IN THE KNOW with Heather Favalaro
Heather Favalaro got her industry start working the phones at Centre distribution before returning home to manage ski and snowboard events at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario. However, the call of the West Coast would pull her back and Heather landed with the team at Lachelt Agency where she managed the women’s division of Element for almost three years. Ultimately Heather made the move back to Ontario where she spent close to 8 years managing multiple brands including Cheap Monday and Just Female amongst others for C2 Apparel.
In 2018 Heather left C2 to open her own retail store, homme|femme in Collingwood and not long after also joined the regional sales team at Timebomb representing Minimum and Dr Denim for Ontario.
We took a minute to catch up on life, retail, pivots and the return of tradeshows!
Hey Heather, how have you been?!
Such a tough question to answer lol! But I am very grateful to be able to say I have been pretty great. It’s been a nutty few years!!
Yeah, I hear you! But how has the last 18 months or so been? How is business with homme|femme?
The last 1.5-2 years have been quite the wild ride! Just as I was supposed to be moving into that age in the business where I should start to get into the groove of things…boom! A pandemic rolls in and completely threw me off my beat. I like to think I was quick on my feet thinking up ways to continue to bring in money to keep the lights on. i had my online shop up and running almost right from the opening of homme|femme which was truly my saving grace. The steps I took throughout all the lockdowns and reopens and lockdowns and extended lockdowns here in Ontario have in the end improved and expanded my business more than I think it would have if this whole pandemic did not happen! I also lucked out on location. Collingwood was definitely growing when I decided to make the move from the city back home but not like it has over the last 18 months. Everyone is flocking here whether it be a permanent move, a secondary home or just a day trip/weekend getaway. So, with that has come a huge spike in foot traffic which in turn has resulted in an increase in business.
You mentioned your online business, have you had to make any other pivots at all to maintain business? What did this look like for you?
Oh yes most definitely! At first it was offering some big flash sales that had a time limit on them, just as a way to attempt to get the product paid for. In the end these actually grew my following. One customer would hear about it who would tell 2 people, who would tell two more people each and so on! I would end up packing up my little Volkswagen to the top and hand deliver up to 100 orders within the Southern Georgian Bay area and as far as the GTA!
With some help and a bit of convincing from a close friend who has her own successful clothing brand, I also started to design some pieces under the homme|femme label. I saw some great success here and have continued to grow this part of the business adding more and more styles each season.
I also was lucky enough to pair with a successful coffee shop in a neighboring town and add an homme|femme pop up at their location. This was a great way to try to sell off some extra stock and again, grow my name.
Every time I would get thrown a curve ball, I was ready to try to figure out how to deal with it. I didn’t give myself any other option but to succeed throughout this! I worked too hard and encountered enough obstacles before even opening to let this pandemic be the one to take me down!
How has life been in Collingwood (or Ontario) through the pandemic?
Every day I think to myself how grateful I am to have landed back here, now more than ever!Ontario got hit really hard!i don’t think I could have been in a better place during it all, both for my business and for my sanity.The community here is so unbelievably supportive it makes me a bit emotional even thinking about it.I got to wake up every morning during this awful pandemic, walk my dog, stare at the mountains, say hello to passer’s by and then come back to the store and pack orders.
I know other than being the owner of homme|femme you are also still a very active in brand sales, can you tell us a little bit more about that and how its been navigating that world through the pandemic?
haha, yes I have been crazy enough to continue to rep some really amazing brands since opening the store! My initial plan with the store was to continue in the position I had before launching the business but as the first few months passed I quickly realized how important it was for me to be physically in the store and working with my customers. Especially because Collingwood was such a small community. I just couldn’t do both things without one suffering a bit. My obvious choice was my own business so decided to make the permanent departure from C2. Not long after I made that tough decision, I was given an opportunity I could not refuse! I began repping Minimum for Ontario through Timebomb. This was a no brainer for me! I was selling Minimum already in homme|femme and saw great success with it, plus it was very similar to some brands I had adored and worked with in the past. Representing 1 brand for Ontario only was something I could handle and was excited to do so! It’s been such a bonus in so many ways! It really helps me to connect and relate to my accounts on a level I never could have before! it feels like there is more trust there now. Like I’m not just trying to sell them a product. I can talk about my experiences and strengths in the product. I can relate to my accounts so much more now and that changes the way I work for them! It’s also great for the business because it helps me stay up to date with what is going on outside of my town and my shop. It can be so easy to just get stuck in what you are doing and your own retail bubble!
What’s next for you/Shop Homme Femme?
So many fun things in store! I’m continuing to expand my homme|femme label offerings. Lots of new ideas for spring. also hoping to extend the shop back and add a shoe room. Looking to partner with more great businesses in other towns to create similar pop ups as to what I have now with Good Grief. And last but certainly not least, I’m taking this show on the road! This summer I bought a 1977 22’ Airstream Argosy! I’ve gutted it and now working on the interior design to turn it into a mobile homme|femme. I’m extremely excited!!
I have been seeing you at KNOWSHOW on and off over the years, what are some of your earliest memories of the show? What are you most looking forward to about a return to in-person buying and tradeshow season?
Oh man, I have attended many a KNOWSHOW in my life including the shows also out in Montreal and Calgary. I loved being at the show so much. It was work, but also felt a little like camp! Excited to see familiar faces every 6 months catching up and reminiscing. Getting jobs done but also having so much fun doing it! and the parties…. oh the parties! Those made the next day’s work feel a little bit longer but worth it for sure! I was grateful for the days that I didn’t have to stand and present every hour on the hour, the same routine! I’m grateful for my Lachelt days but was much more comfortable in my one-on-one appointments with retailers, working directly with them on a more intimate level while I was at C2 Apparel. I have never actually attended the show as a buyer but definitely look forward to potentially in the future! I am very much excited for in-person buying. It’s a better way to work for me! The way brands have adapted to make viewing collections virtually has been great for sure, but nothing beats the real thing! I also have found some of my best brands in store by just cruising the isles and stumbling upon brands I never knew of.
Thanks Heather, great catching up after so long, good luck with everything and we’re looking forward to seeing you and having you back at KNOWSHOW again soon!