|Vancouver is home to a thriving fashion industry made up of individuals committed to its growth and success. Get to know these personalities in The Inseam and discover what makes the Vancouver Fashion scene so awesome.|
Longtime friends turned business partners Dane Stevens and Keith Seabrook have recently opened up shop in Gastown with their newest venture, Cavalier. The jewellery shop is home to mens and womens items from all ends of the spectrum, from locally made fashion art pieces to finer gems and accoutrements. With dark wood, leather and copper elements, the space serves as a comfortable haven for what would normally seem to be an intimidating shopping experience. What’s more, Cavalier has committed to serving the community by keeping charity as a central mandate.
Dane shares the story of how it all began.
Valerie Tiu: How did you and Keith meet? Were you always interested in being business partners?
Dane Stevens: Our families were friends so we grew up together playing sports. After high school, Keith went to school in the states and did hockey, and I went into the jewellery business right out of high school. We didn’t necessarily intend to become partners. He was taking business, and I started my own company right out of high school so this is kind of a new thing. We’re both do-ers. We thought it was a sweet idea and we decided to just go for it.
VT: You both have very different backgrounds. How did you go from playing sports to being educated in gemology and the jewellery business?
DS: If you think about it, they both take a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s definitely a mental challenge to open up a store. I think you can apply a lot of the same skills to different tasks everyday, and your work ethic applies to everything you do.
VT: Cavalier has its roots from the 1970s. Can you tell us about this history?
DS: My favourite part about the whole thing is being able to tell this story. My mom’s side of the family has always been in the jewellery business. That involves my grandfather, her dad and my uncle (her brother). They were actually oil rigging in Brazil, and one of the kernels in the military asked them to take some stones back to Canada to see if they could sell these tourmalines. They were brought back and sold, and he started making more money doing it. At that time there weren’t any wholesalers. That’s how it all started.
So our main business is wholesaling diamonds and gems to independent retailers, and that was established in the 1970s. It evolved with the cutting and manufacturing moving to Asia and now a lot of it is done in Hong Kong and India. We sell coast to coast, and in a good year, we sell to 150 retailers.
The store is a new concept. Keith and I are young so we wanted to connect in a different way.
VT: You have such a diverse line of products, and you carry a lot of local designers as well. Can you talk about that?
DS: That is a passion of mine. There isn’t a shop in Vancouver where you can get all Canadian designers. We have nine designers that are from Vancouver and five or six that are from other parts of Canada, some of whom are our wholesale clients. So we’ve built an exclusive place where you can get it, which is really cool for our brand.
VT: Can you tell us about your community initiatives?
DS: All the artists have their own charity that they support, and some labels that we have worked into supporting our in-house charity, the ALS Society. We donate five percent depending on which charity. So every piece of jewellery goes back into the community.
VT: You have a beautiful shop. How does the design reflect the Cavalier aesthetic?
DS: It’s a masculine approach. It’s darker woods, copper, and our logo is in typewriter font, which is pretty simple. But when you look inside the showcases, majority of everything is women’s jewellery. We do a lot of engagement ring business, so it is comfortable for guys to come in and get involved. We wanted to create a pretty laid back atmosphere.
VT: What’s the biggest challenge of opening a store?
DS: I think the biggest challenge so far has been time management. It’s really easy to micromanage and you do have to sweat some of the small stuff. But at the end of the day, you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture and try and do as much of the structural work as possible and not worry about the small things. It’s really easy to let this consume you, but it’s important for us to keep perspective on other things in life that are enjoyable and try to maintain that balance.
VT: How do you envision Cavalier in the future?
DS: We want to take over the market share in Vancouver as far as the engagement ring business goes. We want to maintain our local brands and artists that we carry. We have fashion-art jewellery that you can’t get anywhere else. We want to keep moving forward and try to find that balance between trendsetting and still being accessible enough for the general public. So wherever that takes us is where we will go.
Cavalier is located at #217 – 207 W. Hastings Street.