Fresh Collective

Fresh Collective in Featured Small Biz

In Toronto’s fashionable Kensington market neighbourhood, Fresh Collective fits right in, packed to the brim with beautiful clothes by Canadian designers. Whether you’re looking for a sharp blazer or a food truck-patterned skirt, you’ll find what you need.

If you look closely, you’ll also find some serious ruts in the wood flooring. It’s not a design choice; it’s a testament to the store’s modest early days.

Founder and owner Laura Jean Bernhardson is a designer herself, and the store used to sell a lot of her works. But the store—then called “Fresh Baked Goods”—was still young, so it doubled as Bernhardson’s factory; a hefty knitting machine left those ruts in the floor. Actually, it was her second factory; the first was her house.

It took a village

“My son recently said to me, ‘Mom, remember when we had people sewing in the basement all the time?’ There was a constant stream of friends and family helping out,” Laura Jean says.

Today, the knitting machine is gone from the Kensington store, and Laura Jean’s works have made way for products by other local designers. (The sign outside reads, “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing.”)

One store won’t hold all of Fresh Collective, though—there are now three locations in Toronto. It’s a long way from Fresh Baked Goods, but it’s still early days.

“The goal is 100 stores,” Laura Jean says confidently. Considering the leap from friends toiling away at home to three popular shops in downtown Toronto, don’t be surprised when Fresh Collective hits that mark.