They say fashion speaks for itself. This brand (literally) does.
OTARDA is a Toronto-made luxury clothing brand. Every piece in the collection makes a statement, with 25 per cent of the proceeds aimed at a foundation that aligns with its values. For founder Stephen Smith, OTARDA is about more than just shifting away from fast fashion. It’s about giving people a way to say what they believe in without saying anything at all.
First off, tell us what OTARDA is all about.
OTARDA is a limited edition clothing brand focused on merging the concepts of luxury and purpose. We’re centred on making a positive impact through every purchase. Each hoodie has a purposeful quote that relates to a social cause and foundation. For every hoodie purchased, a portion of the profits is donated directly to the associated foundation. There is a movement away from unsustainable, fast-fashion. We make local luxury clothes for consumers who care and want to make an impact. OTARDA’s mission is to empower people who wear our clothing to—at a minimum—change perspective but ideally, change lives.
What inspired you to launch the brand?
OTARDA was inspired by companies like H&M, ZARA and GUCCI, ironically. I was a frequent purchaser of hoodies from these brands and personally, something just always felt off for me. Fortunately, one day I decided to fix this for myself. After creating the first couple of designs and getting some good feedback from friends and random people, I thought there may be something here. My thought was, this can be an actual luxury brand that brings real value through quality but actually means something beyond “I’m better than you.” That’s where the quotes came from. I wanted to create clothing with real meaning.
Your target customer is an “Agent of Change.” Tell us a bit more about what that means to you.
An agent of change is someone who isn’t scared to challenge the status quo or share how they truly feel. I want people to not just think about these pieces as clothing but as a tool to affect change in a positive way. Not every quote will be for everyone but the hope is for everyone to find one that resonates with them. So they can maybe impact change or start a conversation. God knows we need more of that.
How do you choose the foundations you work with? Is there criteria you look for?
There’s no particular criteria. We just want to ensure that they are reputable, unique, and ‘tangible’. As mentioned, they aren’t random. We want the foundations to be tied to the quotes on the hoodie. For example: “Happiness is a choice, not a result.” The premise of this quote is gratitude. We should not allow our happiness to be dependent on the acquisition of an item, experience, or even a person. However, we understand that happiness isn’t a choice for all of us, more specifically our friends who suffer from mental illness, and this is why we wanted to support them by directing our donations that way.
What do you feel is the connection between fashion and activism?
OTARDA is meant to redefine the term “fashion statement.” Our pieces are literally statements that are meant to change perspective and inspire conversation. Sometimes people are not always comfortable enough to say what they want to or don’t always have the opportunity. These hoodies provide another means of doing so.
As a black-owned business, how do you think this wave of awareness of the injustices in the black community will shape your industry?
Objectively, as a black-owned business, current happenings will naturally attract support from various places. However, I don’t like to view unfortunate happenings as an opportunity to find success. This is a time to recalibrate and seek creative ways to incite change, big or small.
Shop OTARDA’s new collection at www.otarda.com and follow them at @otarda.official.