Uncovered: How Mary Young Uses Lingerie to Build Community

September 19, 2017

It’s always time for self-love. For Mary Young, that means being real while growing a community with like-minded businesses and her Canadian-made lingerie.

For most people, what you wear under your clothes is a pretty personal thing—something that’s just for you. But for Mary Young, the designer behind the brand of the same name, lingerie is something to be shared. Sure, that might mean occasionally showing a flash of her own skin on the MARY YOUNG Instagram account, but it’s about so much more than that. For Mary, it’s about creating a community of women who support each other, as they are, in the most comfortable underwear ever.

Mary has been creating and innovating in the intimates industry since 2014— her namesake line was her graduation capstone project in Ryerson’s Fashion Communications program. But unlike the black-and-pink, diamond-encrusted stores most lingerie shoppers are accustomed to, MARY YOUNG grew entirely online.

With a product that’s so intimate, it’s surprising that Mary makes most sales on her website. Focused on building her brand—through both a blog and a popular Instagram account—her online presence is hard to achieve in this industry. She’s not only created a desirable product, but also a community of women who support and trust it, catalyzed by the connectivity of the internet. Seeing a cohesive presence, real images and stories of real women (or as Mary calls them, “muses”), and of course, accurate size charts, makes women comfortable enough to click that “Confirm Order” button.

What solidifies this trust and confidence? Having a space—a physical place—where women can feel the garments and make a connection to Mary and her brand. This comes in the form of pop-ups.

Mary has been doing pop-ups since she started her line—online retail and social media can only showcase so much. “Size charts don’t always cut it, so that’s the biggest aspect of a pop-up: consumers feel the product, get to the know the materials, and decide what’s right for them.” Moreover, Mary’s idea of a pop-up is more than a shop.

It’s a space that fits her brand (meaning minimal decor and good vibes), where you can drink wine, eat donuts, and build personal connections.

Beyond doing pop-ups on her own in Toronto, Mary has been collaborating with like-minded businesses. In August, she worked with a host of brands for the MARY YOUNG and Friends Pop-up in Montreal—just one example of how Mary is always looking to work with great people who are doing good things. To her, this means companies with good values (some you might even recognize) and morals, as well as those that are Canadian-made, just like hers. “I always look to track down people I have existing relationships with—it’s more friendly.” Plus, leveraging connections means the potential collaborators likely know (and like) her brand and are open to building that relationship, which to Mary, is the intent of a pop-up: growing what you already have in a positive way.

Besides expanding her network, Mary notes that collaborating with other companies that align with her ethos also helps her customer. “As an individual, I never just wear one item or one brand. You’re not going to have the same traffic flow through a space if you’re offering only one product.” Working with these brands means extending her reach and giving a customer the richest experience.

Back in the digital space, Mary credits Instagram for giving people a behind-the-scenes look at not only the MARY YOUNG brand, but also herself as a person. “You won’t get that on a website—you can see the things I’m doing, the things I stand for, the things we do as an office.” Plus, the popularity of this channel has allowed her brand to have broader reach. And this is where pop-ups come into play too. “They allow the community I’ve built online to come into one shared space,” she says, noting that people can come with friends, or solo, to be a part of something and feel welcome.

Creating this type of environment means finding the perfect location—one of three criteria Mary looks for in any space. “The space we chose [in Montreal] was in a good neighbourhood,” she explains. Mary and her collaborators looked for a space that was clean, had white walls, and was flexible in terms of layout.

After location, Mary looked for visibility—like big windows, storefront exposure, and enough space to showcase all the products from multiple brands.

The third criterion of her pop-up was fixtures. “What’s included in the space? That’s something that’s important to consider. Are there shelves? Racks? Chairs? As much as you want your pop-up to be busy, you’ll want to sit down at some point.”

Once a space is secured, then the focus shifts to getting the word out and making sure logistics are sorted. Mary uses a workback schedule and plugs all the necessary “to-dos” (locking in vendors, printing posters, inputting SKUs into the POS, etc.) into a calendar. This master document keeps her and all her collaborators on schedule and ensures nothing is missed.

From there, marketing the shop is the top priority. For the Montreal shop, Mary notes that a social push of ads on Facebook and Instagram helped bring people in the door. “We have a good following, so we ran targeted ads—about seven days at $15 a day—that brought in people who cared.”

The best part? These people really connected with the brand. Some even acquired a whole new lingerie wardrobe. Though Mary wishes she’d done more local advertising, like handing out flyers and putting up posters—a take-away for next time. “It’s hard to do when it’s not in Toronto, but we definitely want to do more guerrilla marketing in the future.” Reflecting on the shop almost a month later, Mary sees her first collaborative pop-up as a success.

So would she ever think of having a permanent brick-and-mortar store? “I never really plan on it,” she says. Instead she loves the excitement of jumping from place to place, trying new things, and doing something special. This might mean partnering with a charity, teaming up with events, or hooking up with up-and-coming brands. Essentially, pop-ups give her freedom to focus on her product, and more importantly, on the community MARY YOUNG has created.

Are you looking to curate a group pop-up for your community? We have the wares to help you set up shop – start your search here.