In the face of COVID-19 and during a time of mass closures and uncertain futures for most retailers, Ana Gutierrez is launching her new clothing line, La Monarch, despite the current economic climate in Canada.
COVID-19 has forced many retailers to close temporarily or, in some instances, forever, however Ana Gutierrez is not letting the fear of failure prevent her from moving forward with the launch of her versatile fashion line, La Monarch
“There was no point in being scared. It was now or never,” said Gutierrez.
Originally set to launch via pop-up shows across the country this spring, Gutierrez was forced to reevaluate her launch schedule once COVID-19 hit. “I wanted to introduce La Monarch to people in person so they could really experience the line but that’s not possible for now. Instead I’ve poured a lot of effort into the website and launching the brand that way.”
Inspired by the monarch butterfly that travels between Mexico and Canada each year, Gutierrez has been slowly cultivating the line of versatile and timeless pieces for almost 10 years. “The monarch butterfly’s ability to adapt and travel resembles my own experience, having spent time living between both countries (Mexico and Canada) from a very young age. Travel has also been an essential part of my life and a key factor to my attention to detail and creative nature.”
The brand is sophisticated and effortless in its design. For spring the line features a mixture of bright and muted colours and airy fabrics. However Gutierrez is already immersed in the development phase for La Monarch’s fall collection, and even the early product development stage for spring 2021.This played a major part in Gutierrez deciding to defy the odds and launch a new brand during a pandemic. The cyclical nature of the fashion industry means things move fast and you can’t afford to miss an opportunity to showcase your current collection.
“I had the spring line ready, so it didn’t make sense to keep the stock hidden. I want to keep going, despite this pandemic, and with the response I’ve gotten from launching online, now I know it has been the right decision to not have let this situation slow me down. Things are much different than what I envisioned, but at the same time I’ve learned how to quickly adapt my business and be resourceful in a way that maybe I would’ve never learned had things gone so smoothly. Now I know I can handle any problem, even very unexpected ones.”
Switching lanes under such inflammatory circumstances is daunting, but Gutierrez notes that it forced her to focus her energy on the digital aspect of La Monarch, something that she says would have ultimately happened but was of secondary importance to selling in person. “My original plan was to launch La Monarch both in person, at popup shows, and online at the same time, however I wasn’t pushing the online aspect of it because I was starting off with limited stock and wanted to preserve what I had for people to purchase in person.” Instead all items are now available online and cultivating that aspect of the brand has been rewarding for Gutierrez, despite the challenges.
Gutierrez notes that she has felt a strong sense of community since starting La Monarch, something that has encouraged her to cultivate hope for the future. “Other small brands are promoting me with little shout outs on Instagram and places like that. I feel like the Canadian retail industry are really coming together and helping each other and there is a sense of support in the Canadian fashion community.”
Each La Monarch piece is carefully designed to accommodate a busy lifestyle. Gutierrez has created a line that can be worn in different ways and for multiple outfit results. With easily button or unbutton side seams, hidden pleats, and reversible blouses, each piece has the ability to create numerous different looks. This is an important aspect of La Monarch’s brand; designing with a “buy now, keep forever’ mentality and creating pieces that will elevate your wardrobe for years to come. The double-sided nature of the brand is also in keeping with the unique influence of Gutierrez’s Mexican and Canadian background.
The business structure also reflects the amalgamation of the two countries as the production team is based in Mexico and the creative and sales team is in Canada. Gutierrez lives between both countries and is involved throughout every process. “My commitment to La Monarch is not only to dress you nicely, but to also build a community and contribute to a better life for all.”
La Monarch is also part of the sustainable fashion movement and is highly aware of the impact the industry has on the environment. As a result, La Monarch collections are kept small, with low stock quantities. Fabrics are sourced from over-stock or in-stock materials at mills, and the entire line is made in Mexico at a family-owned factory with established workshops close to where their employees live. This means less commuting time and less environmental impact. Additionally, La Monarch packaging is compostable - the hangtags, tissue paper, sticker and re-usable mailers are all plant based, and the brand also works closely with a sustainability specialist who ensures eco-friendly steps are taken.
There might never be the perfect time to start your own business, and right now may feel like the worst time imaginable. However, great things often come from bad, and as Gutierrez says “I’ve spent too long being afraid to start my own business. Now I’m ready and in the right state of mind to just go for it, despite what’s currently happening. I’m just taking it day by day.”