ZANE at 753 Queen Street West is not only home to one of Toronto’s most unrivaled, multi- branded accessories shop, but it’s also a home that was carefully and creatively constructed by business entrepreneur and fashion expert Zane Aburaneh.
Zane is a man who has always been ahead of his time and has used this trait to create his own path in the ever-evolving industry that is fashion. For Zane, making connections, building trust and seeking inspiration from others and the environment that surrounds him is what makes his business the success that it is today.
SNTF recently had the opportunity to sit down with Zane and get learn the ins and outs of running a business. And take it from us, if you haven’t already checked out this Queen Street West hot spot yet, then you truly are missing out!
SNTF: Where did you start out in your career?
ZA: I started out in retail, in the Eaton Centre actually for Mexx years ago. Well actually, even before that, I started in Cambridge, Ontario in a little boutique store called Caesars Closet. And they sold brands like Diesel and Mexx, so it was my first experience in a suburban, contemporary kind of store. It was the only store that was cool in this small town. But I really got to sink my teeth into the industry when I started out with a wholesale company called Agency One, while I was studying ITM at Ryerson. However, I ended up dropping out of Ryerson and finishing off my school career at George Brown College for fashion management. I was also then at Holt Renfrew for a number of years, so I had to keep following that path of what felt right for me, which was always fashion.
I knew that I always enjoyed dealing with people, it was about that trust factor I’d create with that person which was invaluable, and that feeling is kind of how I first decided to go into fashion, I didn’t know what I liked in retail, but it just evolved into this feeling and connection I’d make with people, like wow they feel really good and they trust me.
SNTF: What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
ZA: Being an entrepreneur is trying to give people what you love, it’s giving people a part of you. There is obviously a business side to it, which we all try to achieve and everyone thinks of success in different ways, but for me it’s about if I can have my community around me and have great friends that come into the store and my employees are happy and not only am I inspiring the staff around me but they’re inspiring me, then for me that is the success of owning a business.
SNTF: What are some of the pros and cons of running your own business?
ZA: Well cons will always come up as hurdles, those little things that you wouldn’t necessarily think would have a big impact but they do. So, from selling merchandise, to merchandising your window, to photographers, to things getting stolen, financial hurdles, you know all those little things that are maybe so minuscule when you’re building an entire business, but sometimes they do hit away at you and start to build up. But the pros outweigh all those things — I’m building a strong voice in the accessory community, I can echo my voice through our brand identity, I can help influence the design process because I work so closely with the designers that supply me merchandise, the people that work in the store believe in what I’m doing and help to focus our view point. Everyone is growing and helping each other in the process. I have no words to describe how amazing it feels when the people around me trust me and want to work with me, that pro outweighs all the cons, you know if it’s merchandise stress or supplier stress, having these people around to help push the ideas I have in my head, and we become a team and that’s why I do what I do.
SNTF: What advice can you give to those who are just starting out in the fashion industry?
ZA: Patience, patience, patience, and nothing happens overnight. Or if you have extreme success in a short amount of time, have patience with it and enjoy it while it’s happening. Every business, even successful ones, goes through ebbs and flows and it’s how you come back from the hard times in your business which will show how successful you will be in the good times.
SNTF: How do you keep up with trends and stay ahead of the game?
ZA: I observe. I like to watch and pay attention to the details. I’ll go for a long walk through the city by myself and I’ll just observe everything and what people are wearing. I’ll stand at Yonge and Dundas at an intersection where I don’t even want to hang out, but I’ll figure out what the masses of people are doing and wearing and how can I be slightly more unique or special in terms of what my store is providing.
SNTF: What have you found to be the most challenging in your career this far?
ZA: I think my own personal ambition has been the most challenging with having my own business and it is still a challenge six years later. When I think I’ve gotten into something that I claimed to be successful, I find that I challenge myself more and push myself. My mind is always thinking about the next idea, what I need to do and where I need to go. It’s like a ladder, I think that I’ve climbed to the top but all of a sudden there’s still a few more steps that I have to climb and I think I just need to have more patience and be more realistic and try to slow it down. Sometimes I push myself too hard and then I don’t get to enjoy it as much.
SNTF: Why did you decide to branch off on your own, what inspired you?
ZA: I wasn’t feeling challenged from where I was at. I wanted to learn more and I wanted to challenge myself because I questioned if I could do it. The time was right. I had done 10 years of retail and I didn’t know where I wanted to go and then it finally hit me one day and I feel fortunate that I didn’t launch it until I was ready.
SNTF: What do you look for in a potential candidate of ZANE?
Zane: They have to have their own sense of confidence and their own style whether it is vintage or luxury; it doesn’t have to be my style. They have to have their own interests and opinions, and not so much about how they dress but more about who they are — like what restaurant did they last go to, what does their Instagram account look like, where’s their favourite new hang out, what was the last trip they went on, what makes them who they are. I want to be able to inspire them and them to inspire me, so we can build something inspiring.
SNTF: What does a typical day at ZANE look like?
ZA: There is no typical day. If you were working at a business where you’re having typical days, that’s not the type of business I’d want to work for. Every day is a little diverse from the next. You meet new customers, new ideas come up and then you change with that right away. That’s part of being nimble and young; if you have an idea and it sounds good and we work through it, then execute it right away, change when the moment is there.
SNTF: How important is the culture in your environment and the atmosphere in the store to you?
ZA: I wanted to create that multi-branded experience where people can feel special because they’re buying locally and they want to feel locally connected as opposed to buying it from a department store. How do you make your local experience attract your local audience? It’s about your local community. What is your community doing? How are you apart of it? What are you doing to better your brand awareness?
You know, at the end of the day, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m still learning every day. Still, even after this many years, I still learn new things all the time and I don’t want to surround myself with other people that aren’t inspiring me.
All photos courtesy of ZANE
By Ciara Koth, Toronto, @ciarakoth
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