Canadian winters are arguably some of the harshest. The freezing temperatures, the blizzards of snow that leave the city slushy for months, having to wear a parka every time you leave the house – the list goes on.
Subsequently, living in such an environment requires a lot of winter accessories that are both functional yet trendy. And as a born, raised and resident Montréaler, Sarah Beaudoin understands that.
Beaudoin is the founder and designer behind Gibou, a winter accessories brand that creates sustainable products that are hand-knit by retirees. Based in Montréal, the brand sources all-natural materials such as 100 per cent wool and recycled wildcat, raccoon, wolf and fox furs. Products include toques with removable pompoms, neck warmers, mug muffs, berets and scarves in a range of colours.
“I learned how to knit when I was 15 years old and I adored it. All my school friends would ask me to custom create styles for them,” said Beaudoin. But it wasn’t until much later in August of 2014 that Gibou came to be.
After finishing her Bachelor of Architecture at Université de Montréal, Beaudoin realized that she didn’t want to draw plans her entire life. So she decided to get a Master’s degree in management and it was during those years that Gibou came to life.
“By chance, years later during my Master’s, I decided to make a pompom toque. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive so, the following summer, I made my business plan and the adventure started,” said Beaudoin. “When we began, we were selling online exclusively, [but] after only one year in business, the brand was such a big hit that we integrated retirees to help fulfill the volume of orders.” Gibou accessories are now sold at a variety of independent boutiques across Québec and in Simons across Canada.
Gibou’s values include three core principles: local manufacture, recycled fur and retiree empowerment. The brand focuses on sustainability, while also adding a personal aspect by involving the community. The company, which consisted of two retirees in its first year, now employs fifteen.
For the retirees, working for Gibou offers them to the chance to be creative and remain involved with their community. Gibou sees knitting as more than just a hobby or a job for Beaudoin and the retirees; it’s about being a part of a team that shares the same passion.
“At the very start, [retirees] were integrated into the production because I needed helping hands. Now, they are Gibou’s heart and soul,” said Beaudoin. “For many of them, it has had such a positive impact and that definitely has no price.”
What can be attributed to Gibou’s success? Beaudoin says it’s all about the brand’s quality and ethics, specifically the eco-fashion aspect of it. By ensuring Gibou’s products are locally manufactured and use 100 per cent Canadian recycled fur, Beaudoin is doing her part to ensure a sustainable future for everyone.
“We don’t live on a planet with unlimited resources so it’s pivotal to make a positive impact on planet earth. If we want future generations to inherit a hospitable planet, we have to make changes now,” said Beaudoin. “People are becoming more and more conscientious about eco-fashion and that’s awesome.”
Although Beaudoin went to school to be an architect, she can’t see herself as being anything other than an entrepreneur now. There have been challenges of course, but she loves her work, and said anyone who wants to start their own business should just do it.
“If you’re passionate about the project, go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity or approval from anyone.”
As for what’s next for Gibou, expect to see to new looks and styles from them in the near future. “We’ll always be evolving while staying faithful to our core values,” said Beaudoin.
To learn more about Gibou, follow the brand on Instagram.
Featured Image: Instagram/ @Gibou
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