Fresh off the launch of Park & Province – Canada’s newest online boutique for men – and rapidly gaining community level and national recognition, StyleDemocracy caught up with P&P founders Chris Naidu and Gray Butler for an exclusive first interview.
SD: Can you give us some insights into how Park & Province came to be?
Gray: In december 2012. I was at a notable Toronto retailer…
Chris: Gray called me up “ Hey wanted to run something by you, I thought he was going to tell me he was into me”. Chris tells us laughing “He ended up telling me what’s up [ Gray’s vision for starting Park & Province] and we took it from there.”
Gray: When 2013 started we really started to focus on what we were actually going to do. From there we started putting the vision together, what are we going to do, what is it going to look like, what type of thing are we looking for. We basically started putting it together during off hours. Between the hours of 8pm – 2am in the morning every night we started pulling double duty…
Chris: We spent a lot of time sitting there pondering, we put some designs together for the website and we sat around for fucking ages trying to put together a name.
SD: On that topic, How did you come up with the name?
Chris: The name… we sat there with some really cool names, some really random names… I think this is both cool and random.
Gray: We didn’t want anything too cliché or trendy or whatever… we had pages and pages of names, but this is natural and kind of Canadian and it has some alliteration, so it works.
Chris: For anyone who is in Canada, they automatically think Canadian, but anyone else might not be aware and they might just think of the name. It rolls nice.
SD: Can you talk about your individual roles at Park & Province
Gray: I’ve been doing this forever, but always in-store when I was at (notable store) and I was transitioned into just handling their e-commerce. I was doing everything from uploading product descriptions, to product fulfillment, getting tracking numbers, making sure customers were followed up with. I was looking at the traffic and realizing that more and more online sales were coming in. I was taking that information and realized we could do this better. Years of being in a shop and doing customer service and dealing with different types of people; you get to know what pieces work and what to buy. and how to present it. You have to bring in something for everyone and not be too niche.
Chris: My background is fashion and beauty photography, but then I started slowly shooting a little bit less. Photography has been my career pretty much straight after high school. But I found that the photography industry and the fashion industry are so heavily related. When I moved to Toronto in March 2012, I decided to get a job, but I didn’t want a regular retail job, I wanted to take the company somewhere. So when I started working for (another notable retailer) I started to work on social media and promotions…
Gray: We wear a lot of hats, but I’ll like never get behind the camera…He laughs.
Chris: Yeah aside from pressing the button we do everything together.
SD: Is it just you two on the team?
Chris: Yeah it’s just a two man operation from now. We are going to lay the foundation now that we’re out. There should be more pressure but there isn’t. We can lear and make mistakes and go from there. When the foundation is there, we will look for interns, contributing writers, etc.
SD: How did you curate the clothing for the shop? How did the choices get made?
Chris: I think very candidly we always steer towards something [a particular product]. Whatever category that is, they’ll all be in the same type of realm of interest. But [ all the clothes] will always be in the same realm of interest. We have really nice hand made rain-coats and really nice hand-made candles…
Gray: We like to carry brands that specialize in doing one thing really well. These guys [Sydney Hale] just does candles and just candle… there’s nothing wrong with a clothing designer make candles, but that’s the primary focus of this brand [Sydney Hale] 3SIXTEEN only makes great denim Stutterheim only makes great rain wear.
Chris: We want to pick brands where you can identify them for one perfect item. Like those guys [Stutterheim] have a dope jacket. A lot of the brands are going to be well known, and some are not going to be known. Like some people are just getting to know Stutterheim, but i’ve been following them for years.It’s the craziest, coolest brand, their marketing is ridiculous. For fall next year we are carrying Penfield everyone knows Penfield. And while some people might be quick to say… Penfield, that’s not unique? But [Penfield] is a really great brand for jackets, shorts and shirts. And that’s all we’re carrying. Their nicest stuff! It’s a really practical brand and they do their craft well. At the end of the day we are bringing in the best of the best and if it works it works.
SD: What were some obstacles you experienced setting up your shop?
Gray: Yeah there were definitely some obstacles….
Chris: It was interesting, but anyone could do it. It was the easiest and hardest thing ever. When Gray was working at (notable shop) he couldn’t just get up and go to New York for a buying trip. I had a little more freedom so I would go to New York to the trips.
We were working on the site at home and we were looking at our brand target list and we knew we had to go to the trade shows in New York. Within 48 hours of deciding I was in New York.
It was buying a ticket to the trade shows going to make connections, shaking hands and crafting the business. The whole industry is like us. You’re working with people that are in the same boat as you. It’s super intimidating coming from the outside, but these brands want to be represented well, but if they like what you’re working with… You’re in. And it was interesting because at that point we had nothing I could have been bull-shitting!
Gray: We obtained everything we have right now, without a website. That ties in the fact that Chris is a photographer and our Instagram page was amazing. If you don’t have an Instagram account your five years behind.
Chris: We made sure before we went (to New York) that our Instagram and Facebook accounts were solid… It helped us get us to where we are now.
Gray: Thank god for instagram… We started building the Instagram very early because knowing that we weren’t’ going to have a website. Instagram served as the face of our brand.
SD: Last question, Where do you see Park & Province in 5 years?
Gray: Expanded brand list
Chris: We are going to expand in all directions, we are going to have tons of the stuff you don’t know, and have tons of the stuff you do know. Larger on every scale and we want to expand our home division.
Although P&P is just in its infancy, a well constructed vision, dope products and two of Toronto’s most creative retailers,
Park & Province posses a well constructed vision, dope products and two of Toronto’s most creative retailers. This young company is bound for big things.
* Note (Notable Shop) refers to prominent unnamed Toronto Retailers.