We've had the pleasure of knowing, the always well-dressed, quick-witted and polite, Jeff Brodawka for the better part of a decade now. For the first time in that relationship we managed to make record of a recent conversation in his wonderful boutique Brodawka & Friends in Toronto which he opened to the world two years ago.
Cursor & Thread: Can I buy you a beverage? What's your first choice?
Jeff Brodawka: Espresso - but it would have to be in Italy, so that's on you.
C&T: Do you remember where you were the moment you decided to open the first shop? Can you remember the feeling?
JB: Yep, I was at a shoe show and paid a visit to the booth of this great little handmade shoe brand/factory. We had a long conversation about design and development and fashion and leather and colours and that was the first little spark of I could do this. It felt like the right next step.
C&T: You were involved in retail and fashion design before you opened your own shop and started your own brand, how would you say fashion retail has changed in the last 5 years?
JB: More online and sadly more cheap stuff. Smarter buying but seemingly more conservative and safe. Which starts to stunt the imagination of the consumer. However, on a positive note, I suppose it opens up space for a shop like mine.
C&T: Which is more important now in brick and mortar, product mix or service... or is it still location cubed?
JB: Service is huge in solidifying a long term relationship with people but it won't make any difference if the product is not what the people want. You can only do so much, selling people on something a customer is not already interested in without risking buyers remorse and a damaged relationship. But it's still all location, otherwise you have no-one to impress with your beautiful product and remarkable service. The short answer... trick question.
C&T: How do you think men's fashion has changed in the last 5 years?
JB: Smarter dressing definitely. Men are starting to become ever so slightly more interested in what they wear. It's still mostly faintly uniformish (skinny jeans, beards, whatever the other pieces are) but men are starting to explore a little individuality. A dude just came in this morning and bought a pocket square with the intention of using it like a headband - Springsteen style.
C&T: What are the top 5 brands you're really excited about?
C&T: What are your Top 5 other shops that you like right now (location anywhere).
C&T: If your shop was a person or a mix of people, who would that/they be?
JB: The cast of une femme est une femme, strictly due to the all white apartment and colourful exotic dancer outfits. They seem like the type of people who would wear my shoes. And I would want to hang out with them and learn french.
C&T: What's your favourite piece of men's formal wear to wear casually?
JB: The suit vest.
C&T: Did you just look at what you're wearing right now? Can you personally tie a bow tie while wearing braces, and whistling?
JB: Replace "whistling" with "cursing" and the answer is yes... eventually.
Many thanks to Jeff for being awesome all the time, always supplying cookies, and designing the finest footwear in Toronto! Visit Brodawka & Friends at 1114 Queen Street West.