IN THE KNOW with Jennifer Rainnie

May 5, 2021 | KNOWSHOW

If you have been around this business for any amount of time, you’ve witnessed Jennifer Rainnie’s hustle. She has played a major part in the sales, marketing and distribution of many influential swimwear brands for over 20 years. In 2015, armed with a vision and her trademark hard work, she set out to create her own brand Malvados and has been at the helm of all creative, sales & marketing initiatives for this growing company since. Not one to stop at 5 o’clock, she has worked with numerous charities in and around her home of Vancouver, is a faculty member in the Global Fashion Marketing program at the Blanche MacDonald Centre, and sits on the board at Small Business BC. We caught up with Jennifer to talk about how she’s been managing over the last year, how Malvados pivoted as travel fell off due to Covid and where she’s seeing inspiration in the market.

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First off, how are you doing? 
I am doing really well. Feeling optimistic and grateful.

What’s happening right now at Malvados?
We are working on our Holiday 2021 collection and Spring/Summer 2022 and we are just starting to ship our SS21 line. So we are busy!

Looking back on 2020, what was the thing you felt you struggled with the most over the last year.
Seeing what was happening to my retailers was really tough. Watching stores that I have worked with for over 20 years struggle to keep their businesses alive and several of them not making it. And unfortunately, that struggle is not over.

I think it’s safe to say covid pushed a lot of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers into the future, embracing ecom and newer sales formats to make it happen. Did any of your retailers stand out in how they adapted?  
That’s such a good question. It was really interesting to see how different retailers reacted to what was happening. Many of them started offering curbside and better online platforms. Some of them went the extra mile and began using social media as a sales tool, engaging their customers from home, doing Livestream interviews with their reps and brands, showcasing in-store fashion shows where they would take videos of new product and share them on social media, offering drop-ship options from suppliers and changing their product offering to include home goods and loungewear. I have to say of all of my retailers Big Sun in Vernon stood out with the most out-of-the-box sales and marketing strategies during the pandemic. They continue to amaze me with their incredible ability to change and the positive attitude that they have kept through all of this. If you don’t follow them you should @bigsunvernon

Maybe it was overcoming the above, or something else, but what is one thing that you feel you took away from last year, that you wouldn’t have in a normal year?
Perseverance. I worked insanely hard in 2020. I am a hard worker anyway and have never been afraid to put in the hours but during the pandemic, I had to let people go and I had to fight to keep my business alive so I worked non-stop. And I did it, not only did I make it out alive, it was the most profitable year we’ve had.

It can’t be overstated how challenging selling a brand that is so closely related to travel is right now. I saw that you launched a home-wear line of slippers for Holiday. Was that always in the pipeline, or was that a pivot as Covid set in?
That was a lifeline. I literally thought if I don’t come up with something to sell this year then I am done. I designed our slippers in a day and had 2 weeks to sell them to hit the holiday deadline with my factory. I didn’t even have time to manufacture samples for my reps. I took photos in my home studio and sent them to the reps who then sent them to the retailers and thank god the slippers resonated with everyone. It was definitely a fast pivot and a lifesaver for MALVADOS.

That’s incredible. Is the home-wear line a staple now & are you increasing that selection?
The slippers will be a staple now going forward for us for Holiday and Valentine’s and we are going to be adding some matching loungewear pieces as well for 2021.

How do you see the future of travel? Pretty sure people are craving getaways, but when do you see that getting back to some level of normalcy?
As soon as they open up travel it’s going to be game on. We all saw what started happening this January, people were starting to get restless and I noticed some of my friends starting to plan trips anyway, not worried about having to quarantine. Now the government has had to put a serious stop on travel availability.  Once people are vaccinated and there is some news about the new strains then fingers crossed travel will resume but who knows when that will be. But I have a feeling it’s going to be crazy once that happens.

Beyond Malvados, you’re involved with Small Business BC, the Heart and Stroke Foundation,  the Canadian Apparel Human Resources Council and teach and sit on the board with Kwantlen College. That’s a lot of communication with a lot of people that I assume is usually done in person. What have you learned about digital communication this year that you can share? 
Well, I had to let go of a lot of volunteer responsibilities over the past year to focus on my business but I do still sit on the Board for Small Business BC. I have always liked face to face even virtually through Skype in the past so the constant use of Zoom this past year was fine for me. I did have to invest in some non-bark dog collars for my dogs to make sure they didn’t interrupt my meetings and presentations, and buying a cheap ring light from Amazon makes all the difference!

Thanks for your time Jen!

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