Cherry Gardens is the loungewear of your dreams.
This Canadian brand is helmed by creative extraordinaire, Mylantha Davey. A Vancouver native, Davey moved to Toronto ten years ago to pursue her passion for fashion. The idea for her brand came to her while she was working as a brand marketer; she wanted to create pieces that were designed to be worn at home but could also be dressed up for a night out. In other words, the perfect clothes and the only ones you’ll ever need!
One look through Cherry Gardens’ selection and you know it’s true. Each piece is sleek, beautifully crafted and looks comfortable AF. We chatted with the brilliant designer, marketer and leader about her business, fashion and biggest inspirations.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey.
I consider myself a bit of a jack of all trades in the creative sense. I’ve worked in every aspect of the fashion industry, from wholesale to retail and back again, and landed in the content marketing space. Growing up in Vancouver I found there weren’t as many opportunities that I needed, one being higher education in the field I wanted to get into, hence the move to Toronto, where I’ve been for 10 years now.
What drew you to the fashion world initially? What do you love about it and what are some things you think need to change?
I love the freedom of expression fashion offers–the way you dress says so much about you. I’ve always been drawn to fashion from a young age, I think it started with designing Barbie clothing with my mom, to dressing myself in outrageous outfit combos (picture the 90s), to taking Textiles classes in high school. It was something I always knew I wanted to pursue career-wise, there were never any other options for me. I love that nowadays, because of technology and social media, the barriers to enter the fashion industry are so low, and there is so much more variety in the types of people and bodies that are visible in this space. That being said, there is still so much more work to be done to make sure everyone is represented on a regular basis–making diversity and inclusion more of a commonplace conversation rather than tokenism or a marketing tactic.
How did you come up with the name for your brand, Cherry Gardens?
The brand is named after a neighbourhood in Kingston, Jamaica, that my family and I lived in for a few years when I was a child. The whole brand is truly a personal expression for me; I’ve named the products after people and places from my life – my mother’s maiden name, the street I grew up on, a childhood nickname, etc.
Cherry Gardens’ clothes are simple but so elegant and sleek, as is your marketing aesthetic. Where did you draw inspiration from?
That was my main focus, to create great quality loungewear that could just as easily lend itself to chic going-out attire. I drew inspiration from the people I saw wearing my clothes – what they’re doing for work, in their free time, what’s important to them – and then designing with those values in mind.
How do you feel about the fast-fashion attitude that is so pervasive in society? How do you want to see fashion, and the way people shop, change?
I feel like there is a collective shift happening right now away from fast-fashion and towards more conscious buying behavior. We’re moving in a more sustainable direction in the way we shop, by supporting smaller and local businesses, prioritizing quality over quantity and demanding transparency from the brands we support around their values and their product. I fully support this movement and I try to practice what I preach in terms of supporting business closer to home, as well as women and BIPOC-owned businesses which I think is so important.
From my research I also found out that you only cast bi-racial models – why was that important for you and how did that drive other aspects of your business?
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but I do make it a priority to cast WOC and feature a variety of body shapes and sizes in my content. I struggled growing up with representation, not seeing anyone that looked like me in magazines and I want to contribute to changing that; I want everyone to be able to see themselves represented in my brand.
Who are your biggest inspirations – in fashion and in life?
It might be cliche but my mom is my biggest inspiration. She was one of the first women in the tech industry in the 80s and she has overcome so many hurdles to achieve her dreams. I like to think I get my drive from her. Creatively, I’m inspired by so many Black creatives – Kerby Jean-Raymond, Solange Knowles and the countless number of female entrepreneurs doing their thing in Toronto. They keep me motivated.
Do you ever get stuck in a rut? Have you ever had moments of doubting yourself? If so, how have you overcome them?
Absolutely. I think everyone goes through these periods. I struggle with depression and anxiety as well, so pushing through that negative self-talk can be a struggle a lot of the time but it has become easier with practice. Self-care has been huge for me, whether that means stepping away and taking more frequent breaks in my creative process or asking for help from my support system, prioritizing my mental health is key. And inspiration always strikes when the time is right.
What’s your favorite design in your collection?
The Romeo top is my personal favourite – it’s such a classic yet unique design that is super-flattering on everyone. The Pony Short is also a fave, for its styling versatility.
Any dream collaborations or people you’d love to dress?
Tracee Ellis Ross is the ultimate queen; I could die happy seeing my pieces on her!
What are some challenges you’ve faced with Cherry Gardens and your most memorable achievements?
It’s challenging working towards bringing my business to the next level in the local industry, and to be seen amongst the sea of brands that exist on social media. But I truly believe that if you have a great product, people will find you, and that’s what has been happening the past little while with more people stuck at home on their social media and also with the BLM movement – I’ve gained so much visibility over the last few months and it feels great for me and other BIPOC brands to finally be noticed (even though we have been here all along!). I think I’m most proud of the press coverage I’ve received lately – seeing how positively my brand is being received, either in the press or through private DMs from followers telling me how much they love my stuff – it affirms everything I’ve been working hard on and really makes this labour of love worth it.
Do you have any advice for people looking to start their own business or become a designer?
Just get started. As soon as you can. There will never be ‘the perfect time’. For me there was so much second-guessing of myself and my ideas, but once I got things into motion, everything just started flowing. Trust your gut – observe others that are doing what you’d like to be doing and learn from them while staying true to yourself and your values. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and supportive and you can’t lose.