By Mario Toneguzzi
Vancouver-based bridesmaid and social attire brand Park + Fifth has expanded in the Canadian bridal industry market with its roots as an online made-to-order business.
Today, owners Brooke Johansen, Zoe Tisshaw and Jenny Wright-Harper have grown to be an off-the-rack retailer with stores in three provinces across Canada.
The business began more than three years ago.
“We are dress company focusing at the beginning on bridesmaid dresses. We really saw a gap in the market for trendy, well-fitting, well-priced bridesmaid dresses. So that’s what we started the brand with,” said Johansen. “And it’s still our bread and butter today. But now we have a whole social occasion section. So dresses for anything like weddings, barbecues, any type of event.
“A lot of white collection which we really focus for brides for anything white all year round which is actually pretty tricky to find. So things for engagement parties, bachelorettes, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners. All those kinds of events that go along with weddings. And we just launched our very first full bridal line. We did that because there was a huge gap in the market for really well priced bridal dresses. Our bridal dresses are $500 to $1,300 and we’re able to keep these prices so low because we don’t wholesale anywhere. We just sell directly to our customers through our retail stores.”
Tisshaw said the name of the business came from the inspiration of New York fashion and street names in New York - the mecca of fashion.
“I grew up sewing dresses and I always made people dresses - for my friends,” she said, adding that she made bridal dresses for friends who were looking for something a bit more modern.
That’s where the idea initially was born for Park + Fifth as she saw the great need for a modern, rewearable bridesmaid dress to be out there in the world.
Johansen’s background is a business degree from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. She met Tisshaw at retailer Kit and Ace working in the product management department - allocations and buying. And from there the idea for Park + Fifth was born.
From the online world, the business opened its first bricks and mortar store in Vancouver then followed with a store in Toronto and in Calgary. The Calgary store is located within the Lovenote Bride store.
“Right now we’re really focusing on the three stores that we have. Toronto and Vancouver are studio space stores. So they’re second level. They’re by appointment only for the most part and we really want to focus on it getting full retail street front stores in our three retail locations before we move anywhere else,” said Johansen.
Tisshaw said the company’s product is designed, developed and manufactured within the company.
By starting as a made-to-order business, Park + Fifth's owners were able to really understand the market and consumer demand before each wedding season started. They quickly gained recognition and popularity for their line of rewearable and "Instagramable" dresses with their Un-Bridesmaid collection. They saw a gap in the market for affordable bridesmaid dresses women actually wanted to wear - and would wear again.
But in order to grow as a business it recognized the importance of being a physical retailer and re-launched in 2018.
A key to its success is selling directly to customers with no wholesale markups and customers can go home with the dress they choose the day-of purchase, something rare with other bridal brands.
The recently launched first wedding dress collection is available on a made-to-order basis. The bridal collection is available in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto stores as well as online.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.