Local Economy Profile: Varsity Brown

Varsity Brown Interior shot

The path to entrepreneurship has had one common denominator for Matt Boston, designer, leathersmith and owner of Varsity Brown (VB), a leather goods shop in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood of West Toronto.

From working in financial services to the retail industry following graduation from McMaster’s business program, Matt says, “I’ve always worked in customer service”.

And it shows in how Matt interacts with each customer that walks through VBs door on Walnut Street, steps from Trinity Bellwood Park’s Queen Street West landmark entrance.

“We make leather for life, not luxury” is a mantra of VBs, and one gets a sense from the well-curated product line, that leather is also for everyone and for everyday.

Varsity Brown Interior shot and Matt working at trade

VB offers a small batch collection of quality made, in-house products that includes business-card and passport folios, card slides, belts, luggage tags, dog collars, card mailers, clutch mailers, envelope mailers, one of a kind bags, snap backs, toques and dad hats.

VB also carries complimentary merchandise from Minimum, Zippan Jewellery, Permanent Vacation, BLCKLGHTCNDLS and Penfielda.

I met up with Matt at VB to ask him a few questions about VB, his craft and entrepreneurship.

Varsity Brown Shop Interior

How did you come up with the name Varsity Brown?
I grew up on a street called Varsity Ave. and Brown comes from my grandmother, who gave me her old Singer sewing machine to start sewing leather.

How did you get started in your business?
I worked a full-time job while I saved up to buy a machine. I started sewing, trying to master the craft until things became of quality to sell and I developed enough confidence in the things I was making.

Varsity Brown Product Shot of white leather zip clutch mailer

How did you know the time was right to branch out on your own?
It all came together in a very uncalculated way. Sometimes opportunities present themselves and things fall together with a little bit of hustle.

What are some of the challenges you face in your business?
Scalability and limited capital.

Interior Shot of Varsity Brown

What are the most important tools in your trade?
Knowing your tool box and operating accordingly out of it. You have to push the limits with all your tools and make all the mistakes to know what can and can’t be done and then stick and move in the direction you want to go.

What’s most rewarding about the job that you do?
The satisfaction of turning a vision into a reality and liking the way it turned out.

How do you use technology to change how your trade is done now, from let’s say 50 years ago?
I use laser cutting to the reduce margin of error in consumer product and to streamline the cutting production.

Interior photo of Varsity Brown

What social media site do you find most useful to connect to your customers?
I use Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. The web is a saturated place.

Where would you like to see VB in 5 and 10 years?
A full-production line, 20 employees, a flagship store, expansion across North America and to Europe.

If Varsity Brown had a soundtrack, what 10 songs would make the cut?

Thank you Matt. You can visit Varsity Brown at 198 Walnut Ave in Toronto or shop online.

Matt Boston Proprietor of VB

Exterior photo of Varsity Brown on 198 Walnut Ave.


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