Not many locally based fashion brands can say they’ve survived more than a decade of fleeting runway trends, a crippling recession, and a rapidly changing brick-and-mortar landscape that continues to challenge how retailers do business today. But Vancouver’s Gentle Fawn proves that, by sticking to a clearly defined aesthetic and knowing your target audience inside and out, success isn’t only probable—it’s enduring.
Founded in 2003 by husband-and-wife team Daniel and Carla Hogg, the laid-back, West Coast–influenced women’s label entered the local market during a time when streetwear—graphic Ts, hoodies, and baggy denim—was hot on the scene. The Hoggs thought there was an underserved market in twentysomething women who were looking for softer, more feminine pieces like lightweight blouses, wrap dresses, and crushed-velvet tanks. They were right: so right, in fact, that, 15 years later, the company continues to attract fans in Vancouver and beyond.
“We’re really designing those go-to pieces in your closet that would make you feel great every day,” Carla tells the Straight by phone.
Now based in Mount Pleasant, where the entirety of Gentle Fawn’s operations is housed, Carla shares that the brand has certainly matured with its customers over the years, becoming more sophisticated and refined. However, many of the pieces that put Gentle Fawn on the map in the early aughts—flowing minidresses, cozy cardis, and wear-anywhere scoop-hem Ts—can still be found in its collections now. These easy-breezy, transitional garments aren’t concerned with trends, but rather are crafted to ensure that the wearer feels comfortable and confident at all hours of the day.
“The clothing that we make for our customers is going to take her from the office to the work party in the afternoon to a date night,” notes Carla. “So it’s got to be versatile, it’s got to be effortless, and it’s got to be fashionable.”
Gentle Fawn is ringing in its 15th birthday with the introduction of sleepwear and a glam ’70s-inspired fall/winter 2018 line—one where jumpsuits, spaced-out florals, and textured off-the-shoulder sweaters are huge, shares Carla. The label reached another milestone earlier this year, becoming available from more than 700 retailers in North America. Throughout its growth, Gentle Fawn has maintained its Vancouver roots, designing all its collections here and having graphic designers produce the pretty, free-spirited prints in-house.
Given the brand’s history in Vancouver, Carla has her own faves when it comes to the region’s most stylish people, places, and things. Below, we pick her brain for a few of them.
Best place for style-watching
Buro Espresso Bar
356 Water Street
The cafés in Gastown are some of the best places to get your style fix. It’s a good mix of people with unique tastes.
Best local jewellery designer
Admittedly, I’m a little biased, as these designers are often our go-tos when selecting jewellery for our shoots. From dainty pieces to something a little bolder, I’m always able to find something from them.
Best neighbourhood for shopping
South Granville or Gastown are always my recommendations for shopping neighbourhoods—there is so much on offer in each!
Best independent fashion boutique
Woo to See You
1062 Mainland Street
3671 Main Street
Woo to See You is one of my favourite curated boutiques. I like that they try and pull in local brands as much as possible, and are particular about the items in store. Plug: Woo to See You carries Gentle Fawn!
Best cheap thrill
I’m all about the Healing Hands soothing hand lotion from Saje Natural Wellness. This cream is something I cannot live without, especially as we transition into colder weather.
Best local fashion designer other than you
There are some great designers coming out of Vancouver, and I love how the industry is continuing to bring in talent.
Best local accessory designer
I recently came across Just B Smiling’s phone cases at [local consignment shop] Hunter & Hare and am in love with their use of dried florals. Each case is so unique! I especially like that they’re all handmade in Vancouver.
Best place for fashion-design inspo
While we mainly travel and look to the runways for design inspiration, I’d be lying if I said I don’t trend-spot at concerts and shows. People tend to push the fashion boundaries at these events.
Best fitting rooms
799 Robson Street
Nordstrom in downtown Vancouver has some of the nicest, cleanest fitting rooms. I like the attentive associates and having mirrors in the rooms—rather than outside—as well.
Best fashion trend to hit Vancouver
This year, I’d say that the ’70s influence is what’s getting me most excited. Jumpsuits are huge! The era is translated in many ways, so you’ll be seeing lots of easy-to-wear, flattering wrap dresses in all lengths.