Dipt Kicks, home of the Vancity Original® Brand, is Vancouver’s premiere all-city men’s and women’s street wear and sneaker boutique and brand. The Vancity Original® Brand was established in 1998 by Mister Martini, a Vancouver local, streetwear retailer and tastemaker. He was the co-owner of one of the first Hip Hop shops in Canada, which sold records, clothing, graffiti supplies, b-boy videos, and mix tapes The brand name came off the back of the original shop logo tee shirt which said, “Vancity Original EST. 1994” on the back, in reference to the originality of the shop, its Vancouver roots, and the year it was established. In 1998, the Vancity Original® Brand was born. Twenty years and hundreds of designs later, Vancity Original® has become a staple fashion brand for Vancouver locals, international travellers, fashionistas, and celebrities.
Question: How are you supporting other local businesses?
Answer: Quite a few of our products are made in Canada. Our classic UnDMC Vancity hoodies and t-shirts and core fleece products are manufactured in Alberta, and those are some of our best selling products. It’s 35% of our total inventory that’s made in Canada. I could get a cheaper price if we produced overseas, but I think it’s important to do as much as we can locally. Being a Vancouver brand, repping the city, we realize how important it is to have some community involvement. When we buy products like hats from overseas, we make sure that we do all the embellishments on them locally. A couple of local companies do the embroidery and direct-to-garment-printing to embellish these products.
With our Vancity original brand, we launched a mentorship program to help local brands launch their products. We also carry some of the brands that we’ve mentored – Homie Depot, Vitaux, Crown The Queens, and The Stick Up Kids. We’re pretty proud of being able to mentor these brands, and now we stock them.
We support a lot of local service providers. We use all local photographers, models and graphic designers, and especially love to support those who are young, up and coming. We get all our signage done locally, and we use local specialty printers like Addictive Sportswear and Proper Design for the embellishments on our clothing and hats as well as our signage. The other services we buy locally are our accounting from Carlyle Sheppard and Company, our insurance from Shaw Sabey and some of our banking is with Vancity. Even our building is owned by a local guy from Megen Properties. We have a 20+ year relationship with him, and he’s been great over the years.
Question: What social and environmental practices are you proud of?
Answer: We have 5 employees (10 pre-COVID). I’m proud to pay higher than minimum wage to my staff. I do the first month as a trial and then bump them up. We pay quite fairly, especially for a small independent business. I think it shows how we treat people in that there isn’t a lot of turnover; I retain a lot of my employees. I try to be a mentor, and help them learn the business if they’re interested – two of my staff members have gone on to start clothing brands, and another learned to DJ on the tables at our stores and has now made a career out of that.
I love to partner with other local businesses. A couple years ago we collaborated with Strathcona Beer Co and did a Vancity branded beer. I produce a few lines of clothing for other local companies – for example, we work with Dank Mart and THC Canada, their legal recreational marijuana store. The owner came to work for me a while back, and learned retail, branding, etc. and now he’s having a lot of success and it makes me proud. We work with local sports teams too. We’ve also collaborated with the Vancouver Canucks with a Vancity Canucks Collection, and we did a commemorative “Born in ’95” Collection on the 25th anniversary of the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors that just launched. We’re also doing some work with the Fraser Valley Bandits, a Canadian professional basketball team.
I make quite a few charitable donations every year. I donate $2-4K worth of clean, wearable clothes to the Covenant House. Sometimes we do monetary donations as well. We like to work with local charities that benefit people directly. Another collaboration is with Lord Strathcona School. They asked us to redesign their logo and do some clothing for the kids. When it was finished, the principal gave all the kids a t-shirt. We went on to donate shoes to them, and the school uses them as prizes to incentivize the kids to get good grades.
On the environmental side, I walk and cycle to work as much as humanly possible. And of course we recycle all we can, purchase bags made from recyclable materials, and we compost everything from the lunch room. We do our part where we can for sure. The local products we purchase reduces the greenhouse gas impact of our shipping. And we will be buying organic cotton for a new line of clothing soon.
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