September 3rd was an exciting day for all of us at ANIÁN—after a summer spent salvaging materials and building out a new shop, we’re proud to be opening our first mainland location at 2149 West 4th in Kitsilano.
Though it’s only an hour and a half by ferry from our home on the Island—or a day and a half at the helm of a century-old lobster boat—it’s a journey that’s been eight years in the making. Thanks to our incredible family of supporters and staff, we’ve managed to come a long way from when we hammered together our original shop from reclaimed wood in 2013—something we’d like to say we did for environmental reasons, though it was also because we couldn’t afford anything new.
Back then, when we first set up on Discovery Street in Victoria, we didn’t know if our business would make it. In those first years we were barely breaking even, and we’d go for days without making a sale. When we needed a hand watching the shop, friends of ours would work for free, or take a case of beer instead of cash. Looking back, it’s hard to say how we stuck it out. But we’ve always had a stubborn belief in ANIÁN’s mission—making beautiful and functional clothing, doing it in the most responsible way possible, and changing the apparel industry by showing that quality still matters and that companies dedicated to a circular economy can actually succeed.
That stubbornness kept us going through the rainy days—there were plenty of them, both literal and metaphorical, here on the coast—and we slowly but surely gained the trust of our customers and community, first on the Island and then farther afield. Making our garments mostly from recycled natural materials, we steadily grew and eventually moved to Johnson Street in the heart of Victoria’s downtown. As we learned more about the industry, we became all the more committed to operating in a less harmful way—minimizing our use of synthetics, striving towards waste-free production, committing to a dye-free manufacturing process, and giving the past a future by making all of our new styles with salvaged fibres to eliminate the environmental impacts of wool and cotton production.
As time passed, our friends and customers helped spread the word about our business, and when mainland folks would come to the Island and visit the shop, they’d often ask when we were opening up in Vancouver. “Well, hopefully sometime,” we’d always say, but the time wasn’t right—we were more focused on crafting our clothing, and we wanted to make sure our business was on solid footing before we opened a new location. Finally, after making it through the first year of the pandemic, it seemed like things were falling into place. We found a spot at 4th and Arbutus with semi-affordable rent, signed a lease, and got to work.
For the last few months, we’ve been putting in long hours to get the new location ready to go. Like our first shop, we’ve done the whole build with reclaimed wood, which we hauled out to my uncle’s farm to prep and sand. Friends like Sabryna, our Victoria store manager, and Brendan, our distribution manager, pitched in to pull nails; Dylan, our first-ever employee, came over to help build; and the multitalented Chris Madden, our go-to carpenter and craftsman over the years, gave up his vacation to get it all over the line. There were a few nights when we slept on the floor, then walked down to the beach for a swim to wake up in the morning. But it all came together, and as a finishing touch, we brought in the Dobell Brothers, our neighbours from the original Discovery Street location, to do the hand-painted gold leafing you’ll see on the front window.
It’s been a process, to say the least. But we’re finally ready to open the doors, and we’d love for all of our mainland friends—the ones we’ve known for years, and the ones we’ve yet to meet—to come in and say hello. For us, it’s an amazing thing to have a presence in a city we’ve always loved, not to mention a place where the winter weather is pretty much perfect for Melton wool. We’re also excited that folks here will be able to get their hands on our unique materials instead of just reading about them online. And as all of our ANIÁN garments are made in Vancouver, it’s gratifying to have them sold so close to where they’re carefully cut and sewn.
On a more philosophical level, opening a shop in Vancouver is also a significant move for everyone at ANIÁN. This is the birthplace of a number of brands that have risen to positions of influence—Arc’teryx, Lululemon, MEC and Aritzia, to name a few—and though we make different products and have some different approaches than they do, they’ve shown that it’s possible to grow from a small Canadian company to a business with an industry-wide impact.
We’ll always be true to ANIÁN’s own path, helping chart a course away from our society’s crisis of overconsumption by building garments that are more useful, more durable, and better for the planet we all share. But at the same time, we’re excited to carry on the tradition of Canadian brands that made a difference in the wider world. And for us, that means changing fast fashion into something that’s careful and slow—salvaging natural fibre textiles from landfills and reworking them into timeless products that are built to truly last.
It’s written on our window on 4th—the future of textiles is circular. And in that same way, our new home in Kitsilano isn’t so much a starting point, but another evolution that comes back around to where it all began.
We’re open now, and we hope to see you when you get a chance.
Founder of ANIÁN