Although the nation’s capital is not exactly synonymous with fashion, there is one designer that has been disrupting that narrative. Stacey Martin Bafi-Yeboa is the founder, creator and CEO of Stacey Martin Lifestyle, one of Ottawa’s leading fashion companies.
In 2020, the self-taught designer and entrepreneur took to social media to announce the pending rebrand of the company formerly known as KANIA.
What started in 2004 as a line of luxury sweatshirts has evolved into a luxe loungewear company we know today as Stacey Martin Lifestyle. Made in Canada, the brand continues to remain eco-friendly and uses sustainable fabrics to create timeless pieces that are reinventing the look of luxury.
“Luxury used to be polished and kind of stiff, stuffy, and a bit uncomfortable. To me, luxury now is about having the freedom to move towards what matters most. And that is what Stacey Martin Lifestyle gives you – the freedom to move, the freedom to do what you love, but to look great while doing it. It’s the new look of luxury.”
Stacey believes that clothing can really impact the way we feel and wants people to care about how they feel in their clothes. Her design philosophy blends style, comfort, and sustainability.
“I love to take the fabric and create a story that allows you to look and feel your very best. I didn’t go to design school. It’s not really much about the design, per se, itself. It’s about the stories that design can tell on your body. It can accentuate your assets, it can camouflage your flaws, and it can make you feel incredible.”
As a nod to her heritage, Stacey has partnered with the Nevis Tourism Authority in St. Kitts & Nevis to produce the limited edition Stacey Martin Lifestyle x Nevis Collection.
“Part of my essence is to bring a part of my heritage in the brand. This collection is about bringing the feeling that you get when you are in the Caribbean. When anybody talks about how they felt when they were on vacation, there is this vibe that comes over them. It’s a relaxed comfort that’s effortlessly beautiful.”
Throughout her fashion career, Stacey has opened a flagship boutique in Ottawa’s historic Byward Market, been featured at World Mastercard Fashion Week in Toronto, was invited to show at New York Fashion Week, collaborated with Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and designed custom merchandise for RBC Bluesfest, Canada’s largest blues festival. More recently, she earned a spot as one of five finalists in the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub’s #RiseUp Pitch Contest.
Despite her company having a pre-money valuation of $5.5 million, raising capital poses a major obstacle. Less than 0.2 percent of Black female entrepreneurs like Stacey receive venture capital funding, putting them at a severe disadvantage.
In order to scale her business, she first took advantage of Invest Ottawa’s free Digital Main Street program, then opted to go the equity crowdfunding route. Instead of seeking venture capital funding, she launched a campaign on FrontFundr, an online investment platform, and already boasts 50 investors. In return, her investors will become shareholders in Stacey Martin Lifestyle.
“Equity crowdfunding allows anybody in the community to be able to invest in a brand that they love, in a brand that they believe in, in a brand that they know will grow. Investments start as low as $250, which means that it gives people the ability to invest who also wouldn’t have had the opportunity to invest.”
Once the fundraising is complete, her 500-square-foot storefront on York Street will be transformed into a showroom and design studio, and the warehouse will be converted to a fulfillment center for online customers.
Eventually, she plans to open the Stacey Martin Lifestyle Academy, an online school that would teach other entrepreneurs how to scale their company.
She says her goal is not only to have Stacey Martin Lifestyle be an industry recognized fashion brand, but she also hopes to improve the lack of representation of Black female executives in the industry.
For Stacey, clothing is more than just something you wear, it’s an extension of your aura.
“I believe that clothing can capture a memory. I want people to wear my clothing and actually capture and create memories so that they can say, ‘I remember wearing that piece, where I was, and how I felt.’”
If you’re an Ottawa-based creative looking for digital marketing support, click here to find out more about Invest Ottawa’s Digital Main St. program. The program includes your own digital marketing team, an ecommerce website design, and other online support from Invest Ottawa, all for free.