The first sneaker boutique in Canada for womxn, by womxn.
For decades, womxn have been left out of sneaker culture. Entrepreneurs and sneakerheads Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver are planning to change that. Makeway is a Toronto-based sneaker, streetwear, and things boutique made for womxn, by womxn. Most of all, it’s a safe space for womxn to engage with sneaker culture and join the convo already in progress.
We caught up with Abby and Shelby to learn how they tapped into an untouched niche in the middle of a pandemic and why they hope Makeway is the first of many.
How did you both get into sneakers and streetwear?
Abby: For me, it was my obsession with 90’s NBA culture. Growing up, other than MJ, my two other favourite players were Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway. They both had their own shoes and I absolutely had to have them. At the time it was strange for a preteen girl to covet/buy boys sneakers and obviously that is something I never grew out of.
Shelby: I got into streetwear by growing up as a basketball player. It started with on-court sneakers and quickly transitioned into off-court as well. Because I was in and out of the gym all the time, I was constantly in sweats, sneakers or socks & slides. Once I figured out that streetwear & athleisure was a way for me to keep the comfort & transitionality while looking cool, I was all in.
What are some of the roadblocks womxn face in the sneaker community?
Lack of sizing, representation from the decision-making level, and – specifically for Canadians – a lack of accessibility. Another roadblock we face is simply being allowed to sit at the table in conversations about sneaker culture. It has been a male-dominated industry for so long and we’re excited to break those barriers. Sneaker culture can sometimes be very intimidating and we want womxn to feel welcome and that they belong.
You just opened Makeway in Toronto’s stackt market! Tell us more about what it is.
Makeway is a sneaker, streetwear, and things boutique for womxn, by womxn. It’s a safe, inclusive community hub for womxn to celebrate, connect & engage the womxn in our community.
What challenges did you face opening a retail business during COVID-19 and how did you navigate them?
One challenge we faced was the uncertainty regarding any updated government rules or regulations. We opened our store the weekend they announced the second lockdown and, although it was a disappointment, we know the safety of our community is the highest priority.
Throughout the process of launching Makeway, the one thing we endured to do is have contingency plans in the event that we would lockdown again. Prioritizing our online store was something we ensure to plan for and that has truly helped us in this lockdown.
What was the process of developing an online shop and brick + mortar retail experience at the same time?
Because we were only open for two days IRL, the lockdown was a bit of a blessing in disguise. It allowed us to focus our energies on our online presence and not have to worry about the day-to-day in-retail operations.
What are the top 3 things you look for when sourcing vendors?
The number one thing we look for is representation. It’s important that our consumer can see themselves in our product and we’re proud to offer so many products that were made by BIPOC womxn, both local and global.
And after that, we look for uniqueness and variety. We love knowing that some products are only available at Makeway and we know our consumer appreciates that. We also know that our consumer is a complex womxn and has different needs and wants. Our product assortment reflects this and we love having everything from homemade rugs to menstruation cups.
Your IG bio says “Because if we don’t do this, who will?” What effect do you hope Makeway has on womxn’s sneakers and the sneaker industry at large?
We know that there is an undeniable rise in female sneaker and streetwear consumers and we also know that in Canada, being a womxn who loves both product categories is not easy. As said before, there is a lack of accessibility to products. Often when these products are sold in various retail shops, what is available isn’t necessarily what womxn want. We hope Makeway can relieve the pain points of being a female sneaker lover and provide womxn with the access and the products they deserve. We also hope to usher more womxn into this space so that sneaker culture isn’t so male-dominated.