10 Years of ANIÁN

The greatest adventure ever.

Photography by: Friends, family, and supporters over the past 10 years.

A decade ago, when weeks could pass without a single customer coming into our shop, it was hard to believe we’d make it all.

But we stuck it out, and thanks to stubborn persistence and an incredibly supportive community, ANIÁN has now been in business for 10 years. We’re usually more interested in looking forward than back, but since this a big milestone for a small company dedicated to the circular economy, we asked our founder, Paul Long, to share the story of how it all started.

Thanks for being with us all this time, and we can’t wait to share everything that’s still to come.


There’s a card on my wall that reads “Never, ever, ever give up. Love, your Parents.”

I’ve looked at that card every morning for the last 10 years, and it’s kept me going through a decade that’s brought some incredible highs and almost bottomless lows. All in all, it’s been the most incredible adventure anyone could ever ask for.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I think those experiences in the natural world were the true birth of ANIÁN. For me, it was always about finding what felt most meaningful while chasing inspiration, adventure, and something new. But the company, as it is now, started with a simple idea—I wanted to create products so good that people would tell everyone they knew about them, and I wanted to make those products in a way that respected the Earth. I also figured that if I sold enough T-shirts I could go surfing whenever I wanted, and I wouldn’t have to get a job.

There was only one problem—I didn’t have enough money to rent a proper storefront. So instead, in the spirit of that card on my wall, I found an abandoned parking lot on Discovery Street in Victoria and set out to build the shed that was to become our first retail store. New lumber was too expensive, so my friends and I relied on pallets and reclaimed wood. Getting hooked up to the grid was too expensive too, so the electricity for the one working light bulb came from a crowd-sourced solar system.

Grid power wasn’t the only thing the Discovery store didn’t have—there was also no heat, a problem I addressed by wearing wool long johns to stay warm during business hours. I’d also close down in January and February—partly because it was just too cold, and partly because that’s when the surf was best.

In those early days, whole weeks would go by without a single customer coming in. So, with almost no traffic, we decided to bring our local community to us by turning the store into a space for parties and events. For the first two and half years, those events were how we stayed afloat. There were a lot of failures as we got ANIÁN going, but we made lifelong friends and learned that for every problem there was always a creative solution.

Through that same time, I also started learning more and more about the apparel industry. I took silkscreening classes, spent time with local seamstresses, and read everything I could about textiles and fabrics. Then, on a stormy winter surf trip, I unexpectedly discovered that the army surplus Melton pea coat I’d brought along was keeping me warm and dry while my friends in synthetic jackets shivered in the rain. As soon as I got home, I started researching Melton wool, the heavy-duty, densely woven material that had been used in pea coats like mine for hundreds of years.

Since Melton worked so well in cold and rainy weather, I figured it would make ideal shirts for British Columbia’s coastal climate. My first Melton shirt prototypes were pretty much a disaster—so thick and heavy, in fact, that they broke the needles on sewing machines. But with low overhead and a bit of money coming in from community parties, we were able to invest in perfecting the design that became our Modern Melton Wool. The fabric worked beautifully once we’d thinned it out, and people started coming to our shop on the outskirts of town as word traveled about a perfect wool shirt.

As Meltons began to catch on the Island and beyond, we finally began to earn income from something other than hosting events. I bought all the wool I could from the last Canadian wool mill, which was in the process of shutting down, and then set out to figure where I could get more once we’d sewn it all into shirts. Sourcing more Melton wool was a crash course in the global supply chain, with more than a few unpleasant findings about the environmental impacts of the textile industry. Luckily, we discovered a supplier that could weave recycled Melton wool that was salvaged, re-spun and re-woven from thrown-away garments. At the time, most companies viewed recycled wool as second-grade, but after buying some and testing it, we found it wore just as well as virgin wool—and since it was recycled and the colours came from the source garments instead of new dyes, it was far better for the planet. Though we’d always seen ourselves as a responsible brand, switching to post-consumer recycled wool was a big step in our journey towards circularity.

We started to grow from those small beginnings, and the support of our community let us know we were on the right track—like the time when the owner of Nimmo Bay came into the store, told us that his Melton only seemed to get better the worse he treated it, and then ordered the next season’s worth of clothing for his guides. Soon enough, we took a leap of faith and left the Discovery location for a new shop on Lower Johnson in 2018. We were still on a shoestring budget, though—we paid the first month’s LoJo rent by selling the Discovery solar system, and operated as a one-man show until the store started bringing in enough revenue to hire Johanna, our first floor staff member.

Gradually, we started expanding the ANIÁN product line, staying true to what had worked so well with the Modern Meltons. We focused on garments that we’d want to wear ourselves—beautiful and durable multipurpose basics made from post-consumer waste. We hired on more staff, and as our online business started to grow, we stored our finished products in a farmhouse in rural Saanich—thank you, Uncle Ian and Aunt Kathy! We’ve since moved on to a bigger warehouse space, but we look back fondly at the time we spent at the farm.

A few years later, in the Covid year of 2020, we decided to expand into Vancouver, the city where all our garments are sewn. At a time when there was no known end to pandemic protocols, we took the risk on a retail space in Kitsilano and built out the store in 10 days with a crew of long-time ANIÁN friends and supporters. Just like at our first shop, we used reclaimed wood and worked 15-hour days on a diet that consisted mostly of tacos and a few Lucky Lagers.

Since then, we’ve kept on growing, thanks to our incredible staff and community. Our commitment to recycling, slow fashion and the circular economy has only strengthened, and together we’ve now diverted more than 600,000 pounds of textile waste from landfills around the world. Despite a business plan that most advisers would’ve laughed at in 2013, we’re proud to have shown that running a business on circular principles is both practically actionable and economically feasible. For us, circular clothing isn’t just an idea to be spoken about round tables—it’s what we work on every single day.

ANIÁN has come such a long way, and I’m still amazed to think that it started from selling one shirt to one person, and that person telling their friends. There are so many unsung heroes on this journey—parents, partners, friends, customers, all those who we’ve stressed and strained over the last decade—and we can’t thank all of you enough for supporting us so unequivocally through the years.

I don’t know what the next decade will bring, but if it’s anything like the last one, it’s going to be a trip we can’t wait do without you. Whatever happens, we’re going to stay persistent and keep doing all we can to show the apparel industry, which has become so linear and profit-driven, that it can become truly circular and responsible over time.   

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