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Best friends Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief started their fashion brand Ba&sh in 2003 in effort to create their own “dream” wardrobes.
The Parisian entrepreneurs looked to offer feminine and “spontaneous” styles that tapped into the famous French city’s effortless aesthetic, while also offering something unique to a global woman.
“(They were), essentially, looking to carve their way in the world of fashion and create a brand that evokes joy and community and inclusivity,” Desiree Thomas, CEO of North America, says of the company.
With strong ties in Europe — “In Europe, we’re a mature brand,” Thomas says — the company turned its sights to Canada with the opening of its first boutique, located in Yorkville in Toronto, in 2020.
“It was just before the onset of the pandemic,” Thomas recalls of the timing. “So, that was an interesting moment, for sure, in terms of an opening.”
The brand followed that first Canadian boutique with additional stores in the Westmount neighbourhood of Montreal as well as Yorkdale in Toronto. Ba&sh has further presence across the country with “corners” inside select Hudson’s Bay locations, including the downtown Vancouver location.
“It’s similar to the way that we look at our retail model in the U.S.,” Thomas explains of the blended boutique and shop-in-shop approach. “It’s important that we meet the customer where she is and there’s a real sense of discovery, I think, in terms of the multi-brand environment that works really well for us as we continue to create options and avenues to create brand awareness.”
The company’s Canadian footprint grows again this month with the opening of its first standalone boutique in Vancouver. Located at 925 West Georgia St., the store occupies the space that previously housed luxury jewelry brand Chopard.
The 660-square-foot retail store offers a full assortment of its women’s ready to wear and accessories, including a unique new capsule collection tailored specifically for the North American market.
“It’s been a big project for both me and the design team,” Thomas says of the first collection of its kind for the brand.
Opening a standalone boutique in the city was a longtime goal of Thomas and her team.
“We’ve had our eyes on Vancouver since the beginning, since we opened the subsidiary for North America in 2017,” she says. In order to settle on the space, Thomas toured “every end of the city” to find the best home for Ba&sh.
“I was staying at the Fairmont Hotel, which is directly across the street,” Thomas recalls. “And it was one of the first spaces that I saw on one of my very first tours in Vancouver. And I never stopped thinking about it.”
The main draw of the Georgia Street shop, Thomas says, is the “energy” of the area.
“With the beginning of the luxury run happening there, and the return of tourism, we really felt, in terms of the energy of the city, it felt like a really important place to be,” Thomas says. “In the end, I think we found a really good home.”
The renovated store aims to offer an “intimate” shopping experience, according to Thomas.
“She’s walking into her ba&sh closet, and we’re presenting the retail concept in that way,” Thomas explains of the overall vibe. “It feels really comfortable and it feels really warm in terms of the atmosphere.”
The idea of connecting with consumers in a familiar way is in keeping with the brand’s approach to provide customers with “white-glove service at a very accessible price point,” according to Thomas.
The North American executive is confident the approach, along with its European aesthetic, will appeal particularly well with Vancouver shoppers.
“I feel like Canada is very European chic,” Thomas says. “She’s casual, but she’s still elevated and she’s really chic.”
The expansion in B.C. of the brand doesn’t stop with the new downtown Vancouver store. Thomas teased the planned opening of a brand boutique in Whistler later this year.
“We think about regions overall in terms of the retail development, so where she’s spending her time when she’s on holiday, where she’s spending time in the summer,” Thomas explains of the strategic location selection. “For us, it was natural to continue to follow the customer on our journey by following her to Whistler.”