By Brenda Giesbrecht
When is a clothing company more than a clothing company? When it’s social movement.
Sound audacious? You might think so, until you talk to young entrepreneurs Markku Luopa and Jaclyn Robertson, the founders of Okanagan Lifestyle Apparel (OLA). It’s clear they have a vision about a new way to conduct business, and it is not just about making money, or even about the product.
OLA was voted as the best start-up company and young entrpreneur (under-30) and also garnered second place for men’s clothing and third place for overall business page in the Best of Kelowna voting for 2017.
OLA is a business with a social conscience: “We believe in conscious consumerism. Every decision we make from colour to design, to marketing strategies, to our community interactions, begins and ends with quality of product, service and experience. A portion of our sales will always go back into the Okanagan community in some unique way, shape or form.”
Luopa and Robertson will quickly tell you that the company is still in its infancy. Founded in 2014, its growth has been nothing short of phenomenal.
“We owe so much to our community, many of whom are our mentors and collaborators,” says Robertson. “People buy our products for the quality and unique designs in celebration of the beautiful valley we call home, but they also recognize the work we do in the community gifting their loyal support as a result.”
OLA started out simple enough. Luopa is a graphic designer with experience in the apparel business. When friends came to visit him in the Okanagan, the same phrase was repeated over and over: “You know, the lifestyle’s really different here.”
“That stuck in my brain,” said Luopa, “and I ran with it. Jaclyn is a fashion-savvy friend of mine, and we started working on some clothing ideas. Now we have people wearing our clothes all over the world.”
But it’s the business model that makes OLA different.
“We had a very clear vision for the business right from the get-go,” said Robertson. “Our generation is not sitting back waiting for government to do things for us. We are going out and doing it ourselves, helping to shape the community that we want to live in. This is merely the beginning of our efforts to spark a tremendously contagious movement.”
The causes that OLA supports are selected through a thoughtful and considered process.
“We have a budget to consider, so we ask people to make submissions with the understanding that not everyone can be selected. And we’re OK with that.”
Okanagan Lifestyle Apparel is a company setting out to change the world for the better, one shirt at a time.