Melissa Grelo, co-host of The Social, doesn’t want her daughter Marquesa to grow up burdened by gender stereotypes. But like many new parents, she was in for a rude awakening when she first set out to buy gender neutral outfits for Marquesa, who recently turned two. “When I became pregnant, I was struck, and frankly, surprised with how gendered baby clothes were and are,” she says. “It was overwhelmingly pink for girls and blue for boys and not a whole lot in between.”
But Grelo’s not the type to take let a little issue like entrenched social stereotypes stop her. Instead, with the help of friend and business partner Shayna Haddon, she decided to create her own line of gender neutral kids’ clothes.
The result is marQ, a street-smart collection with just the right mix of urban chic and playground durability. Every item in marQ’s product line, from harem pants to hoodies, is designed and manufactured in Canada. Although this results in higher retail prices, outsourcing was never an option for marQ, says Grelo. “We’re proud to contribute to the Canadian economy with high quality pieces that will last a long time, thereby reducing the amount of clothes parents need to purchase, plus ensuring workers making our pieces are making a living wage doing so.”
Indeed, longevity is one of the line’s most compelling goals: items are designed to grow with a child: sleeves and cuffs can be rolled up or down to accommodate a range of sizes, and the spare, simple colours and clean designs ensure they can be passed from brother to sister to cousin to friend, regardless of gender.
And for any parent who’s ever wrestled a squirming toddler into their clothes (that’s all parents, right?) marQ has an added benefit: the pieces are meant to go on smoothly. “Marquesa is in the stage where she wiggles and squirms incessantly while getting dressed,” says Grelo. “That’s one of the reasons why marQ is designed to be quick and easy. Our pieces all work together, thereby reducing the amount of thinking parents have to do to coordinate pieces. Also, our signature items – Sovereign Pullover, Dynasty Hoodie and Empire Varsity Jacket look great over anything because of the colouring and design.”
Indeed, the idea of a simple, goes-with-anything capsule wardrobe is so compelling that Grelo and Haddon have been surprised to find themselves fielding requests for a complementary adult line. Although it wasn’t part of their original business plan, Grelo says they’re keeping their options open.
Whether you’re looking to “make powerful statements with your purchases and what you choose to wear” or just dress your kids as simply, quickly and stylishly as possible, marQ offers a homegrown opportunity to do so.
As for Grelo, she plans to spend the summer designing and releasing new items for marQ. “Then hopefully, I can carve out time for an extended family vacation. It’s been a very busy 2016 for me professionally, and I want to spend the latter half of the year investing in my personal and family life just as much,” she says. “Work hard, play and love hard!”