We've long followed Logan & Finley on Instagram and wished we could steal the owner's, Julie Skirving, style secrets. Whether she shares an outfit or a curated collection of travelling items, each set feels utterly perfect. Julie just knows how to put marry chic and sustainable, two things that make us swoon.
How does she do it? “My practical nature really does inform a lot of the purchasing, I believe if you are going to use something every day – it has an impact on you,” Julie told us, “so buying a good quality, useful and beautiful item and really using it is a great step to take.”
We want Julie as our personal shopper and stylist and when you visit Logan & Finley, or use their personalized shopping service, it feels just like she is!
In our interview, Julie digs into entrepreneurial life as the owner of her Toronto store plus shares her practical tips for shopping sustainably.
When did you first become interested in opening your store?
It had been a dream of mine for more than 20 years, and when I started thinking about it more seriously, I realized that I had been collecting articles, brand ideas and design styles in a folder that dated back almost that long ago too.
Historically, general stores were the hub of a rural community and a place to come for all their essentials. How did you land on the concept of an urban general store in the midst of downtown Toronto?
Exactly for that reason. I wanted Logan & Finley to be a hub for the Queen Street West community and the green living community – a place they can come to take a much-needed break from the hectic urban life and explore purposeful products that mesh with their everyday lives.
What has been a defining moment of Logan & Finley?
In small business, I think that there are defining moments more regularly than you remember, but here are four that stand out:
As an experienced traveller, one of my favourite things to do when planning a trip was to find an area of a city to explore, a shop I wanted to check out or a restaurant I wanted to try; its led to some of my best experiences. And so when that tourist from Switzerland, Italy or Scotland comes in with their map and their piece of paper and Logan & Finley is that store for them, it gives me a big smile.
The first time someone was nervous and excited to meet me – because they had been following the Instagram page – was weird, but kind of cute.
It was pretty cool when Global News was looking for someone to interview about Sustainable Fashion and Logan & Finley came up on their search and being nominated for Now Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Green Store is pretty exciting.
In a world of fast fashion and throw away products, tell us why you decided to create a store focussed on sustainability?
Living more sustainably is a step everyone can take in some way, but it's been a concern of mine that sometimes niche businesses are too niche to attract new people to their business. Think about if you want to learn how to run or learn how to knit, and the store and the staff are so hardcore that it’s really intimidating and you either buy a lot of stuff you don’t use, or you leave and don’t actually learn how to do one of those things.
I wanted Logan & Finley to be warm and welcoming and not intimidating. I want people not to feel that they aren’t “green” enough to shop here, but rather when they are interested in learning more we are here to help. My hope is that this attracts more people to living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Speaking of sustainability, tell us how you curate the items you carry in your store? What criteria do you follow? Upon finding an item in your store, what does that tell us?
Things need to match at least one of my criteria, Local, Natural, Built To Last, but ideally two-three of them. I think a lot about the end consumer and what would be useful for them and I want the products they buy to be things that are actually effective.
With clothing, the fit is extremely important, and versatility is key. You should be able to dress up or dress down your items so that you can enjoy wearing them a lot. We focus on natural fibres but occasionally will have some recycled synthetics if the item is intended for fitness or travel and needs to dry quickly for someone’s minimalist and carry-on lifestyle.
With skin care and cleaning supplies – it has to work. It definitely won’t have any harmful to you or harmful to the environment ingredients, but it has actually to clean your dishes or home or make your skin feel and look great. With food storage – we like to make sure it keeps your food fresher longer and easy to use.
Life as an entrepreneur has its ups and downs. Where do you find joy in each day?
As an entrepreneur, the balance between business and personal changes. I'll be honest, while I love my business and am inspired every day, it does consume my full attention. I am working on ways to balance out a bit more of a life for myself.
My joy in my work day comes from making people happy. It’s when a customer looks at themselves in the mirror with a mix of surprise and admiration after having tried on something I suggested, and they really like how it feels, how they look and felt that I saw and understood their unique self.
Personally, I find joy in something delicious to eat, a walk in nature, a good book, a chat with my parents, my family, and friends. I hope as I try to find more time for myself that I will get back to cooking and entertaining more and maybe….eventually….travelling, again!
You live a conscious lifestyle. Which products do you use regularly? What are the little daily luxuries?
I use a lot of what we sell and test everything before we sell it. So, I am almost always in product testing mode. I am a little bit boring in the clothing department personally, but jeans, boots, a top and the perfect black blazer is my winter “uniform” and in the summer I wear skirts, loose tops and flip flops when the weather is warmer. I can style other people in a much more fashion forward way – maybe I need someone to style me?!
My luxuries right now are all food and skin care related. I love having my smoothie in a weck jar with my glass straw and having my coffee in a real mug and my lunch on a plate – that’s when there is time for lunch. I enjoy some quiet time at home with a good character-driven novel, an at-home facial or in the winter an Epsom salts bath.
The outfits you put together in the store exude effortless chic. How do you do it?
Thank you. I get a lot of positive feedback on this, which continues to inspire me, but it is a difficult thing for me to define. I consider what I think my customer would like to wear, what would flatter them and what would work in their wardrobe (yes, I remember what’s in their wardrobes). I think I have a very active imagination and keen observational skills. I try to adapt the current trends for real people, keeping in mind what will flatter their shape and be easy and enjoyable to wear. Did I mention I am a people pleaser?!
I also buy all of the clothing, so I have an idea of what and how I want to put it together, but when it all comes in, it really is a lot of fun to put it all together. And even more fun when people like it and choose to take it home with them! These days I can’t even get it unpacked or photographed, let alone on a website, before we sell out of it which is, I guess, a good growing pain to have.
What is your overall beauty philosophy?
I see beauty in simplicity. Simple, well-cut, flattering clothing make most people feel good, and when you feel good about yourself, you also project yourself the best. I also think people are the most beautiful when they are happy and well rested. Ideally, we would all see beauty in ourselves the way we see it in others and work to highlight our favourite features and not worry quite so much about the rest.
We often talk about nourishing ourselves on Green Moms Collective. How do you take care of yourself?
To be honest, I have done the best I can at looking after myself the past few years of building my business but haven't been as successful as I would have liked or as I imagine others may be. Self-care is an area that I have been trying to focus more attention on and learn how to do this in my new reality. It’s hard to build a business and look after yourself at the same time! Do you think most people who thrive looking after others are less good at taking the time to care for themselves?! I’m open to low cost or minimal time tips!
What excites you most about the future of Logan & Finley? What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I have a lot of ideas about how to grow the business, and get really excited, but then I have to come back to the day-to-day task of getting one thing done at a time. So for now, the thing that I look forward to the most is growing Logan & Finley to the size that it can support a couple more people to help manage the day-to-day. Then I can continue to find great brands to add to the store and spend the majority of my time picking products, merchandising it, marketing it and looking after my customers.
I see the legacy that I have been trying to build when I see the connection in a new customer's eyes – when they get how all the products fit together and most especially when I see a young person investing in their sustainable clothing and making lifestyle choices to live a greener lifestyle.