When interviewing Melissa Grelo (cohost of CTV’s The Social) a few months ago, she hinted that she would be announcing a new business venture soon…and the time has finally arrived! She and friend Shayna Haddon have just launched a brand new line of stereotype free children’s clothing (no candy-toned pinks or blues) which is also kid-friendly (no tags, pesky buttons or harsh fabrics) and made of 100% organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester. The items range in sizes from 0-3 months to 4T – so my girls are out of luck for now!

The name of this new clothing line: marQ Designs – named after Melissa’s two year old daughter Marquesa. (Their crown logo appears to be a nod to Melissa’s penchant for all things royal!)

I had the chance to fire some questions at the two entrepreneurs, and here they share why these products were so important to them, how they decided on a price point, the importance of “Made in Canada”, and the pros and cons of starting a business with a friend.

Out of all the possible businesses you could
have launched, why was the idea of stereotype-free
clothing for children so important to you? 
Melissa: To me, there is a direct link between the
messages we consciously or unconsciously send
children from the earliest days of their lives to what is
happening in the workplace and society at large. If we
want to raise empowered children, especially girls
who will be leaders as women, we can’t limit them
with narrow expectations of what it means to be a
“girl”. The same can be said for boys. Clothes are a
huge part of that messaging, especially during the
most important, formative and impressionable years
of a child’s life. When I had Marquesa and quickly
discovered how gendered clothing was, I wanted to
add more options for parents. It became clear that by
creating gender-neutral, stereotype-free clothing
options, kids could just be kids without the baggage of
gender roles so young in life. 
Shayna: When Melissa approached me with the idea
of children’s clothes, and explained to me her
frustration in shopping for Marquesa, it made perfect
sense immediately. I could see the business right
away and could see the present gap in the
marketplace. Once I became pregnant myself, I
started to think about what I wanted to dress my baby
in and it became even clearer. Being a business
owner since 2008 with my consulting company
Haddon Strategy, I have had many offers over the
years to start other businesses with colleagues but I
have never accepted, until marQ! It just felt right and
a big part of that was doing it with Melissa.
marQ’s namesake models one of their looks
We know there’s a market out there for “high
end” (i.e., ridiculously expensive) designer
clothing for kids. Why did you choose to go with this more affordable price point?
{Prices range from $19 to 60}
Melissa: What’s so challenging in the fashion/garment
industry is balancing affordability and social
consciousness in your manufacturing. The more
“affordable” something is, there is the increased
possibility that someone along the supply chain is not
being paid fairly or that quality is being compromised.
Conversely, maintaining a high standard of quality and
workmanship means higher costs and prices for the
consumer. From the outset, my co-founder Shayna
Haddon and I laid out our guiding principles as a
company and knew that quality was one of our top
priorities. Finding a price point that works for parents
and maintaining high standards of manufacturing is
not always easy, so that’s why designing pieces that
will last as long as possible for a fast-growing child
also became a top priority. If parents are going to
spend money on our clothes, we are confident they
will, overall, have to buy fewer garments because
ours will last over time. Why are we so confident?
Marquesa has been wearing the same marQ
Luxembourg harem pants for the last 6 months! That’s
unheard of! 
Shayna: We firmly stand behind our “Made in
Canada” messaging and quality fabrics. This means,
however, we do not create pieces to be disposable
clothing, but we also know that parents need a certain
amount of affordability. We wanted to meet both those
two needs. We offer accessible basics with some very
fashion-forward, fun layered pieces that last.

How important was it to you that the products
be made in Canada – when of course they could
be even cheaper if made elsewhere? 
Melissa: This is one of the central tenets of marQ:
Proudly designed and made in Canada. It’s true that
clothing can and is made for a fraction of the cost
overseas compared to costs in Canada. And yes, this
means far cheaper clothing in terms of price tag and
quality. But that is not marQ. We strive for quality and
ensuring you get the most out of your purchase. We
want to support Canadian jobs, the Canadian
economy and be able to ensure 100% that standards
of work and quality are top notch. We want to meet,
talk to and know our manufacturers personally. We
want to be able to ensure our clothing is being made
to the highest standards. This is only possible when
you manufacture at home in a country that has some
of the most talented manufacturers in the world
working in some of the best facilities in the world. 
Shayna: Extremely important! You will hear us
mention it A LOT. We looked into the process of
making clothing overseas and we could not guarantee
the garments would be made ethically. How can we
be in China or Vietnam and oversee the process? We
wanted to know firsthand, the people who were
making our clothing. It was one of our first key
business decisions besides our name. Now, we go
see our manufacturers all the time, we connect with
them daily and that connection keeps the process
transparent, from knitting the wool of our fabrics to
cut-and-sew to packaging orders. We vote for the kind
of world we want to live in every time we buy and the
idea behind ‘Made in Canada’ is that we are voting for
a world where the people who are making our items
are making a living wage for their contribution. There
is a level of transparency I think is important.

I love the business name, and I’m wondering how hard
it was to come up with? Were there other
Melissa: While I’m not usually one for nicknames, the
variation of my daughter Marquesa’s name, marQ, as
our business name was a no-brainer. My daughter is
the inspiration behind the business. That, coupled
with the aspiration all parents have for their children to
‘make their marQ’ in the world, made this one of the
easiest decisions we’ve made. 
Shayna: It was so quick! Everything with marQ
seemed to fall into place so easily, the name included.
Melissa and I both decided to go away and think of a
name separately, we came back the next day to talk
and we had chosen the same name! It was uncanny,
serendipitous and totally perfect. Just like every other
decision we’ve made together since. But then, I am
biased about how amazing my partner is!

Right now you’re using neutral colours.
Would you ever consider adding pinks and blues
in ways that could be worn by both genders? As a
teacher I see a lot of girls who like blue and boys
who like pink – and the boys especially have
trouble finding clothing to suit their tastes! 
Melissa: We are definitely not against colours. We
LOVE colours! And yes, we hear parents of boys
often say that there aren’t enough choices for boys
who embrace fashion and colour. Stay tuned for new
collections coming in the not-so-distant future. 
Shayna: It’s a good question indeed. And one you will
have to wait a little longer to find out! But marQ our
words, we have some tricks up our sleeves for those

There are pros and cons to starting a business
with a friend – can you share a high and a low
from the process so far?

Melissa: Shayna is one of the smartest, business-savvy,
caring people I know. Before we were friends,
we met and worked together at a charity called
Artbound. I witnessed firsthand her prowess as a
creator and as a business woman. A ‘pro’ is that
Shayna gives all of herself, her passion and her
expertise in to marQ. Because we share the same
goals and values, it’s been a joy and extremely
fulfilling to work alongside her and learn so much
every day. A con? We both have full-time jobs outside
of marQ so being able to physically be in the same
place at the same time is challenging.

Shayna: There are so many highs I don’t know which
to pick! Melissa brings intelligence, vivaciousness, an
amazing eye, a great business sense and so many
other qualities to the table. The low is that I don’t get
to see her enough in our office and often miss her
dearly! That may sound cheesy but it’s true. Even
before marQ happened over a year ago, I have
always loved and cherished my connection with Mel.


Thanks so much for opening up, ladies – and best of luck with your new venture!

You can find marQ Designs exclusively online at marQdesigns.com.

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