One thing that you’ll notice when you step inside a Lolë store is that the clothes are vibrant and cool. The Montreal based retailer with designer Andy Thê-Anh at the helm, delivers stylish active wear that stands out; it’s a look that’s Montreal meets Europe.
Lolë is an acronym for Live Out Loud Everyday and the product definitely lives up to what the name stands for. “Our philosophy is very simple,” the company’s President and CEO Bernard Mariette tells me at the opening of their new Bayview Village Shopping Centre Toronto location. “We believe that everything you buy is an investment. It’s an investment in your lifestyle and that lifestyle is well-being.”
Bernard Mariette is a man of the world. Originally from the South of France, he comes from an Indian family and was educated in France and the UK before spending over 10 years in California heading up surfing company Quiksilver.
He speaks with a heavy French accent that automatically adds a level of sophistication and importance to everything he says. “You have to feel good in your body, you have to feel good in your head, you have to feel good everywhere.” He is a big fan of the Scandinavian retail model, which combines a passion for function and design.
“I admire the philosophies of Norway, Switzerland, Sweden. Do things for the right reasons. Don’t do things just to make money,” he explains.
“People often ask me ‘what is the innovation that you have?’ And I tell them ‘none.’ We don’t. But we believe in our philosophy and we put that in our clothing. I guess that’s our innovation.”
Having led clothing companies on both sides of the Atlantic, including stints at British retailer Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal, as well as Timberland, Mariette has first hand insight into the differences between the two markets.
“The biggest difference is the quality. Quality is a big aspect in the European market whereas the North American market is very price sensitive,” he explains. “Quality costs more to produce and if things are more expensive you expect to get a lot more usage out of it. It’s like that watch that would be passed down from one generation to the next. Who does that now? People are not used to it. But I believe in that.”
Mariette wants to offer clothing that combines great quality, style and technical function. “There is not one brand that’s got that fusion of fashion and sports. I believe we are.”
And as far as the actual shopping experience – for the company’s CEO the kitchen table is the center of the universe. And so the centerpiece of each Lolë store is a big wooden table equipped with wooden stools.
“When I was a kid the kitchen was the center of everything. It was where we shared our food. It’s where I did my homework and where my dad read the newspaper. It’s where my grandfather told me stories. I wanted to capture this idea in our stores.”
“Show me where the till is?” Mariette asks me as he looks out into the new store. “There’s no till in this place.”
And forget looking through a fancy store window. Each store embraces a “no window” concept and instead incorporates a “ Green Living Wall” that represents urban nature and the link between well-being and our environment.
“Today’s window is the Internet,” clarifies Mariette. “Have a look at our website, then come into the store and have a conversation with us. You’ll feel our philosophy and if you want to buy the product that’s fantastic. And if you don’t than at least the walk over gave you some exercise.”