Two Former Holt Renfrew Execs Launch Women’s Shirting Brand, Secure Partnerships with Important Retailers [Interview]

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It was full circle recently in a way for two former Holt Renfrew executives who founded the T.LINE Toronto-based shirting brand.

The two returned to their roots at Holt Renfrew recently with a holiday pop-up in Calgary as the brand continues to grow its retail footprint in Canada.

Founded in 2022 by Britt Barkwell, a creative and marketing lead who launched editorial platforms at notable brands like Club Monaco and Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew, and Alia Bissett, the former Director of Strategy at Holt Renfrew, T. LINE is a contemporary womenswear brand built on the iconic staying power of shirt dressing. 

T.LINE x Holt Renfrew Calgary (Image: T.LINE)
Image: T.Line

“We both kind of felt there was something missing in the market but there was an opportunity to create a shirting first brand at a contemporary level. There were other brands that had been doing that but kind of felt a little bit irrelevant at the time,” said Barkwell. “We really felt that there was something at this price point that was lacking with shirting that had great complementary pieces that you could wear with shirting.

“During COVID and during our working professional lives as well, we wore a lot of menswear oversized shirts and that was really something that kind of defined our wardrobes and we felt that no one had really perfected this and during COVID we had small kids, we weren’t leaving the house but we both felt it was important to put on a crisp shirt and get ready for the day. It was something we felt very passionately about and it was missing from the market. We wanted to try and perfect this category, this item and see what happens.”

The shirts are menswear inspired.

Bissett said the brand launched in March 2022 being primarily direct to consumer. But then it started selling in September this year within all three TNT locations in Toronto.

“We did a pop up with them last March and they said it was the most successful popup that they’ve done since basically they started doing popups post COVID again,” said Bissett.

T.LINE x Holt Renfrew Calgary (Image: T.LINE)
Image: T.LINE

The brand is also located in the VERT location in Toronto and at Tanya Taylor in New York City. A popup was also held at the Holt Renfrew in Calgary in the first couple of days of December.

“It performed really well and for us it was just an incredible full circle career moment for us to go back and sell at a place that we learned so much and grew so much at,” added Bissett.

“We’ve been very strategic about who we’re partnering with at the outset . . .  As we move forward, we’re going to be strategic about where we go but continue more of an omnichannel focus.”

Barkwell said the plan now is to grow strategically and balance its production with its growth.

“That’s really important to us. We try not to overproduce. We like to sell through each collection. So we’re only producing enough and also create a bit of demand,” she said. “We usually do about three drops a season. We want people to shop quickly and if things sell out that’s kind of the model. We’re okay with that. We’ve been creating a lot of demand that way which we find it’s been working.

“We’re looking to be really strategic. We have our sights set on a European retail partner  . . .  We’re looking for potentially fall/winter 2024. We’re really trying to get the right partners. It’s really appealing to offer. A lot of the stores are looking for this type of animation that the monogramming brings just to create some interest in the store. And we know customers love personalizing while they’re shirting. That’s something really unique that we can bring.”

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great idea girls, your experience and background will make you successful. Years ago, Susan Van Heusen and Manhatten shirt, were the leaders in ladies shirts, department stores, and independents, for several years. I know, since I worked at Van Heusen Canada for 10 years.

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