Popular Montreal-based outerwear brand SOIA & KYO has opened its first permanent store and has plans to open many more locations as it strives to create a stronger brand experience for its customers.
SOIA & KYO, known for coats that are both fashionable and functional, recently opened its flagship location at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. It comes a year after the brand opened its first retail store, a temporary location at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. Although the Square One location has been operating for more than a year, it was designed as a pop-up location, according to Ilan Elfassy, creative director at SOIA & KYO.
In contrast, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre store was designed to be a permanent space that truly represents the look and feel of the SOIA & KYO brand.
“I want the customer to feel and understand the brand,” Elfassy says. The goal of the physical store strategy is to build a stronger connection with end customers and to enable customers to appreciate everything that the brand has to offer, he says. Although the wholesale channel has been effective for SOIA & KYO, that approach typically only enables customers to see a small selection of products.
“I don’t think they’re getting the right value, the right feeling of the brand [through the wholesale channel],” he says. “It doesn’t really present who we are, what I am designing.”
By operating its own stores, SOIA & KYO is able to display its full selection of products, ranging from lighter fall jackets to heavy winter coats, as well as accessories such as hats, scarves, and gloves. Whereas many customers associate the brand with winter jackets, Elfassy wants to showcase the diversity of its collections.
“When you have a store, you have the full experience – from wool to down, leather, accessories, trenches – you can appreciate what you see,” Elfassy says.
The 2,000-square-foot store, located on the second level of the CF Toronto Eaton Centre next to Victoria’s Secret, was designed by high-profile New York design agency Kramer. A bright and inviting space, it incorporates rocks, greenery and other accents that create a natural, outdoorsy feel. Dominated by neutral colours, the space also features bamboo accents and large mirrors.
Another benefit to operating stores, Elfassy says, is the ability for the company’s staff to interact directly with customers and get feedback on the designs. “The store is an experience to see how customers react to the product,” he says. In fact, midway through Retail Insider’s interview with Elfassy at the new Eaton Centre store, he paused to listen to a customer’s feedback on a jacket she was trying on.
Since launching SOIA & KYO in 2004, Elfassy has focused on designing outerwear made with luxurious fabrics and refined construction.
“It’s all about the silhouette, the fit, and the quality,” he says. “For me, that’s very important. With quality, there’s no negotiation.” Many of the Elfassy’s designs boast unique features such as asymmetrical zippers and dramatic hoods. Versatility is also a key theme, with many jackets featuring removable layers. The brand is popular among many celebrities, such as Taylor Swift, Meghan Markle, Reese Witherspoon, and others.
Although SOIA & KYO hasn’t announced any specific plans for additional locations, Elfassy says the brand intends to add new stores in the near future. Jeff Berkowitz of Aurora Realty Consultants is the broker representing SOIA & KYO.
“We are for sure going to open more stores,” Elfassy says. “We are looking into the right locations that will fit well with our customers.”