Behind the velvet curtain...
As our tenth year of business winds to a close, I wanted to share some honest words with you.
My name is Lauren Anne Baker (a.k.a., LAB). In 2009, after 10 years working in fashion retail and the music industry, I started LAB by canvassing over 150 personal contacts from all over Toronto to see if they would be interested in consigning their vintage clothing for a new store that would combine my loves of thrift-shopping and environmentally friendly fashion. Needless to say, the response was incredible and, to this day, I am eternally grateful for those beautiful people.
I developed the store concept, a consignor contract, a business policy, and a website all my own. I started brainstorming with my family about how to get eyes on all of the incredible vintage and contemporary goods I had accumulated (some 400-plus pieces). Over the years, I had visited some pop-up shops in my travels to cities like New York and Los Angeles, and it seemed like the most efficient and cost-effective way to get LAB out there. My friends Zach and Johanna had an art gallery called The Department on Dundas West near Dovercourt (well before that area was saturated with bars, stores, and restaurants) and they rented me the space for the weekend. The response was overwhelming—it was clear that our neighbourhood needed a store like LAB. I loaded in and out of a few more pop-up sales that I arranged, promoted, set up, and tore down all on my own.
In 2010, LAB found a permanent home (in the back of Silver Falls Vintage) on the now-bustling Ossington Avenue, back when the strip amounted to just a handful of stores and, two dive bars. I was there for about a year, and it was great—I still hear from lots of my shoppers I met in the Ossington days, and it's so lovely.
Then, in 2011, I was contacted by another consignment store on Avenue Road North to so see if I would be interested in buying out their business. Their store was in a great shopping neighbourhood, and had a built-in clientele keen on luxury resale. It was a big shift from what I was originally doing—reselling vintage and contemporary goods. I was not a luxury-goods shopper (I'm still not!) and had to quickly learn the ins and outs of luxury resale. But the vintage-clothing market is a limiting one, so I purchased the store and commuted to North York for two years.
In 2013, LAB transitioned into a pure online operation, and I was soon approached by both 1st Dibs and SnobSwap/Le Prix in the US to sell my wares on their sites in addition to my own. These were huge gets for my little one-woman show. Then, in 2017, I was vetted by the largest luxury resale supplier in the world, and thanks to this partnership, LAB currently boasts the largest online inventory of bags of any luxury resale shop in Canada.
Over the years, LAB has been featured in Lucky, Fashion, Flare, Elle Canada, Toronto Life, The Toronto Star, The Kit, The Globe and Mail, The Hamilton Spectator, and countless blogs.
I have had a tremendous amount of help from my husband, parents, and two beautiful friends who helped me to have 3 months off with my first baby.
The road has been full of changes and learning curves, but from day one, I've wanted to run LAB on my own. I love being an honest player in an often gross and unsavoury industry where fakes run rampant. I love being real with my clients.
I'm writing this because I've managed to stay alive for 11 years without investors, without grants, without a trust fund, without purchasing Instagram followers, without lying, all while staying true to my soul and values. And though I have been burned on this journey by people who don't share my values, it's only made me stronger.
Thank you for your ongoing support, loyalty, and trust. I'm always here to chat if you have any questions!
PS when was the last time you told a friend about LAB?