Entrepreneur hopes to bag market with homegrown fashion

Rawie Laborce eyeing a prospective location for his new men’s boutique clothing store, Rivermen.

Rawie Laborce eyeing a prospective location for his new men’s boutique clothing store, Rivermen.


With American retail giant Target retreating back across the border, young entrepreneurs like Rawie Laborce are making a case for Canadian goods.

In April, Laborce plans on opening Rivermen, Mississauga’s first men’s boutique clothing store offering premium clothing designed, distributed and made by Canadians.

Laborce first took a serious interest in clothing, and more importantly, clothing quality, after landing his first job out of Ryerson University at Solar Power Network Inc.

“You had to present yourself in a very professional way, and look the part,” said Laborce.

After spending an inordinate amount of time and money on clothing that lacked the durability and quality he had hoped for, Laborce soon started looking into vintage clothing with domestic manufacturers, and eventually narrowed his focus to online Canadian boutiques, which sparked an idea.

“The thought came to mind, ‘You know, if there was a physical store that had all of (this clothing), then I wouldn’t have to order online,’ ” said Laborce. “So I had the bright idea of ‘Why not make a store like this? Where all the Canadian-made clothing brands could be amalgamated into one store and make it easier for people like me, who want that product.’ ”

Starting in December 2013, Laborce quickly began saving up money, scouting locations, contacting vendors and spitballing names.


Labroce is currently looking at prospective locations around Streetsville, Port Credit as well as the Hurontario and Eglington area.

In an effort to find a name representative of his civic pride as well one with lasting power, Laborce settled on Rivermen, a play on words of the English translation of Mississauga, meaning “(Those at the) great river-mouth.”

“I was trying to think of something catchy, and something very Canadian,” said Laborce. “Twenty years from now, if the store is still successful, at least it sounds like something to be taken seriously. Whereas if I called it ‘Swagger Clothing Store’, nobody’s going to take that seriously.”

The 25-year-old plans on keeping the both the store and the clothing simple and sustainable, hopefully working with high-end Canadian brands like Muttonhead, Naked & Famous Denim and 18 Waits.

“I wanted to have clothing that was versatile. I could wear it in the office, I could wear it in the club and I could wear it at church,” said Laborce.woloshyn_rivermen2web

Dr. Michael Mulvey, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, said he’s optimistic about this kind of initiative.

“It’s kind of like rooting for the home team,” said Mulvey. “It’s really interesting or exciting when you have designers from Mississauga or Hamilton or Montreal that are creating things and are trying to have a presence on this crowded world stage of fashion.”

Laborce plans on modelling the store’s layout like an art gallery to keep the aesthetic simple and efficient and to use the space to showcase local art, whether it be canvas prints, photography, paintings, typography or even live local musicians and DJs.

“There’s been a big sort of a shift in focus towards do-it-yourself and creating things oneself,” said Mulvey. “This, with its uniqueness, and also kind of the fact that it kind of aligns with current cultural sensibilities, I think it’s a buzzworthy sort of enterprise. People are going to be talking about it for a number of reasons.