Some of us eventually come to a point in our careers when we ask ourselves what’s next? Where will we go from here and what is it we want from our professional lives? Local fashion designer Malene Grotrian did just that a few years ago when she decided to venture out and start her own company.
Originally from Denmark, Malene’s designs have been described as versatile, timeless, and elegant. Since 2008 she’s operated a boutique studio out of Gastown’s iconic Dominion Building doing custom designs, client consultations, and creating her collections. The year following her launch she was invited to New York Fashion Week and since then she’s produced an annual large-scale fashion event for her fall/winter collections here in Vancouver such as this month’s New Heights fashion show on Granville Island. With this season’s collection she also revealed a new website and launched her custom Made to Measure brand.
Malene dressed me for the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and I figured that with all this momentum it was time to pay her another visit to catch up on her designs and learn more about her philosophy.
“I think overall there is a community in Vancouver that cares about buying local,” said Malene as we sat by the window in her studio, looking out on sunshine-soaked Gastown on a crisp fall day. “We’re used to it as a trend with food whereas with clothes it’s more of a consumer mentality. There is a shift toward buying local [clothing] happening now, it’s just been a bit slower to catch-on.” Being from Europe, Malene said it was a value that she was brought up with. “You save up for that piece, you take care of it, and it’s a part of you. It’s not just having five of that design in blue or red, then next season it’s out. It’s much more of a consciousness about what you buy and it’s definitely more quality over quantity.”
Malene’s passion is creating those quality pieces for women in Vancouver. “I think anyone that pretty much hates shopping is a great client for me because they can come in, I take an assessment, and there’s pretty much nothing I don’t have here.” Her ready-to-wear collection covers sizes 2 to 14 and she also has pieces in sizes 16 to 18. Anything else, she will create and offer something custom. She helps clients save time by determining what styles look good on them and being a one-stop-shop for finding the perfect pieces.
Women are really powerful when we feel great about who we are and what we do. We’re so nurturing so I feel like what I can do is set the frame around that.”
Those who love to get their retail therapy by going from shop to shop are more than welcome as well, and Malene said she is happy to be a part of that journey. “But I really feel that I can help those women that actually hate to shop. They can come up here, go into the change-room and say ‘give me something’.” Looking back, I believe that’s pretty much what I did when I first met Malene as well – I’m clueless when it comes to fashion and I love putting my trust (and style) in the hands of professionals.
By asking questions about what the clients do, what they have happening in their lives, if they travel, are going to an event, etc. Malene can offer suggestions and see what works for them. She has returning customers as well who have built up key pieces from previous collections and she can help create what she calls a capsule wardrobe using those pieces as building blocks.
Her clients are typically in their mid 30’s and up. “I love women in their 50’s and 60’s because a lot of women in that age have bodies that start to change and they are not necessarily happy with those changes. But, I feel there’s so much to celebrate and there’s such a profound confidence that they can have.” Malene said that it’s all about understanding that you can look and feel really great about yourself — and key pieces of clothing can make all the difference. “I love going through that process with them, it’s really empowering.”
From producing her own shows to partnering with local non-profits and organizations for events, Malene values connecting with the community through her fashion. “I love the collaborations, the people, the committees, and just the energy that comes from working with charities,” she said as I looked through the columns of non-profit partners she’s worked with that have been listed in her new magazine. “Every organization is different and you always learn something new — you walk away with knowledge each time.”
Follow Malene on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about her events, collections, and services. You can also book a shopping appointment or a Style Soiree for a private shopping experience for you and a handful of your closest friends.