Montreal, brace yourself.
Not only will Justin Bieber’s “Justice World Tour” be making a stop in the city on Tuesday, but the superstar was expected to stop by Ssense to get a firsthand look at the immersive experience the retailer is unveiling for his Drew House brand.
The pop-up within Ssense’s five-story, 9,380-square-foot Montreal flagship marks the first time Drew House has expanded beyond its own direct-to-consumer site. The relationship between the brand and the retailer will continue this spring when Drew House is added to the Ssense mix in May, effectively bringing the brand to a global audience for the first time.
Bieber, in partnership with his friend and onetime stylist Ryan Good, created Drew House in 2018 with a mission to build “a community, a place where you can be yourself and loved, encouraged, safe and valued,” according to its website. Since its launch, the entertainer, his wife and his fans have been seen sporting the unisex brand’s smiley face logo with the lower-case word “drew” in place of the mouth, all over the world.
Good said he’s been working with Bieber for 13 years, since he left his role as Usher’s assistant to be the singer’s stylist. They quickly became friends and four years ago when Bieber started brainstorming with him about starting a brand, they came up with Drew House and have been working together to build it since then. Good officially serves as the brand’s creative director.
The casual streetwear-infused line of sweatshirts, jackets, T-shirts, hoodies, short-sleeved shirts, sweatpants and accessories, including hats, bags, plush toys and slippers, doesn’t feature Bieber’s name anywhere on the label, but his millions of fans and followers — 226 million on Instagram alone — know Drew is his middle name and he’s solidly behind the business.
This isn’t the only way Bieber is embracing his Canadian roots. Last week, the Ontario, Canada native and Drew House partnered with the National Hockey League and Adidas to reimagine the Toronto Maple Leafs sweater. A fan version of the jersey, which features a Drew House-inspired gold trim and element of the motif inside the Maple Leaf logo, is already sold out.
That kind of demand is exactly what Ssense and Drew House are hoping will be replicated when the installation debuts. It is the first time the brand has collaborated with any other company on an in-person activation and is the only one planned for Bieber’s world tour. It remains in place through April 3.
Good said before the pandemic, Drew House had opened a few physical pop-ups globally, but the health crisis put an end to that. “But this is the first time we’ve partnered with a wholesale account,” he said. “We haven’t been too quick to partner with someone else. We’re comfortable distributing it ourselves.”
But the conversation began recently about finding the right partner to expand the reach of the brand and Ssense fit the bill, he said.
“The timing is right. This will give us an avenue to tell our story.” The brand has a “lofty goal,” he said, which is to “tell our story in every culture in the world and we’re starting with Montreal.”
Gina DeYoung, senior director of marketing for Ssense, said all conversations start with product and the buying team began talking to the brand a couple of years ago and realized that they were committed to the same values. One thing led to another and it culminated in the installation.
“We want to create impact and make desirable product accessible,” she said.
“Ssense is thrilled to partner with Drew House at such an exciting time in the brand’s development,” said Federico Barassi, vice president of menswear for Ssense. “We’ve been in conversations for years and found we have a natural synergy with shared values and communities. We’re excited to launch the full collection at Ssense in May and to help expand Drew House’s community worldwide.”
The installation, which spans three floors, includes Drew House graphics developed by the Ssense team splattered on the facade of the store that are designed to draw shoppers inside. In the lobby, stuffed mascot animals and home objects have been installed, along with a video wall providing content about the brand. Store customers will be distributed a Polaroid camera to capture images of their experience in the space.
On the first level, a living room has been recreated with large screen panels as contour walls. The second level features a gallery-style presentation of portraits, graffiti and other visual ephemera from the brand and tube televisions showing Drew House content. Finally, on the fifth floor, a mobile e-commerce studio where the collection will be shot has been installed and Good will be on site styling the images. That will also be livestreamed in the lobby, DeYoung said.
The entire experience is designed to recreate “iconic moments from the L.A. Drew House,” DeYoung said. Good described Drew House as “an actual place. A house in the San Fernando Valley where our community actually hangs out.”
In addition to Drew House merchandise, Ssense will showcase other brands during the installation including Balenciaga, Lu’u Dan, Vetements, Lanvin and I’m Sorry by Petra Collins.
DeYoung said that Ssense has worked with a few other brands in the past on similar initiatives including Burberry, which invited the merchant to reimagine the retail experience in its SoHo store in New York last June, followed by an installation for Pharrell Williams’ House of Humanrace last September in its Montreal store.
“But with this one, there’s an opportunity to interact and leave a mark,” she said.
For Good and Drew House, the newly inked partnership with Ssense will allow the brand to further its mission. “Working with Ssense for Drew House’s first global partnership brings together our shared visions of acceptance, value, empowerment and love. Drew House is a place, a community, and a metaphor for a home where everyone is welcome and where joy is available. Partnering with Ssense allows us another avenue to continue to tell that story. A story that communicates that every single person on this planet is loved and of infinite value,” said Good.
Ssense generates an average of 100 million monthly page views to its online store and 80 percent of its audience is between the ages of 18 and 40. The flagship is located at 418 Rue Saint Sulpice in Montreal in the first building in Canada designed by David Chipperfield Architects.