Who remembers buying their first *real* bra? I certainly do, and the experience was peppered with someone all up in my grill, walking out of the change room to show my mom and all of the other general awkwardness of being a teen and just wanting to die from embarrassment. As I got older, the experience didn’t really get that much better, and it wasn’t until I took a job at a lingerie boutique that I really understood, from other women’s perspectives, that shopping for lingerie can be an unpleasant experience for a lot (and I mean A LOT) of people. Amy Pearson and Ashley Holden recently opened lingerie boutique Stole My Heart, in the hopes of giving the women of Toronto a tolerable and even—dare I say—pleasant shopping experience by giving them a safe space, beautiful lingerie in a wide range of sizes—as well as a glass of champagne, if necessary.
What were you both doing before you joined forces for Stole My Heart?
We’d both been in corporate roles for quite a few years. Amy spearheading events and marketing initiatives for Tiffany & Co. throughout Canada, and Ashley managing projects and creative teams in the interior design and publishing industries.
What inspired you to start a business together? Do you have different roles, or do you tag team all of the work?
We are both very creative, ambitious and always put our hearts into our work. At a certain point, we both realized how much we wanted to take all of the energy we were putting into our previous jobs and channel it into building a business that we believe in and are passionate about. Starting a business had always been a dream of ours—it’s pretty awesome to get to work with your best friend every day! We bounce everything off of one another and definitely don’t have set roles. At this stage, the business is so young and we are both SO interested in every aspect of building it. There are some things we’ve each naturally gravitated towards—and it’s funny because they aren’t aspects we’d ever imagined loving!
Why did you decide on a lingerie boutique? What inspired you?
Lingerie had ALWAYS been something we both love because it has the ability it has to make a woman feel beautiful and strong in her body. But, that isn’t always how we felt shopping for lingerie. A couple of years ago, we’d set out to find lingerie for Ashley’s wedding. We wanted to have fun with it and Amy, of course, was up for trying everything on as well! We went all over the city and there was nothing we found that made us feel amazing. And, more than that, the experience was lacking. From unflattering lighting, to ill-fitting pieces and a lack of customer service—we concluded that Toronto was in need of something new and we wanted to create it! We went straight to the Shangri-La for bubbles and that was that!
Where did the name “Stole My Heart” come from?
Lingerie is often about romancing someone, and usually that someone is your partner. While we totally believe in the romance of lingerie, we wanted to flip the intention. At Stole My Heart, lingerie is for the wearer. Our goal is to help our clients fall in love with themselves a little bit more. We want our clients to put on their new piece, look in the mirror and feel appreciation for herself and her body.
What are some of the challenges of owning your own business? Rewards?
Well, there are definitely many of both, but the rewards greatly outweigh the challenges. We make the final decisions and never have to do anything that we don’t believe in 100 per cent and that’s why our message of body positivity and self love is resonating with people. We feel so lucky and proud to have created something that has a direct, positive impact on the women that walk through our doors or shop our website. Sometimes it’s hard to be working a bajillion days straight and to never really be able to turn it off. But, when you make someone smile when they look at themselves in the mirror or hear from someone about how you’ve made a difference in their day, it’s worth it!
What has been your best experience since opening up the shop?
Our best experiences are definitely with our clients. It’s the personal and genuine connection with people that makes us excited to get to work. In the almost-six months we’ve been open, we’ve had so many women thank us for creating a warm and supportive experience. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes have come to us looking for something that they haven’t been able to find elsewhere—and it’s not always something material—it’s a safe, judgement-free atmosphere and the freedom to embrace their version of sexy, feminine and beautiful!
Why do you think it’s important to open stores like yours that promotes a positive body image? Do you think that’s lacking in the fashion industry right now?
For a long time in fashion, there’s been a huge lack of diversity and inclusivity. And, we’ve seen very clearly defined parameters around what’s considered sexy or beautiful that are, quite frankly, bullshit. But, brands like ours and movements like the All Women Project are making a stand to change that. More than anything, we’re striving to be a place that celebrates the unique beauty of diverse women—in their natural form.
What’s it like working with your close friend? Benefits? Challenges?
People ask us about this all the time and, honesty, it’s the best! After being best friends for 16 years, going to school together, living together, we have already had just about every fight there is to have, and here we are. We know each other so well that we have a very intuitive working relationship. The only challenge so far is that we have opposite days off—so our hang out time has suffered!
In your opinion, what other brands/celebrities are embracing the body-positive message you’re working to convey to your customers?
Definitely Ashley Graham, the All Women Project, Aerie, Denise Bidot, Charli Howard—these are brands and women that we personally look up to and admire!
What was the inspiration behind “Stole My Heart Babes?”
Well, as you know at Stole My Heart we love women—and moreover we love the uniqueness of women. So, when it came to our first shoot, there was no question that we would use real women (rather than professional models)—women we already knew and admired! We reached out to friends and influencers in Toronto and asked them to bare it all in the name of body positivity! We were so honoured when everyone we asked said yes and we are absolutely thrilled with how the shoot turned out. The number of comments we receive online and in person just loving how diverse and beautiful our “Stole My Heart Babes” is almost overwhelming. And, we’ve had women say that they decided to come in because they saw our pictures and knew that we would have something for them too.
What are your future goals for the business?
Well, we are always on the hunt for new and amazing brands to bring to Toronto—it’s one of our favourite parts of the job. We are working on creating our own line of kimonos and robes that will one day evolve into a full lingerie line. And, in the not-so-distant future, we plan to open a second location in this lovely city!
What’s your favourite piece in the store right now?
OMG! That is one of the most difficult questions! We honestly love every piece we have in the shop—we never bring anything in that we haven’t fallen for. But, if we had to choose just one item it would be the new Fleur of England Golden Hour set. It’s a beautiful set perfect for spring and summer! It’s feminine, a bit edgy and the whole gold colour is oh-so flattering!
How do you curate the brands/pieces that you sell in store?
We started with a list of designers we loved but weren’t available to us here in Toronto. We poured through their line sheets, picking our favourites—which was so hard (if we could order everything, we would). And we are very particular. Every piece has to be comfortable and beautiful. We have something here for all different definitions of sexy, pretty, feminine—not just one.
What advice would you give anyone who wants to start a business of their own?
We truly believe the most important thing when starting your business is to be passionate about what you are doing. You will live your business for the first few years so you better love it! Also, be kind to yourself. It’s a huge, stressful and amazing leap you’re taking. Treat yourself with kindness and it will make all the difference. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and ask for help. You’ll learn to fix your mistakes and get the chance to become amazing at something you truly love.
If you want to check them out, they have an online shop, or you can stop by and visit them in person. They’ve always got something going on at the shop, and they will be bringing in swimwear for the spring and summer soon. They recognize that so many women struggle with bathing suit shopping, so they’re sure to curate beautiful; flattering pieces to make you feel sexy and comfortable on the beach! And, they’ve always got lots of events in store like designer features and collaborations!