TORONTO — After five years of cultivating a following through social media and store partnerships in 15 countries, edgy jewelry brand Vitaly has launched its first flagship on Queen Street here.
The move, according to founder Shane Vitaly Foran, comes as the company undergoes an evolution from its grungy, tatted-up beginnings to something that now evokes a sleek lifestyle brand.
“The retail climate is pretty dicey right now, so some might ask why take the risk. But we wanted to express our brand for the jewelry-adverse guy in a more holistic way off-line,” said Vitaly Foran, adding that “we want people to come in and experience the full aesthetic of the products we now deliver to a broadening customer base.”
A marketing graduate from Toronto’s Ryerson University, Vitaly Foran stumbled into jewelry in 2010 when a backpacking trip landed him in Central Bali. While there he drew up a sketch for a two-finger ring and gave it to an artisan who specialized in handcrafted wood jewelry to create. Soon a post on Facebook pulled in his first orders.
When Vitaly Foran returned to Toronto, he sold rings to friends and family in hopes of bankrolling his next backpacking adventure. But one day while showing his wares to a Queen Street vendor, he got the surprise of his life. “This woman told me to get a receipt book because she wanted to buy more jewelry,” said Vitaly Foran.
That moment put him on a path to creating a company that was recently valued at 25 million Canadian dollars, or $18.9 million.
In October 2011, he partnered with friend and fellow snowboarder Jason Readman. After a strong Christmas season, the pair took their savings, abandoned their jobs — Vitaly Foran worked in sales and Readman as a bush pilot — and plunged in.
When it became clear that the demand for Vitaly’s wood jewelry was outstripping capacity, ceramic, tungsten and stainless steel were incorporated into the line, the majority of which is now produced in China using materials sourced there and in Bali.
Vitaly added unisex pendants, bracelets and watches to its lineup, which ranges in price from 195 to 333.50 Canadian dollars, or $147 to $252.
It also used social media to build its clientele. As a result, Vitaly now has more than 322,000 followers on Instagram.
The company also ventured past its tough biker roots to include sleek clothing basics such as sweaters and T-shirts priced from 35 to 199 Canadian dollars, or $26 to $150.
All this resides now in Vitaly’s bright, white Queen Street flagship, which features accessories, clothing and watches on the ground floor and a concept store on the second level filled with the brand’s favorite offerings. Vitaly Foran anticipates more store rollouts in 2017, including in Los Angeles and New York, where the brand has a strong online following.
“We did 10 million [Canadian dollars, or $7.5 million] in sales in 2016 and expect to do between 15 and 22 million [Canadian dollars, or $11.3 million to $16.6 million]” this year, he said. “For fall 2017 we will have a full denim program and operate as a total lifestyle brand.”