Illustrator / Entrepreneur , Verdun
You’ve seen the bags around town, fashionable folk toting all of their secrets in delightful canvas bags that read “Emotional Baggage” and “Sad Sack”. You’ve maybe giggled quietly at the t-shirts and patches labeled “Sad Songs” or “Frequent Cryer Program” because you can’t help but relate to the emo sentiments, even if they’re just the remnants from your teenage years. If you hadn’t figured it out yet, all of these thoughtful and très stylish illustrated goods are from the must-have label Stay Home Club. We caught up with Olivia Mew, the mastermind behind the brand, one late summer’s day at her Verdun home. Her home was much like Olivia herself quirky, full of light, and stylish. And we couldn’t wait to chat about all our teenage feels…
When did you begin drawing? Was it always a passion of yours?
“Oh gosh, I mean everyone draws when they’re a kid. I had this one character that I started drawing constantly towards the end of highschool and to this day it’s basically the only thing I know how to draw. She’s just the disgruntled girl that I put on everything.”
What did you study in University?
“Fibers. I was making dolls, that’s how I started selling things online. The dolls were all in the likeness of the disgruntled girl character. So I was spending all of my time doing this so I thought, why don’t I study it. Every single piece that I did for class were these dolls. After class I would just take them home and sell them on the internet.”
Is there a story behind the name of Stay Home Club?
“So the weird thing about Stay Home Club is that it didn’t start as a t-shirt brand. It was a pillowcase brand. We launched with five pillowcases, all by different artists. Essentially I had started making friends with artists online, over twitter. So one day I had the idea to, well I don’t want to say use them because that sounds bad but I thought, this is an incredible thing … for us to all be friends on the internet and with people whose work I admired so much. It was as simple as writing them a tweet like “Hey would you like to contribute to this?” And you know, it was moderately successful, challenging for a few weird reasons like I didn’t realise that pillowcases are different sizes in every country in the world. And I was suddenly getting an influx of e-mails from upset customers in Australia. But the logo that was made for that project is the logo that still exists.”
What is the concept behind it?
“Stay Home has always been a thing for me, like it was my favourite song as a teenager and it was the label I used for my dolls. It’s just been an outlet for all the doodles that I’ve always done and the attitude that I’ve always put into my work and it just kinda took off. ”
How has Stay Home Club evolved over time?
“Well people started loving the logo [of Stay Home Club] and started asking if they could have it on a t-shirt but I really didn’t want to be a t-shirt company. I finally did it and the t-shirts sold faster than the pillowcases. So then I put it on a tote bag and they sold faster than the pillowcases. So it just evolved that way. We’re just a lot more selective now with our collaborations and the content. We do a lot of different products now but no pillowcases. Although lately I’ve been thinking about maybe doing a few pillowcases again. Just a few screen printed ones, in just a few selected sizes.”
Does living in MTL influence your brand/art/company?
“I think the real answer is that the cheap rent here is awesome for entrepreneurs and small business owners but Mtl also has this thing where it draws people here that are more relaxed. I mean it’s not true of everyone, but in MTL you don’t have to work as hard because you can afford to live like kings on much less. So if you do come here and are willing to work your ass off you can really flourish. That’s not to say Montrealers are lazy, they’re not at all. They have a wonderful lifestyle here, they enjoy their lives because they can.”
Why is MTL perfect for your and your brand?
“Montreal is perfect for me because I’m surrounded by so many amazing and creative people that have all moved here to reap the benefits of Montreal.”
What were you doing before Stay Home Club?
“So I was a student and then I was working for a time at a law firm, to you know, pay bills. I was selling vintage on Etsy, like everyone and I was doing little bits of freelance illustration here and there. While working at the law firm I gave myself a savings goal of this big number that I never thought I‘d reach and made a promise to myself, that if I made it I’d quit my job and try to pursue illustration full time. So I made my goal, I quit my job and like a week later is when I had the idea for Stay Home Club. I shut down the vintage shop because that shit was no fun.”
Why did you choose this neighborhood and what makes it different from others in MTL?
“I love Verdun. There’s something about being able to leave your house in your disgusting sweat pants and not fearing that you’re going to run into anyone. Which isn’t really a comment on Verdun, it’s more a comment on myself. I mean this particular part is really nice, we’re right by the river and before I got married I was really going to start running along the river but that didn’t really last. Anyways…. back to Verdun. I mean you can bike to Atwater market, or Saint Ambroise Terrasse and yeah the local business are popping up. Benelux is open now it’s the first bar that’s been allowed to open here in a million years and it’s really lovely. Verdun was a dry neighborhood for many many years, there were no bars. So now that’s changed.”