Indie reatailer Titika comes to Don Mills

Fashion school chums expand clothing venture to outdoor mall

They graduated from fashion school just three years ago, but business partners Courtney Brooke and Eileen Zhang have fast-tracked their retail apparel business to open a third location in the Shops at Don Mills this May.

Their active wear clothing company, Titika, launched in the Beach in the fall of 2009, followed by an Oakville location in May 2010.

The move to a mall was a strategic one they say is critical to their company’s growth.

“We have to go into the mall,” says Zhang, also Titika’s lead designer.“That mall is developing now.”

Brooke explains their reasoning, saying that both the Beach and Oakville stores, with their lakeshore environs, are more weather-driven locations. Being in a mall — even an outdoor one like the Shops — is important as it will bring not just seasonal shoppers. The ultimate goal, she adds, is to continue expanding into malls.

“It’s a good step for us,” Brooke says. “Maybe in five years we couldn’t afford it.”

The business partners are accustomed to moving quickly when it comes to their biz.

The two met at George Brown College while in the fashion program there, and by the week of graduation in 2008, they had already developed their business concept and Zhang was sourcing fabric.

Brooke says Zhang told her at the time, “We either do it or we don’t.”

So they jumped right in.

The new Don Mills store will be similar in look to the Beach location, except it will be more upscale, they say.

The pair has recruited Alexander Donovan, design director at 1212 décor in Toronto, to design the store’s interior.

In spite of their move to a mall concept, a street-level presence is still important to their business, they say.

The Beach location is the flagship store from which Zhang designs the collections.

The Titika brand combines function with fashion, and the active wear, made with breathable fabrics like Supplex, cotton and microfibre and ranging in style from the sporty to the trendy, can take a person from workout class to shopping.

The designers are known for their detailing — everything from ruffles and ruching to zippers, mesh cut-outs and detailed silver buttons — and for their use of bright and pastel colours to offset their neutral offerings.

The Shops at Don Mills location, at 7 Karl Fraser Road, will feature the summer collection when it launches May 15.

Brooke and Zhang are looking at carrying over the free workout classes and health and wellness seminars they host at their Beach store to the Don Mills location.

“We hope to have fitness classes and build through the community there,” Brooke says.

Titika will be one of a handful of local or GTA-area independent retailers at the Shops at Don Mills, which include Spanner, Leigh & Harlow, Barbuti Fine Men’s Clothing, McEwan and New Balance Toronto.

The business partners say there isn’t really any competition for their brand at the mall.

“We’ve been pretty lucky,” Brooke says.“The right things have happened for us.”

About this article:

By: Kelly Gadzala
Posted: Apr 7 2011 11:48 am
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto