On the east coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a unique trendy boutique store was opened up by two female entrepreneurs with a novel vision of what shopping locally could be like. Since the launch of their store in 2015, Marianne Thomson and Lauren Wambolt have shared their carefully selected styles and pieces from various designers through their brand, Alexa Pope. 

In this interview, we were given the opportunity to hear from Marianne Thomson, who gave us behind the scenes look at building a start-up and running a fashion company.  

How did you come up with the idea to start Alexa Pope?

We have both been avid online shoppers for a while, and always got hit with crazy duties and shipping costs to have items we loved shipped to Nova Scotia. We felt there was a gap in the market for a Canadian Based Online Store that carried cool brands but would eliminate having to order from across the world and then pay additional costs at the door to receive items. We started thinking maybe there was an opportunity to create something cool for the Canadian Consumer that wanted the latest fashion from around the world but could order from within Canada, and that’s how the idea came to life. 

What was your inspiration behind the name Alexa Pope?

When we started the business, we wanted to carry two styles on the website so there was something for everyone. We wanted to have a very girly customer who loved to wear fun, feminine dresses and we also wanted to have a sporty customer, who was super into street style pieces and loved the laid-back vibe. We started throwing around ideas of creating these two “girls” or two customers who were our own Fashion Alter-Egos. Alexa was created to be our Street Style Girl – and Pope was created to be our really feminine/girly customer! Combining Alexa and Pope together, you have the girl who is equal parts sneakers and stilettos, which we believe there is a little of each in every woman out there.

How would you describe the style of clothes in AP?

I think again to play off the brand story behind our name, we carry two different styles of clothes in the store. We have a girly girl who goes after all of our fun Floral Pieces, cute matching skirt sets, and sexy Bodycon Dresses. Then we have the more street-style customer who loves our loungewear, and brands we carry like Adidas and Champion. We have a little something for everyone, but in both our girly sections and street-style sections we try to stay ahead of the trend. Our style is always wearable, but a little edgy, and we try to stay on top of what is hot right now. 

Being an entrepreneur of a fashion brand means your job includes being a buyer, stylist, and retailer all in one; what is running your own business like?

It is a lot harder than it looks!  I think when you dive into entrepreneurship, you really don’t realize that you will be doing every job! We will be buying clothes one day, and then packing them up to ship off the next, all while answering customer service emails. I think you have to wear many “hats” and learn to multitask. We certainly don’t always get it right, but it’s all a learning curve. It is important to just be open to developing new skill sets, and sometimes just diving headfirst into something you may not be familiar with. It is very hectic but can also be very rewarding!

What have been your most challenging and most rewarding moments? 

I think every day has its own set of challenges and rewarding moments. Something as simple as getting a message from a customer who loves their new items is a rewarding moment for us! Our biggest challenges are usually how to grow the business. I think it’s easy to get caught up in wanting success to happen right away, and for major growth to happen right away, but it’s good to also sit back and appreciate how far you have come

I’ve noticed you carry a range of unique brands many of which are smaller names; how do you choose which brands and styles you carry in stores? 

Buying is one of the most difficult aspects of the business! We start with deciding the type of product assortment we want to carry, then we start to do research on trends, brands we want to carry, all while keeping price and quality top of mind. We really try to bring in items other stores in Halifax aren’t currently stocking. We spend a very unhealthy amount of time on Instagram looking at what’s trending in the fashion world, and how we can bring those styles to our customers here. We reach out to brands all the time to inquire about wholesale, and from there we make decisions on what we think is right for our demographic. We also attend Magic in Las Vegas each year, where we do our buying and discover a lot of cool new brands.

On your website and Instagram, you take your own photos in house most of the time rather than utilizing the photos from the brand’s; why have you chosen to use local models?

There are so many beautiful girls in Halifax, we think it’s important to showcase local talent. We also feel it is important to create your own brand identity. It is easy to stock photos from brands, but again creating your own content is crucial. Having local models really helps us stand out from competitors, and I think our customers here can relate to the items more that way. It’s almost like they have gotten to know our models as the brand has grown, and they grow along with it. 

What kind of role does social media play in your advertising and finding inspiration?

Social media is definitely where we find inspiration! I am sure like many other brands, we all turn to Instagram for the latest trends, what’s cool, and just generally what is happening in the fashion world. For advertising, it is huge for us, as it is where we do 95% of our advertising. Our customer is all over Instagram, so it is crucial for us to spend our time and advertising dollars here. It is a great way to enter new markets without physically being there and helps us gain new followers and customers from all over the world!

RCFG is beyond grateful to have been able to interview such an amazing brand, and we would like to thank Alexa Pope for taking the time to share their outlook and influence in the fashion industry. Since interviewing Marianne, we are so disappointed to learn that Alexa Pope has decided to close its doors after 7 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a very hard time for the retail industry in general, as well as for small businesses. You can shop their warehouse sale at www.alexapope.com. You can also find them on Instagram @shopalexapope.

Annie Wang