Interview by Jenkin Au & Alan Ng
Photography by Patrick Leung

If you live in Toronto, you must be familiar with seeing the tagline “Home is Canada”, and “Home is Toronto” on various garments. From well-executed social media campaigns, various appearances of the brand on Blue Jays players during one of their most successful seasons, and proud Canadians representing the brand Peace Collective from coast to coast, it is without question that this brand has reached a wide fan base. Recently, the justalilhype! Crew got a chance to interview the man behind the brand, Yanal Dhailieh at the recently opened flagship store in Toronto to learn about the humble beginnings of the small brand, the company’s mandate of giving back to the community, and what the future of the brand beholds.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you and what’s your role with Peace Collective?

Yea, my name’s Yanal Dhailieh, Founder and Creative Director of Peace Collective.

What is Peace Collective? There seems to be a huge overarching theme of giving back to charity. Can you expand on how this started off?

For sure. I’ll tell you a little bit about what Peace Collective means to us. Peace Collective is run by a collective of Canadians who are chasing our passions and giving back to the community, so all our garments are all about representing Canada in a fashionable way plus giving back to Canada, so that’s why we work with Breakfast for Learning, which is the largest provider of school meals in Canada. Every garment provides 2 meals and a snack to a Canadian child in need. The reason behind picking the charity and the concept behind it is all of us on this team don’t really have a background in fashion or business. I went to school for biology. I was working at a software company and I wanted it to be like me going out and chasing my passion. You know, we’re giving back to help a younger generation also get their education.

Nice. And there was a point in time where it just started to take off to the point where you can really start to establish yourself within the community. At what point did that flux happen?

It was generally growing slowly and a lot of people liked the idea but I think what really helped it kind of spread out Canada-wide is getting some recognition from bigger companies like Lululemon reached out and we had an opportunity to do a collaboration with Lululemon which helped kind of legitimize us. Yeah, like a major community brand saying like we’re on the same level to collaborate and then working with the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista kind of also help put us a step forward. We already had the message and everything so when we got a bigger platform more and more people saw it and all the hard work started to take off at a certain point.

We have been following your brand for a year and a half and it’s taken off really well and I love the photoshoots that you guys come up with.

Yeah, photoshoots are number one for us so we always make sure they work.

Where would you like to see the brand go in the future? Do you see it being localized in other cities, having branches, or where do you see it?

Definitely now that we have the flagship store in Toronto we’re thinking about growing Canada-wide. we want to go from being recognized as a Toronto brand to a Canadian brand and sending the message across Canada. so I want if anyone’s Canadian and they want to showcase their pride or maybe they’re travelling and they want to take a peace of home with them I want our brand to be at the forefront so that’s eventually opening our own stores whether it’s Vancouver or Ottawa and provide that same type of community feel.

How would you say the brand is important or significant to Toronto as a whole?

I think we took off the same time when Toronto took off. we’re at a point where people are proud of being from Toronto, they want to tell people about they’re from Toronto. I remember 10 years ago I used to go to the states and I wouldn’t say I’m from Toronto, I’d say I’m from Canada and they’d make some joke about snow. But now when you go anywhere and you say you’re from Toronto everybody’s so interested and their ears perk up and say I want to visit Toronto. I didn’t think there was a lot of garments or anything, for example, New York has ‘I love NYC’ designs, ‘I love Paris’ stuff, you can walk down the street and see someone wear a Brooklyn hat from Toronto or Mexico or anywhere in the world, but I think there’s going to be a time when you can see like a kid from Paris or New York who’s wearing a Toronto hat because he loves the city or he loves the culture

Yeah, we remember the days when Toronto, everybody referred to it as screw-face capital.

Exactly.

Expanding on the brand with the relevance or importance to Toronto, I want to ask, how big of a part of the brand do you feel you are representing?

We’ve done a good job of building a really good team we absolutely wouldn’t have been able to do it without everyone. Everybody really plays their role. For me on a day to day I had a lot of creation. I do products and I do design but we have Lisa on our team who handles all our operations on a day-to-day. We have John who handles our PR, and Roman who handles our retail business development and we have a design team helping out with that as well. So it’s about building a company that can stack up.

How does the brand play with Canadian identity?

A lot of times when you think of Canadian brands they go and pick up a sticker that says Canada on it or you know it’s not considered fashionable. a lot of the garments or even Canadian identity itself people think of like poutine or hockey or snow or maple syrup you know, jokes like that. but Canada is a very modern and fashionable place and I don’t think there was a lot of things that represented modern version of Canada, relevant modern Canada and what that modern Canada looks like and that’s what we wanted to be, what Canada actually is in 2016, so like our generation. not igloos and maple syrup.

What is HYPE?

I think HYPE is different things. I think HYPE is a combination of something’s popularity. A lot of times HYPE is
just when something resonates with a very big group of people. That’s what I think HYPE is. A lot of people might not think HYPE is a good term or a bad term. I just think when something resonates with a big group of people. Sometimes there’s substance behind that hype and it becomes something long term. Sometimes HYPE is something that’s only here for a day or two like Pokemon Go. You don’t know what it is. but I think when something resonates with a big group of people and there’s HYPE around it, then it’s up to that brand or that whatever it is to show that there’s more than the HYPE that there’s a story behind it.