Meet Desiree Girlato: The Toronto Designer that Uses Jewelry to Empower Women

Born and raised in Toronto, Desiree Girlato is the utmost definition of a girl boss. As the founder, owner and designer at ARMED, she empowers women to elevate the everyday through her designs.

Born and raised in Toronto, Desiree Girlato is the utmost definition of a girl boss.

The 28-year-old jewelry designer has been in the fashion business for the last six years, opening her Dundas Street West jewelry store ARMED while in her third year of Humber’s Fashion Management program. The tiny jewelry boutique is nestled along a row of residential houses across from Trinity Bellwoods Park — but don’t let that fool you, because what’s inside is unapologetically bold and unforgettably unique.

“Predictability is the cousin of death [in fashion], you never want to be predictable,” says Girlato, and her jewelry is anything but. From delicate gold chains to rare megalodon shark teeth and brass cuffs adorned with amethyst, Girlato’s collection has something for everyone and is gradually becoming a Toronto jewelry go-to.

Although these pieces may sound extravagant, Girlato doesn’t consider wearing jewelry to only be limited to special occasions. She sees jewelry as necessary accessories that can take someone’s outfit to the next level, and her pieces are ones that redefine personal style.

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Image: Toytose Photography

“Jewelry is always seen as an afterthought or a luxury, but what we try to push at the store and what the brand is all about is elevating your everyday, and really putting your best foot forward because you never know what the day has in store,” says Girlato.

The name ARMED is based off the idea that jewelry can be treated like a level of protection: “It’s something that separates you from everyone else, not in a negative way, but in a way that you’re putting on who you want to be for the day.” For Girlato, ARMED is about waking up and owning each day by harnessing the power of style.

“When I first started the brand, our tone was a lot more badass; being you unapologetically — and we still very much are that — but when you wake up in the morning, it’s like you’re getting armed for the day,” says Girlato. “You’re mentally preparing, you’re putting on all your jewelry, your clothes, you’re really prepping yourself to go out and kill it.”

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Inside ARMED’s flagship store (Image: Sarah Okafo)

Whether it’s making a plain t-shirt more exciting or giving office attire more attitude, ARMED is about creating jewelry that can be worn over and over again with a variety of different outfits. Girlato says she wants women to feel like they aren’t trying to adhere to mainstream fashion trends, but are rather wearing the jewelry they want to and how they want to simply because they love the piece.

“What makes us different is that our jewelry is not necessarily focused on being trendy, but more focused on being a staple in your wardrobe… Our focus is on dressing women who want to still be feminine but be interesting and kind of badass at the same time,” says Girlato. “I want people to enjoy life through their style and be proud of who they are.”

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Image: Toytose Photography
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Inside ARMED’s flagship store (Image: Toytose Photography)

But Girlato isn’t all business, the designer values genuine connections and real interaction with those interested in the jewelry over selling to the masses.

“When you go to the store, you meet me, you buy a piece, or maybe you don’t, but at the end of the day you’re going to leave with a good vibe.” And those people will soon be able to experience ARMED in more than one place.

Girlato has opened a pop-up shop in CF Sherway Gardens and it will remain open until the end of December.

“It’s a really big leap to take local talent onto a corporate stage, but I’m really excited for it. I feel more than ever a lot more organized and a lot more prepared. I feel that after six years of running a business, I’m really coming into my own,” says Girlato. She also said this could be the beginning of many new opportunities for ARMED as Cadillac Fairview has been known to  groom local talents into much larger businesses — one major example being Oak + Fort.

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Inside ARMED’s flagship store (Image: Sarah Okafo)

While jewelry has been a way for Girlato to express herself, it has also provided her a platform to empower local girl bosses and women like herself.

“It’s really important as women and business owners that we come together to support each other because we are all an outlet for help and advice,” says Girlato. “When you start to run your own business, you realize it’s a never ending to-do list… But it’s important for women to [feel] empowered by their business and really embrace the business side of things.”

Whatever the future holds for ARMED, Girlato is ready for it and remains true to the essence of her brand by upholding its sense of originality in everything she does.

“My whole motto is just elevating the everyday because wearing jewelry on a special occasion is so predictable… We’re trying to bring some beauty into the mundane,” said Girlato. “The entire purpose of the brand is to make you’re everyday that much more beautiful, and beautiful is whatever to you.”

To learn more about ARMED, follow the brand on the website, Instagram and Facebook.

Featured Image: Toytose Photography

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