For Toronto-based fashion brand Mr. Saturday, international travel is usually a regular part of day-to-day business. With the global pandemic having halted non-essential travel, the brand decided to take advantage of its extended stay in Toronto to temporarily open a storefront with a twist—a portable pop-up that could be packed up and shipped elsewhere in the world once travel becomes safe again.
Mr. Saturday, founded by designer Joey Gollish, launched in 2017 as a luxury direct-to-consumer fashion label selling merchandise mainly through its website and occasional pop-ups. In the years since, the brand has begun participating in wholesale showrooms at major international fashion events such as Paris Fashion Week. “Since then, we’ve been stocking luxury boutiques worldwide, and continuing to sell direct online,” Gollish says.
This fall, Mr. Saturday opened its “ephemeral” flagship in the building where its headquarters are located, at 950 Queen St. West, between Shaw St. and Ossington Ave. Gollish describes the two-storey store as a “museum in progress”.
“It’s really a mix between gallery and retail that takes on this museum aesthetic mixed with our headquarters,” he says. The large 3,300-square-foot store features large wooden crates typically used for delivering art. In fact, the change room itself is a massive wooden crate. The space also features various mid-century-inspired furniture and design elements.
The top floor, which contains the desks where Gollish and his team typically work, has been transformed into a hybrid working and retail space, showcasing the brand’s full luxury retail offering. The main floor contains a logistics centre and inventory, as well as a retail space showcasing the ‘Department of Research and Records’—the brand’s more affordable fashion collection.
Combining Mr. Saturday’s headquarters with the retail space creates an authentic experience for clients, Gollish says. “You get a glimpse into the process while you’re shopping.”
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A Wearable Museum
The museum concept is fitting for Mr. Saturday’s retail approach since Gollish describes the brand itself as a ‘wearable museum’. The label’s collections tell stories inspired by ephemera, historical events and social movements. In particular, many of Mr. Saturday’s collections pay tribute to iconic nightclubs around the world, especially from the 1970s and 80s, and the contributions they’ve made to society.
“For me, it’s always been super clear that nightclubs are like safe havens for marginalized communities and they’re usually at the forefront of any socio-political movement,” Gollish says. Examples of nightclubs acknowledged through Mr. Saturday designs include Le Palace in Paris, Amnesia in Ibiza, and New York clubs The Ritz, Danceteria and Paradise Garage.
Social injustice is also a key theme in Mr. Saturday designs. In light of the massive racial justice movement that gained momentum earlier this year, Gollish decided to pay tribute in his Spring/Summer 2021 collection to black graffiti artist Michael Stewart, who tragically died following his arrest in New York in 1983. Gollish says the case reflects the long history behind the current discrimination and police brutality movement.
“This injustice isn’t new; it’s something we’ve been fighting for forever and something we need to keep pushing for,” Gollish says. “Many young artists have been taken from the community before they were able to reach their prime. This kind of theme comes through our work a lot.”
To support the black community, Mr. Saturday designed an ‘End Racism’ shirt earlier this year, with 100% of proceeds donated to the Black Solidarity Fund.
Adapting Mr. Saturday to a COVID landscape
Despite the challenges associated with opening and operating a retail store during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gollish says it’s been a very positive experience. In fact, he says the realities of 2020 are what inspired the idea to open the store.
“The world feels like a bit of a strange place at the moment, and now more than ever we feel the need for community,” he says. “The idea was to create a place where we find a new sense of community, and bring life back to the city that’s given us so much.”
The reception from customers has been extremely positive, according to Gollish. “The community here has been really receptive, and we’ve been getting a lot of new customers, which is really exciting.”
To ensure a safe shopping experience, store capacity is limited to 10 customers at a time. Mr. Saturday is also encouraging customers to book appointments before coming in. Educating customers has been important to help people understand that appointment-based shopping is a convenient option for everyone, and doesn’t mean customers need to spend a lot of money, Gollish says.
“Private shopping can seem unapproachable to a lot of people—some people might think it’s not within their realm,” he says. “But we’re saying that shopping should be appointment-based now. It’s just all about education.”
On the Move
The Toronto store is set to remain open until the end of 2020. In March 2021, Mr. Saturday plans to pack up the store and ship everything to L.A., where the store will reside temporarily. After that, Gollish says he hopes to bring the store to major global fashion destinations such as New York City, Tokyo, London, Paris and even Australia.
Although he loves the idea of a travelling store, Gollish says he’s also considering a permanent retail location in Toronto. “Because of the success in Toronto and the fact that we work here most of the time, I think a permanent location is definitely on the horizon for us,” he says. Mr. Saturday is also considering a permanent location in New York City.