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JCI Fashion Grad Spotlight: Ami DeMelo of Gastown’s The Basement

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Ami DeMelo The Basement Gastown (business partners of Gastown’s The Basement – Ami DeMelo, pictured on the right and co-owner, Heather on the left)

What inspired you to get into the Fashion industry? I grew up a lot around my grandma and even lived with her for a few years. She’s very creative and would always draw fashion sketches on the corners of newspapers or scrap paper. She also made all of my barbie clothes and my grandpa would make the barbie furniture.. As I got older I always bugged my mom for old t-shirts she didn’t want so I could use the fabrics to try and make my own barbie clothes. I was also really into architecture and always thought I would become an architect, before I realized Fashion could be a real job.

Can you share your experience at JCI? Did you have any favorite moments from attending the Fashion and Creative Arts Program? Oh boy, it’s been a long time since I was at John Casablancas Institute (Grad of November 2007). What I loved most about the program is the broad over-view you get of the industry. I was introduced to so many different avenues and job ideas that I never knew existed in the industry. Some of my favourite field trips were: Getting to merchandise and a behind-the-scenes look at Hudson’s Bay downtown, window displays at wedding stores, the styling commercial and editorial photo shoots and of course the whole process of putting together a fashion show. Walking down the isle at the end of our fashion show is something I’ll never be able to explain. My favourite project was planning an entire retail store (hah, very suiting…) and I also really loved the Fashion Illustration classes,. I’m not the best artist but I’ve always loved drawing and painting and have done so (and continue to) my whole life.

Tell us about Loyal Coalition Apparel. How did that come about? I’ve worked various jobs in the industry over the years and nothing was completely “clicking” so I ended up leaving and working in a completely different field for 2 years. Nothing ever felt right though and fashion was always on my mind. Heather (my current business partner) and I were kind of at a crossroad in our lives of “Ok, we’re in our mid 20s, what do we want to do”. We always wanted to own our own businesses and had thrown ideas around for about a year previous to Loyal Coalition. Literally after a 5 hour phone conversation the idea and concept was born and we got right to work on it and never looked back. Loyal Coalition was officially born. The original concept of Loyal Coalition to now has slightly changed over the 3 years we’ve been doing this. We originally started as an online retailer and wanted to grow a large online business, however, we quickly realized that being in front of our customers and having that face-to-face interaction was what we loved more. We decided to take our online concept to brick and mortar, we opened a small showroom in False Creek 11 months after launching our line and then just over a year later THE BASEMENT was born.

We see that The Basement is right across from JCI. Can you tell us about your retail store and how that formed? What kind of brands will you be selling? Originally the concept for Loyal Coalition was to be a large online retailer with the same concept that our brick and mortar, THE BASEMENT follows. During the first couple years of our business we met so many other amazing young entrepreneurs and noticed a void in Vancouver-  where do we sell our items? Options are very limited, especially in the street wear world. The Basement by Loyal Coalition is a platform for local emerging streetwear-esque and casual wear brands to showcase their goods and be part of a collective of Vancouver businesses and entrepreneurs. We’re all about working and collaborating with locals and cross-promoting one another, so when we had the opportunity to open a brick and mortar in Gastown, we wanted to bring that same vibe into the next stage of our business. After all, we’re all about building up our community and living by our ‘Good Vibes Only’ mantra in all aspects of our lives and business. We believe with ‘The Basement’ we are building a niche in Vancouver and we want you to be apart of it!

The Basement Gastown

As a business owner, what’s one piece of advice for anyone wanting to start up their own business? DO IT. The hardest step is the first one. If you don’t try you’ll never know!

With The Basement now open, what can we expect from you two in the next year? Well, first and foremost we have our big launch party of happening this Friday May 13th, on site at 235 Cambie St (It’s right across the street from JCI!) Anyone who knows us, knows we also like to throw a lot of parties, so we have a jam-packed day planned for everyone on Friday. We’ll be open from 12pm to 9pm that day. KISS FM Radio will be live on location from 2pm to 6pm and then our good friends, The Dynasty Boys who you likely know from all your favourite club nights, will be spinning nothing but Hip Hop from 6pm to 9pm.. We’ll carry the party on to Caprice for #DLUX Fridays where our LCU Family will join us (guestlist is available!) .

Aside from this event, our focus will gear towards continuing to grow THE BASEMENT, our clothing line LOYAL COALITION while building a solid network of entrepreneurs in Vancouver and using our gastown space as a platform to achieve this!

For more information about this event, please visit their Facebook event page: The Basement Grand Opening Event

The objective of the Fashion Business and Creative Arts Diploma Program is to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the fashion industry, combining creative and business elements. This diverse approach gives our grads a distinct advantage both in knowledge and skill.

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