received a quote and picked up where I left off. Around this time, I had also been invited to show at the Little Black Dress Gala for my second year. The deadline once again pushed me to design 6 new looks for the runway. I guess you could say my year was similar to the last - I worked on a new collection for the gala and then about a month later headed back to Australia.
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LBD Gala 2019
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As Bali is a quick 6 hour flight from Melbourne, I figured it was the perfect time to make a little business trip to check out the manufacturers and meet the team. The factory was a little studio outside of Canggu with great people and important ethics. We had the opportunity to tweak my designs and sit down to talk with the owners about their experiences and purpose of starting an ethical factory in Bali. I also took the opportunity to plan a few photoshoots on the island for our Launch Campaign with two models I had connected with through Instagram (@polinagofman + @theresehoffhansen). I was lucky enough to be travelling with my sidekick and talented photographer boyfriend (the one, the only @bronsonwhytcross) who does all of our imagery and video work.
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Bali Business Trip 2020
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As we arrived back home to Vancouver, Covid was just starting to spread worldwide. As things got worse, I made the decision to start looking for local manufacturing options once again. The uncertainty around covid made me consider delays, shutdowns and issues with our international relationship and I figured it would be best to bring everything home and work to support local artisans and businesses. I finally ended up finding a manufacturer here in Vancouver to bring my order to life. I had to start from scratch with sourcing fabrics, materials and trims, as my factory in Bali did everything remotely within the island. I also found a local pattern drafter to digitize my patterns and make any final adjustments before production. I was able to launch Slate Wearables this August with a small summer line and have been working behind the scenes ever since to bring out some new designs that I can’t wait for you all to see!
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Slate Launch 2020
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I’m here to tell you it’s not easy, but hard work pays off. A lot hasn’t gone as planned and my launch was delayed almost a year and a half - something that constantly stressed me out. I am still working to build the brand I envision and hope you love what is coming! Thank you for being here and supporting a local, women-run business.
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Big love,
Shelby x

Comments on this post (7)

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  • Dec 28, 2020

    Beautiful story, beautiful clothes and beautiful girl! We are very excited for you Shelby!xo

    — Susan Croll

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