There’s something about trios. Buffy was chosen to save the world from the supernatural, but her two best friends, Xander and Willow, were her strongest supporters and using their unique abilities, kept Buffy alive. The team of Kirk, Spock and McCoy from Star Trek, are often compared to Freud’s superego, id and ego – the elements of the human psyche. Finally, the tricycle is seen as an uncool and childish mode of transportation, but is arguably one of the most balanced bikes.
Yes, trios are a strong unit. They fuse their passions together, leverage their differences and allow things to continuously move as members take turns acting as mediator. Another trio to note is…ours, the co-founders of Merchant Sons. While they’re not slaying vampires, we at Merchant Sons are trying to change the way people – and men, in particular – style and think about their homes. Together these three bring their diverse backgrounds and interests together to produce contemporary homewares with technical benefits for the Canadian market.
So, who are they?
Moritz Bolle is the Head of Operations and based in Berlin where he works closely with our European manufacturing partners. He was previously a co-founder of a medical devices start-up and has a background in operations and supply chain management. He oversees our factory and lab partners in Portugal, Turkey and the UK to ensure a high standard of quality for our products.
Greg Robson is based in London and oversees the company’s creative direction. His past career as a property developer had him deeply involved in architecture and interior design which he now brings to Merchant Sons’ relaxed, masculine aesthetic.
In Canada, there is Toronto-based CEO, Cathy Ly, who is focused on consumer insights, marketing, as well as online and store operations. Her background is in customer experience strategy which she leverages to create the easiest, most inspiring omni-channel retail experience for Merchant Sons (could she fit in any more marketing buzzwords?!)
Once you get to know our trio better, one thing will become certain: They definitely make each other stronger to bring our customers the best in homewares.
Why did you start Merchant Sons?
Greg: The three of us all love home décor in our own way, so it’s a subject we’re passionate about. Simply put, we think people deserve better products for their homes. I’ve been involved in interior design for many years and it’s hard to create a simple, relaxed look for your home without tons of effort or money.
Cathy: As we did consumer research, we found people would put up with little annoyances in their home - things like sleeping in hot, clammy sheets - that could be solved through design. We also thought we could improve the buying process by creating a super easy online experience and a beautiful store that's disguised as a home.
Moritz: There is a lot of commoditization happening in homewares, like there is in fast fashion. When you can buy a trendy cushion for $8, you need to start asking how that cushion got made. We wanted to get back to a certain heritage of craftsmanship with our products – family-owned factories in Europe and Canada that we could closely collaborate with – rather than more faceless, mass production.
What has been your favourite moment starting Merchant Sons so far?
Moritz: I found a book about plant fibres by someone named Robert R. Franck. Mr. Franck is a fellow of The Textile Institute and Royal Society of Arts in England. On a whim, I contacted him and we arranged to meet in London. I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I arrived, I was met by the most distinguished 90-year-old gentleman, impeccably dressed in a tweed suit. We talked for over an hour about the properties of different fibres and weaving techniques. So, Mr. Franck became our textile consultant as we developed our custom performance fibre weave. You may think bedding is just a big piece of fabric, but we learned from Mr. Franck what actually goes into good textiles.
Cathy: We’ve been pretty lucky finding great experts who believe in what we’re trying to do and want to help us. I’d been trying to source sweatshirt fabric to make blankets with and nothing really met my expectations. One of the ladies who runs our sewing workshop in Scarborough asked why we didn’t just knit our own fleece with “Igor.” Turns out Igor owns one of three remaining knitters in Ontario and contrary to his Doberman Pinscher barking at me in the parking lot, he runs a very welcoming factory that produced our sweatshirt fabric exactly to specification.
Greg: For me, my favourite moment has been designing our first store together. Scouring vintage furniture shops in Toronto, overthinking which books to put on the shelves. There are a lot of fun little touches in the store that reflect the three of our personalities.
What sparks your creativity and inspires you?
Greg: With the products’ aesthetic, we’re really inspired by places. This first collection was based on my first summer in Toronto. Coming from London, I find Toronto has a very underrated sense of style. It’s a big, modern city with a lot of glass and concrete, but it's also very relaxed and laid-back with beautiful blues and greens coming from the surrounding nature. I thought it was a very comfortable, not-trying-too-hard look for our first product line to take on. For our next collection though, I may look closer to home and bring a bit of London to our customers.
Cathy: Saville Row meets homewares – I like it! On the technical front, we really get our ideas straight from consumers. We conduct in-home interviews and watch people interact with pieces they love or hate in their homes. That gives us tons of ideas for products that can solve everyday annoyances in people’s lives.
What one item from your collection would you want with you while stranded on an island?
Moritz: Tropical Island? Definitely our performance fibre sheets, so I won’t get sweaty in my sleep.
Greg: I would go with our extra-soft, ultra-absorbent towels because I’d like to think that I’m still civilized and showering while stranded on the island.
Cathy: I think it’ll get cold at night on the island, right? So, I’d pick our sweatshirt blanket which is knit, dyed and sewn in Canada. It’ll remind me of home.