“Each Gravity Pope store is designed specifically for the space it inhabits,” founder Louise Dirks explains. She opened her first shop with a friend in 1990 on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton in Canada, selling only footwear and with a coffee shop in the back. After her partner for the coffee venture moved to Japan Louise used that section of the shop to begin selling clothing from independent labels.
Louise is still based in Edmonton, but Gravity Pope has grown to include stores in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. Now, there is a clothing store in addition to the original shoe store in the city, just a few doors down. Steel beams and polished concrete floors lend an industrial feel, while the counter is clad in warm oak. An illuminated digital mural by James Welling, Glass House Spring Reflections, brings saturated light to the space, while library furniture from the 1900s sits beside Vitsoe shelving. “The functionality and durability means it’s key to our displays at each of our locations.”
For both clothing and footwear, “natural fabrics, quality leathers and thoughtful design are key in our selection,” she says. Having grown up in Northern Alberta on a dairy farm, Louise studied clothing and textiles at the University of Alberta. Prior to Gravity Pope, she worked for an import shop. “It was a whole new experience, I learnt so much about artisanal goods from all over the world,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted to bring quality goods to local markets and show people there is an alternative to fast fashion,” she says.
Although today importing products is the norm, “back in the early ’90s there weren’t many people doing it,” says Louise. “The products we were bringing in were quite unique to the marketplace, and they gave us an edge.” To find new pieces, she travels around Europe to visit trade shows and showrooms. “It’s really nice to be there in person, looking at the product three-dimensionally rather than on a computer,” she says. “It also means we find things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.”
Louise still oversees all of her buyers, approving all purchases and making the final decisions on new brands to stock. They create a collection of items for each store, which is always evolving. “The client is a little bit different from city to city, and you can see the idiosyncrasies.”
When choosing a piece to invest in, Louise considers the functionality and how long a piece will last. “I love wearing timeless pieces made of natural fabrics designed well and solidly manufactured so they look even better with age.” This is what drew her to stocking TOAST pieces in her stores. “I appreciate the viewpoint,” she says. “I love that TOAST focuses on craft, longevity, and community. At Gravity Pope we care about who makes our products, how they are made and what they are made of.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Photographs courtesy of Gravity Pope.
A curated selection of the TOAST collection can be found at Gravity Pope in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.
Join us at Gravity Pope Toronto, 1010 Queen Street West for an exhibition of patchwork pieces by artist Arounna Khounnoraj from 17th May - 30th May.