Designer Shane Vitaly Foran
He’s covered in tattoos, rides a motorcycle and has nearly died at least once while extreme snowboarding. Twenty six year old Shane Vitaly Foran is the down to earth nice guy behind Canadian jewelry brand Vitaly, which is quickly taking the world by storm. I recently sat down with Shane for an exclusive #stmINTERVIEWED to talk about his brand Vitaly, designing with friends in mind and getting sent to the principal’s office.
Shane grew up in small town Orillia Ontario where his multi-coloured 12” Mohawk was considered a distraction to his fellow high school students and helped him get sent to the principle’s office now and again. He admits he was always into fashion, but didn’t realize it as a kid. While he never dreamed of working in the fashion industry, his friends and family were not surprised when it happened as he had always paid extra attention to his own and other’s style.
His business partner Jason Readman and he are friends from as far back as grade school. The two spent much time together snowboarding in their teens and Shane admits they were a little psycho when it came to the tricks they would try on the slopes. Shane was forced to spend some time re-learning to walk after one serious injury.
A few short years ago having finished his double major in political science and marketing, while working 3 jobs, Shane was feeling worn and lost. As many young people do, he decided to travel. A reoccurring dream including a Buddha inspired him to pack his bags and venture off to South East Asia. He explored, relaxed and partied. After two months he was pretty burnt out, (ok so maybe he partied a little more than he had relaxed) and by the time he got to Bali it was time to, as he puts it, “chill out and appreciate some of the smaller things.”
It was during his time in Bali that he noticed the wealth of jewelry craftsmanship there and discovered his hidden talent for design. Having admired the concept of two finger rings he approached a local to help him produce one. Although he lacked the skills to sketch his design clearly, he and the craftsman worked together to create something special. When he brought it home to Canada the response was incredible and the idea of making jewelry design his next journey quickly developed.
“I have always been a risk taker,” declared the young designer in our interview. When it came time to dive into this new career path he says he realized, “I can either take this risk and potentially have a huge reward or not take it and be unhappy that I didn’t try it.” Sometimes easier said than done, but we are not all Shane. Having come from little money he was used to being broke and felt there was nothing to lose. He scraped together what he could of his last few dollars and sent it off to set things up and develop his first order.
During the next two and a half years Shane worked 12-14 hour days, seven days as week. He fought to keep the cash flow in check and the product meeting his high standards of quality. Finding the perfect manufacturer was no easy feat as he encountered roadblock after roadblock. From poor quality to receiving product that was downright wrong, he saw it all. Even so, his determination never wavered and his vision continued to grow as he learned from the tiring process.
Shane thrives on his expansive network and he designs with his friends in mind. One of the biggest challenges in the beginning was getting men to wear jewelry. In the early days he would convince his male friends to wear his rings out to the bar. They often were not open to the idea but eventually gave in. Shane explained that he frequently received calls from friends the next day saying that they had received so much attention from women over his rings that he was NOT getting them back.
While his friends served as great product testers and provided free exposure, he soon realized this would not suffice in the long run. Using his marketing expertise he analyzed his market and recognized he had to make it easier for consumers to relate to his brand. Today models in Vitaly marketing are not the pretty boys you may find sporting the polo shirts in the glossy magazines. Instead the male models are often bearded, alternative, tattooed and are shot with a sense of grit.
While the brand was originally positioned for men with its masculine, maybe androgynous tone, today vitalydesign.com sells to more women then it does men, which Shane is happily surprised by. He never thought he could design for women. This part of the business just happened on its own.
Arlene Dickinson from the popular television show Dragon’s Den is one of the women who fell in love with the brand. Shane and his business partner Jason appeared on the show and Dickinson along with other dragons quickly made offers to the duo’s delight. After negotiations, however, when it came time to finalize the deal, the business had taken off to the point where Shane and Jason decided to respectively decline. Dickinson told them she understood and informed them they were making the right decision. Working with a dragon at the stage they were at could actually hold them back and they were on verge of taking flight on their own.
I asked Shane if he felt like his brand had finally “made it.” He told me during the roller coaster ride in the beginning there were times where the stress from all the problems dragged him down. Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest jobs a person can have. He finally decided enough was enough. The stress was not worth it. If he failed, he failed. He was not going to worry about it anymore. Apparently letting go and accepting the fact that it could all end tomorrow was the best thing Shane could have done. Shortly after doing so, the hard work started to pay off and things finally started to fall into place. This winter Shane and his team have headed back to Bali to escape the cold Canadian winter and work on the business where it all started. As he told me their plans he came to a realization that if he can pick up and travel to Bali to do what he loves, then he has made it.
In December the brand, which formerly warehoused close to 40,000 units in the spare bedroom at Jason’s Toronto condo, moved into a new warehousing facility with adjacent showroom in order to meet their growing needs. Fans of Vitaly can now find the brand in 200+ stores globally including select Urban Outfitters in the US, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges & Co.
One of the last questions I had for Shane was what would he do if someone walked up to him and told him it was over. What would he do if he was told Vitaly was no more. Without skipping a beat, this passionate designer blurted out, “I’d murder them!” He then chuckled and explained if it all came to an end he’d be alright. Through is journey with Vitaly he has become friends with many other fashion entrepreneurs who he respects and admires. If it all came to and end, he would go help them make their dreams a reality.
Make sure to check out vitalydesign.com to see the full range of products and follow @VitalyDesign on instagram. Want to explore even more from Shane Vitaly Foran? Watch out for Clocks and Colours, Vitaly’s sister brand he recently launched and is named after a book of poetry he wrote in high school.
…we of course ended this #stmINTERVIEWED with selfie…