A Saskatoon woman who started building her clothing line business three months ago said she wanted to make sure French-speaking and small communities were well-represented.
Margo LeBlanc hails from Zenon Park, a small French-speaking community about 150 km east of Prince Albert.
She’s always wanted to start her own business and recently started to think about what that business might be. She found an opportunity to sell apparel without having to invest thousands of dollars.
The 23-year-old said she loves wearing comfy clothing and wanted to create a line she would want to wear so she started looking at other local clothing companies.
“There’s been lots of apparel that’s been made for Saskatchewan in general but not so much for smaller communities.” LeBlanc said. “I wanted to focus in on that.”
LeBlanc’s clothing line launched month ago and is called Sunny Sky Apparel. As a Fransaskois, she was originally thinking of naming it Soleil Sask which translates to Sun Sask, but was worried non-French speakers would struggle to pronounce it.
“My reason for Sunny Sky is because Saskatchewan is the sunniest province in all of Canada and I thought that’s kind of a nice homage to our province without flat out saying this is a Saskatchewan brand.”
LeBlanc said her brand started with the maps collection, where she’s printed maps of communities on t-shirts, bunny-hugs and sweaters.
“I started out with French-speaking communities because they have literally nothing out there in terms of t-shirts and stuff,” she said.
After this, LeBlanc started to include other small Saskatchewan communities in an attempt to be a more inclusive brand.
So far her map collection includes almost 30 cities and towns including Prince Albert, Birch Hills, St. Louis and Nipawin. Her website includes a handy tool that allows customers to shop by location, https://sunnyskyapparel.ca/pages/shop-by-location-1.
LeBlanc encourages people to contact her with requests and suggestions of other communities to add to her maps collection.
Coming from a small community, LeBlanc always wanted to have a shirt or sweater that identified where she was from. She said the odds of someone recognizing Zenon Park in another community, province or country are unlikely but it happens more often than you would think.
“I thought it would be so nice to have a shirt with where I’m from and I figured lots of other people would feel the same way too,” LeBlanc explained.
Despite just starting up a month ago, Sunny Sky has several collections to choose from besides the map collections.
The destination collection pays homage to popular tourist stops such as Cochin Lighthouse, and Buffalo Pound Provincial Park.
LeBlanc’s Fransaskois line features clever French expressions such as ‘T’es dans le champ de patates!’, a similar expression in English is ‘You’re out to lunch!’
LeBlanc now lives in Saskatoon and works full time as the festival director for Cinergie at the Francophone Federation of Saskatoon, and at the Fransaskois Seniors Federation as a communications agent.
She works on Sunny Sky Apparel during the weeknights and weekends. LeBlanc added that the pandemic has freed up a lot of her time, time she would normally spend out with friends and travelling before.
“It was a good way to use my time,” LeBlanc said.
She runs the business on her own, but works with two different companies that print and ship the clothing.
LeBlanc’s tasks include creating the designs, updating the website, and covering social media and customer service. She anticipates business will pick up, but for now she’s handing it well.
LeBlanc has had the Sunny Sky website up since January but was keeping it on the down low while she tweaked the website. Her mom ended up sharing a photo of the clothing on Facebook and LeBlanc received 12 to 13 orders from that post alone.
She said things snowballed from there, and business has since taken off after LeBlanc shared the business on her Facebook profile just four days ago.
“I wanted to have my own place in the apparel world. I didn’t want to have too much overlap with anyone obviously because we all have our own ideas,” LeBlanc said. “I figured the French aspect really adds a unique aspect to my brand.”
Sunny Sky Apparel can be found online at https://sunnyskyapparel.ca/ or on Facebook and Instagram @sunnyskyapparel