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Canadian Travel Lifestyle Brand Monos to Open 1st Permanent Store this Spring with More Planned [Interview]

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After a very successful launch as a pop-up in Toronto, Monos, a Canadian direct-to-consumer travel lifestyle retailer, is planning to open its first permanent bricks and mortar store in Vancouver later this spring. 

Aqsa Mian, Senior Director of Strategy for Monos, said the brand was only available online prior to setting up a physical location as a temporary site at North America’s largest shipping container market – Stackt.  

“We were primarily focused in the U.S. and Canada and we have one wholesale partner in Nordstrom,” said Mian. “We try to be very particular in who we work with. So Nordstrom was a really great brand fit for us.” 

Monos at Stackt Market (Image: GH+A Design)
Aqsa Mian

The pop-up location was launched in November in 585 square feet at the stackt market at 28 Bathurst St. The market, designed entirely out of shipping containers, is an ever-evolving cultural marketplace featuring a mix of shops, a microbrewery, top chefs, killer city views and lots of ongoing community programming. It was established in April 2019. 

The pop-up will be in operation until the end of January.  

Mian said the purpose of the pop-up was to see how the brand could be brought to life ahead of its flagship store to open in Vancouver, which could be by the end of May. 

“We wanted to have a little test in the Toronto market since this is our most popular market. The opportunity with stackt came up which was really fantastic. The demographics fit really well,” she said. 

“We actually are currently in conversations with various landlords in Toronto. We are hopeful in having something solidified soon and ready to announce.”   

Monos at Stackt Market (Image: Monos)

The 2000 square foot Vancouver flagship will be the very first permanent location  at West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano. 

“Toronto is going to be a fast follow,” said Mian, adding that store will open either later this year or early 2024.

“Monos is never going to be the sort of brand that has a store in every corner. It’s not who we are and it doesn’t really fit well with our philosophy of minimalism. That being said, the Toronto pop-up has proven our hypothesis that having a retail footprint does a great job of balancing out the entire customer journey. The product is thoughtfully designed and very high quality and stores provide a great opportunity for the customer to get a sense of the truly premium quality.”

“If I had to put a number out, I’d estimate that we could see 10 to 15 stores in North America in the long term, depending on how we find the rollout is going. Really, we are more focused on being in the right locations and with the right partner more than anything else. I could see us being internationally spread out as well in key cities. We are all quite passionate about travel so it would be nice to have a little home away from home in major international cities.”

Monos at Stackt Market (Image: GH+A Design)

Monos, launched in 2019, is a Canadian travel and lifestyle brand offering premium, beautifully designed suitcases, bags, and accessories, and inspiring people to travel in a mindful and present way – to embrace the journey as much as the destination. 

Bess Liscio, Director Retail Strategy for GH+A design studios (recently acquired by global architecture company Benoy), suggested the brand be at stackt when it was looking to launch its pop-up in Toronto. 

Bess Liscio

“It is a shipping container community. It was created  as a temporary pop-up four years ago and it was so successful that it is  now a permanent destination. The popups vary from permanent to temporary, from coffee to cannabis, to apparel, to now luggage and travel from Monos.  

“What makes stackt also very successful, is the planned experiences and activation that is created by The Ancillary Agency. There’s so much going on monthly, weekly bringing people from all over city to explore, participate and get inspired.”  

“We started to brainstorm on what the pop up could be. The container is long, and narrow and only 585 square feet. We initially created three different concepts, presented each to Aqsa and her leadership and once the design was chosen it was fast and furious to get it open for the Holiday Hills Christmas event.” 

Monos at Stackt Market (Image: Monos)

Mian said the chosen design studio translated a concept that Monos created for the Vancouver store “which is aimed at creating a structure through the middle of the store that enables you to travel through different “destinations” as you move through the store, even through you’re in a small space.

“We’re so lucky that our shipping container was a corner unit with two separate doors. So to create a sensory, directional journey, we decided to create an entrance and an exit strategy. Once you enter, you’re greeted at concierge and introduced to the Brand and its values. Then through soft mood lighting, you travel through a tunnel made of suspended sheer fabric arches, where rooms are curated with Monos suitcase collections in colours and patterns, all inspired by travel destinations and the moments made. Clever travel products from smart packing components to self-cleaning water bottles, to easy and stylish travel apparel all compliment the Monos story,” said Liscio “  

“Just outside the Monos container, a 20-foot tall Holiday Tree was erected, all made from Monos suitcases. Working with The Ancillary Agency to create this art installation was a fun, creative collaboration.” 

Monos at Stackt Market (Image: Monos)

According to Monos, the name of the retailer is inspired by the Japanese concept of mono no aware – the profound appreciation of the beauty in fleeting moments. 

“Travel is what you make of it. For some, it’s an escape from everyday life. But for others, it’s a chance to grow and learn. To explore places near and far with wonder and curiosity, with gratitude and graciousness. To greet the world with open eyes and arms, and an open mind and heart. We founded Monos with these travellers in mind, because we are these travellers too,” says the company on its website. 

“Mindfulness – being fully immersed in the here and now – is at the heart of our philosophy on travelling and living well. We believe that when we are present in the moment and mindful in our travels – when we are passionate wanderers – the deeper beauty of the world reveals itself.” 

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.

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