Eco Dhalla, owner of the company, said the brand had a great, loyal downtown customer prior to COVID as it had five retail stores in southern Ontario at big shopping centres. But those were downsized to just one, at Vaughan Mills, during the pandemic.
“I suppose they want us back and we want to be back. We love the downtown, the excitement, the energy. It’s a great tourist spot. I think the core of the city is opening up a little bit more. Companies are coming back more,” said Dhalla.
“I think commuting wise and office wise they are about 65 per cent back to traffic. I see in the next year to two years hopefully the banking sector and the larger companies will have all their employees back and not working at home so much. So it just made sense to go back downtown.
“We are also pursuing any pop up opportunities in the GTA. That’s where we’re based. We would love to get into Yorkdale and open a pop up there. We want to go back to Square One as well. Anything we can get exposed somehow, to get these opportunities we would jump on them right away. We’ve had great success with them.”
The inception of the brand started in 2010 and it hit the market in 2012. It was more on a wholesale capacity and did a lot of trade shows in Canada and the U.S.
“It was a small collection that was a hobby that grew into probably one of the largest menswear collections I’ve done. It just keeps growing,” said Dhalla.
“Conceptually, my influence came from living in the UK. I grew up in England and the fashion sense started then but I also lived in California and worked for a company and had the opportunity to work in California and travel to San Francisco where I noticed (the) Haight-Ashbury (neighbourhood) when I lived there was just a cool place to hang out.
“Then eventually much later in my career I found out that the historical reference was a bit more meaningful to me where the United Nations was actually formed there. Things like that kind of resonated and stayed in my mind and in my heart. That whole make love not war movement forced the American government to more peaceful methods during that time in the late 60’s.
“Things like that hit a nerve emotionally for me. I enjoyed the peaceful sort of message that came and resonated out of Haight-Ashbury always. And that’s why when I came up with the logo it actually is a peace sign but it’s an H and A put together. It’s into a peace symbol which is really what these hippies of the late 60’s, early 70’s were always after. Sure they loved their marijuana and tattoos and whatever but the main message was really just to be peaceful. I just blended that with a name that I liked with a bit of fashion that I grew up in the UK studying. Haight & Ashbury was born.”
Dhalla said one of the key ingredients of the company’s success is that it doesn’t sell complete suits. It sells blazers, pants and vests separately.
Most of the production is out of Turkey with a lot of Italian fabrication.
“Our target market would be 20 to 50, maybe even more. Fashionable guys,” added Dhalla. “Price point wise we’re positioned somewhere more in the middle than we are anywhere else. We’re definitely not low price point. We’re positioned somewhere in the middle.”
After establishing itself as a wholesale company, it moved into having five retail stores in southern Ontario at big shopping centres.
“Of course after COVID we downsized everything. We kept our Vaughan Mills location which is the flagship. It’s about 30,000 square feet and switched the entire model to pop up. We’ve been at Vaughan Mills for so long we started pop ups maybe seven years ago and never looked back,” said Dhalla. “We’ve just been doing pop ups everywhere and Vaughan Mills is the longest pop up we’ve done.”