Canadian Eco-Focused Apparel Brand Ecologyst Opens New Victoria Storefront with Plans for More: Founder Interview

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Unlike most clothing brands, Victoria-based retailer Ecologyst makes its own products.

Rene Gauthier

Rene Gauthier, Founder and CEO of the retail brand, said the company wants to eventually expand the concept to other cities in North America.

“Our plan to do that is to bring this manufacturer-to-consumer model to other parts of North America. So when we open up a location somewhere else it will also have a factory within it. It would be the warehouse distribution centre for ecommerce orders but also be a place where our guests, our customers, can come and visit and shop,” said Gauthier.

Ecologyst was founded in 2019 and has three locations – one in Whistler and two in Victoria. One of the Victoria locations is a normal store front and the other is its factory warehouse office space that also has a showroom component to it.

“We’re a clothing brand. A few things are unique about us. We’re a manufacturer-to-consumer business model. Unlike a lot of clothing brands, we actually make the clothing,” said Gauthier. “That’s a key differentiator.

Ecologyst at 552 Johnson Street in Victoria, BC (Image: Emma Rossum)

“Another is that most clothing these days is made out of plastic. So petroleum-based fibres like polyester and nylons and so forth. We only use natural fibres for our fabrics.

“We also ensure that we pay a decent family living wage to our team members and we do offer some programs kind of around quality and longevity. We have a repairs for life program and also what we call a second life program where our customers if they aren’t using their garment they can resell it through us.”

Gauthier said the retailer recently opened a new location in Victoria which moved from the previous location on Government Street to Johnson Street. 

“But I think what would be considered more of a flagship location would be our factory location that’s kind of an experience where people get to see the products being made in front of them,” said Gauthier. 

Ecologyst at 552 Johnson Street in Victoria, BC (Image: Emma Rossum)

Gauthier has been in the clothing industry for about 20 years. He previously had another clothing company that followed the model that exists in the industry today. The majority of the products were made overseas, primarily out of China.

“After 15 years of doing things that way and turning a blind eye to some of the nastiness in our business, I sort of said enough’s enough and there’s got to be a better way to do this. That’s when I came up with the concept of Ecologyst,” explained Gauthier.

The retailer has a strong vision when it comes to sustainability.

“We believe in owning fewer, better made apparel pieces that last forever. Why? Fewer, better plays a mighty role in conservation. It saves you money. It supports local manufacturing. It’s for Nature, and it’s guaranteed for life,” it states on its website.

“We’re building the world’s most sustainable apparel company. We make all our apparel in Canada and the US, supporting local jobs, and building the highest quality product. We don’t use synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, or nylon that are made from petroleum and create microplastics. Instead, we use all-natural, biodegradable materials like Organic Cotton and Merino Wool to respect the environment and maximize durability.

“We are unashamedly For Nature, so whether you use our apparel for the exploration of Nature, or to contribute to Nature’s well-being, you’re supporting a sustainable future.”

The historic and revitalized Lower Johnson Street area in Victoria filled with historic buildings and alleyways that connect the neighbourhood to Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Known as LoJo, the trendy area is described as a picture-perfect street that is home to many quaint, local, artisan shops and boutiques, says Ecologyst.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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