Studio D is going into its third year now. It's become a fixture in the neighbourhood and a part of the community. Everyone knows to expect impeccably designed and infinitely fashionable shoes from this European shoe haven in North Toronto but not everyone knows the whole story behind it.
Get to know the inner-workings of the world of Studio D, as told by the owner Derrick Adams.
Why did you want to open Studio D?
It was always my passion to have my own store to give Toronto a different feel of what a shoe store should be. In terms of new brands, unique styles, a mix of fashionable, wearable everyday shoes.
What kind of woman do you think Studio D fits?
Studio D fits that lady that likes to think outside of the box, but not too far outside of the box. She definitely wants to be fashionable, she wants to feel different. She doesn’t want to follow trends from typical brands that have been popular for the past 10 - 15 years. She wants to be a leader and she wants to be comfortable.
When you were in the stages of planning your own shoe boutique, what did you want Studio D to be?
The D came first, the Studio came after. I’m Derrick and my customers over the many years just started calling me D. I always thought, from a marketing standpoint, if you want to remember something it should be catchy and simple. So, D is very simple to remember, the indigo blue and the graphic of my sign catches your eye.
The whole idea of the feel of the store, as you walk in I always wanted you to feel comfortable, with just the right flow. I wanted a relaxed atmosphere with a feel of luxury at the same time, where if a client wants to come in and chat, have a coffee, there’s a seating area that feels like a living room with a fireplace. As you’re sitting down, sipping your coffee, in this case Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, you’ll see these shoes surrounding you, on display liked you’d have books on a bookshelf.
Your store is in North Toronto/Lawrence Park, what did you want to bring to this neighbourhood specifically?
A lot of times we compare Toronto to other major cities in the world, like New York for example has its little pockets like 5th Avenue which is Toronto’s Bloor Street and there’s Madison and there’s Soho and Toronto’s slowly becoming that way. I think we needed another area for fine footwear to be found other than going to your typical Bloor Street or the malls and I thought this neighbourhood was the best in the city and I still believe it’s the best. Especially from Yonge and Eglinton to Lawrence, the retail along here will continue to get better and better as the years progress.
Tell us a bit about you and your history in the shoe industry.
In 1988 I started at Holt’s and it was supposed to be only for a year or two but I fell in love with the shoe business and I stayed. I’ve seen some brands that are popular now, that were just starting out then: Christian Louboutin, Robert Clergerie, the list goes on. I’ve seen brands come and go. I love the women’s footwear business, there is something about it that is so special that I don’t think any other item could equal to it when it comes to a woman walking in, buying a piece and instantly feeling wonderful about it and you know, footwear does that for a woman.
I always wanted to do this and 20 years later I decided to and that’s where it all started: to be able to give that feeling. I wanted to bring what I truly believe the city was missing.
Fifteen years into Holt’s I left for several years to work at a wonderful shoe store called Zola Shoes. Also, in a neighbourhood setting like Studio D. I wanted to branch out, I wanted to understand a smaller retail environment. After a while, I went back to Holt’s and I started becoming involved in the buying process, traveling with the buyers. It was a great concept where a sales associate from the selling floor is there in the showroom with the buyer, you bring your knowledge from the floor into the showroom. Sometimes, buyers just look at numbers but the sales associate understands exactly why a shoe does well or not. It was a great learning experience for me to be able to do both retail and buying and I took that experience and I went to Milan and I found all these wonderful goodies.
Tell us a bit more about those goodies!
One brand that sticks out is MSGM, it’s a brand out of Milan, well known for its ready-to-wear. They do some wonderful fabrications of tweeds and linen and different materials of leathers and patents. The way they mix the feeling of the street, with a sexy edge or a raw edge and a sporty edge is just amazing. It’s one of the brands I was first to bring here [in terms of footwear] not just to Toronto but to Canada and still today, I’m the only retailer, which is nice.
I have an Italian brand called Sebastian, the quality is outstanding. I always wanted that classy, elegant, sophisticated and sexy with that Italian luxury craftsmanship. In Milan, on a street called via della Spiga, I found their free-standing boutique and I fell in love with their shoes.
There’s also Sofia M, a fantastic, passionate sandal brand. Sofia is the designer and her father takes care of the business side. Each shoe is given the name of an Italian woman and each shoe bag has an inscription with a description of the type of woman the shoe is made for. She’s strong, she’s beautiful, she’s intellectual, she’s fun!
I’ve got a brand that I love, that I’ve known for many years called Coclico. Sold it at Holt’s, sold it at Zola. They’re based in New York, the shoes are made in Spain, the factory is family-owned. This brand, especially for this neighbourhood, offers fashionable but still very wearable item.
Deimille is one of these brands that as soon as you see it you can see the quality, you can see that these guys know how to make a shoe. It’s one of these luxury brands that has their own factory and their own design team but at the same time some of the biggest names in major department stores around the world get their shoes made by Deimille.
I also carry Missoni. It’s a family-business, been around for decades, always known for their wonderful patterns. The way Missoni mixes colours together is unparalleled. The footwear sort of echoes the ready-to-wear.
I also have a brand called Rayne, from London, England. It’s been around for about 85 years, actually in the sixties Roger Vivier learned from Edward Rayne.
Something I also wanted to have in the store -- and this was hard to find -- was a product that was all Italian-made, with the right styles and comfort but at that extremely good price point and I was able to find that with the brand Chiaroscuro.
One more thing, this happened today and it’s always a good feeling. Being at Holt’s all the time and being in the shoe business, you mainly see ladies and since being in the neighbourhood, on the street, you meet the husbands, the boyfriends, the families and it’s always nice when they come in and they feel comfortable here and they start touching the shoes and they’re telling me it’s a great shoe and a great place and that happened twice today. Also, I get people telling me “I’m happy to have this in the city.” Just to hear the consumer saying I’m glad this is here and thanking me, just that alone makes me feel like it was well worth it.