Having spent part of my summer in Canada, I have to include one of my favorite Canadian brands in this week’s post: Tristan, a men’s and women’s apparel company. I first discovered Tristan in about 1998 when I was working in Times Square in New York City. They had a location on Avenue of the Americas and 49th Street, that I would frequent in between meetings. And then one day, it was gone. This summer, while I was in Toronto having dinner at The Pickle Barrel across from The Eaton Center, my waitress started talking about her second job as an assistant manager at Tristan. I asked her why they closed the New York store and she explained: “We realized much of our customer base, not only loved our line of clothes, but were dedicated to buying Canadian. This didn’t necessarily work in New York.” I thought about Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and all the major clothing stores, and could understand the difficulties that may have hit Tristan.
But it wasn’t just the branding toward consumers that could have been tough. I wondered if it would have been possible for any non-Canadian employee -like an American – to be equally as passionate and proud. I could tell how passionate my waitress was about Tristan, and how proud she was that it was Canadian. She told us all about the new technology that Tristan was putting in its stores whereby customers could virtually try on different combinations of clothing to see how it would look instead of going in the dressing room. And she told us about the expansion of the company and her face lit up with excitement as she spoke. Could that have been the reason for the failure of the Tristan store in New York? That the employees were not as good brand ambassadors as those from Canada? Or was it that the competition of other international apparel brands was too fierce?
I guess I’ll never know for sure. But judging from the Tristan employee I met in Toronto, the company is alive and well – with a Canadian brandful workforce.