From The Ground Up: Clayton Chan Of 017 Shop
Zayyar: Clayton, what do you do and where are you based?
Clayton: I am currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia where 017 is located. I am the founder and Creative Director of the shop.
Zayyar: How did you first become interested in fashion or retail for that matter?
Clayton: I first became interested in fashion at a really young age, around 10 or so. I would sketch and be interested in retail store design when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t know this could be a job except to open my own shop. I didn’t even know a “Creative Director” position could exist in a retail setting. When I was in college, I had started a small backpack brand because I had a good relationship with my uncle who owned a factory which let me learn the most basics of a running a small business. After doing that for 2-3 years, I felt I didn’t want to be a designer and I felt more like a curator/buyer. I’ve worked for boutiques and luxury retail stores for over 8 years and it was around when I was 25 that I felt if I never took the chance to open the shop, I probably never would.
Zayyar: From fleshing out the idea for the store were you interested in business growing up?
Clayton: I wouldn’t say I was interested in business growing up until I started the backpack brand which I am actually re-launching now. I was definitely interested in fashion and the creative aspect of it. When I was around 15 I wasn’t able to work because the minimum age to work in British Columbia was 16 so I would buy and resell items like cellphones. My friends and I would buy them for cheap from Craigslist and then resell them on other forums locally in Vancouver. I didn’t think of that as business at the time, I just wanted to get stuff for myself and I couldn’t work haha. It was kind of lucrative being a 15 year old.
Zayyar: Haha that’s golden, definitely an entrepreneurial mindset was instilled. What were the early days of 017 like? As you mentioned you wanted to curate & buy, was it always an idea to pursue your own store?
Clayton: The early days of 017 was a lot of fun and a lot of learning. I am grateful for my business partners who I worked with during the beginning because it wouldn’t have been as great doing it all on my own. We learned so much and still are. I was able to establish a dedicated and talented team from the beginning and some of them are still with me today so I am grateful for that too.
We were all trying to figure things out on our own, how customers shop, how online marketing works, merchandising, all the stuff that goes into running retail store. I had a lot of friends in the retail and creative industry because I previously worked at a lot retail stores and through VELT, so a lot of them helped me in the beginning. We still work together from time to time which is awesome. Literally some of them are 7-8 years of friendship and professional working relationships.
I’ve always wanted to pursue 017 because there were so many amazing brands out there that were not represented in the city or in Canada. Some of the brands we worked with from the very beginning are still with us 7 seasons later and they too have grown. So we’ve all just been growing together and that’s the best part.
017’s Current Stocklist:
AMBUSH, Helmut Lang, Doublet, Y/Project, CMMN SWDN, Études, Yang Li, Facetasm, Hyein Seo, Komakino, Carson Cartier, Alan Crocetti, Garçons Infideles, RtA & More
Zayyar: From the initial launch of 017 what were some of the biggest obstacles and challenges you faced?
Clayton: The biggest obstacle was finding a location. As a new business, most landlords are not going to give you a chance if they have another established business wanting the location. I believe I was at the right place at the right time, I met an agent that had a long term working relationship with that landlord so luckily I got it (in regards to our first location). We quickly moved out of that location after 1.5 years to the store we are at now.
Getting some of the brands we currently work with was also hard as we had to establish ourselves and show them we can do it. Construction delays with our new store was another huge obstacle. But things always come around.
Zayyar: Where do you place the store in the market? Are you more boutique, independent designer, streetwear, high end? Or do you think putting a label on the store defeats its purpose?
Clayton: We are a boutique. In terms of style, I wouldn’t place ourselves in high end or independent but we go with our personal tastes on the collections and look to develop great relationships and growth with our brands. We also look at what is happening in fashion and try our best to predict the trends while at the same time aim to bring designers we truly believe in and introduce them.
We carry both independent designers and established ones. There are still the big names that are doing great things and I am personally fans of some of them, but there is also a whole other world of extremely talented designers. I believe that our skill has been identifying them and working with them along our journey.
Zayyar: In terms of brand selection and curation, what are some of the key fundamentals you look for when bringing a brand to 017?
Clayton: One thing we definitely look for is how unique the brand is, and if we think our customers will like it. We also think if it will sit well amongst our brand list.
Zayyar: I take my hat off to you and your team as you produce some of the best work out there for any retailer in my personal opinion. How important was making content for you guys?
Clayton: Content has always been important to us from they day we opened, as we grow as a company we are starting to explore other mediums to help make us more than just a store. We look at ourselves almost as a media company.
Before when we didn’t have many brands, we would write articles that intrigued us and were slightly fashion related. Some articles that still receive a ton of attention are: The Void Of The 80’s, Hyper Trends, Anti-Fashion.
Zayyar: Can you describe what the Vancouver scene is like for our readers who may not be familiar or who have never been there before?
Clayton: Vancouver is an extremely laid back, true West Coast city. We have amazing nature that surrounds us. It also is a great city to live in. We have a lot of diversity in food, the air is crisp, the people are really friendly and it’s a tight community for the ones that are in fashion.
As the city continues to grow it has vastly improved the retail landscape but also created more competition. But I do look at the competition in a good way, it has forced all boutique stores in the space to be very different from one another. This is why making 017 a “brand” was so important than just to make it as a clothing store. It lets us stand out.
Zayyar: What are some of your goals for the store moving into 2019?
Clayton: Some goals moving forward is to improve our online presence, continue building the brands we have, creating more physical experiences in-store such as events and installations.
Zayyar: Finally for someone who has built something from scratch what advice would you give to a keen young person looking to follow in your footsteps? Basically what would you tell 20-25 year old Clayton?
Clayton: I’m still figuring this thing out myself haha, but I would say what has helped me is that consistency is key in anything you do and let yourself make mistakes but make sure you take the time to reflect and learn from it. This can seem like a pretty basic statement, but if you put it into practice in everything you do, it works. Whether its business or your relationships.
Zayyar: Thanks so much your time Clayton. Looking forward to seeing the store progress this year and beyond.
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photography: Eric Tsui