One year ago, Alex MacLean was given a simple assignment for a marketing class. He was told to think up an original product and sell 30 units. Today, MacLean is still working on his project even though the class is long over.
The 22-year-old entrepreneur was born and raised in Halifax. He took inspiration from the region he loves and the East Coast Lifestyle clothing line was born.
“I was thinking about how the East Coast didn’t really have a clothing line established yet,” he says.
“The name comes from the lifestyle that we live and how proud we are of that.”
The brand was founded on the idea that people are proud of where they’re from and want to wear something that displays their pride.
East Coast Lifestyle celebrated the anniversary of their first sale on March 20.
His friends from school bought the first 30 hoodies he produced. Soon, others approached MacLean to ask where they could get one. He borrowed $800 from his father to produce 30 more hoodies, and with the money he made bought 60 more. The company has now sold more than 200,000 units.
“As soon as the first 30 hoodies were sold it lit up a spark in me and made me want to sell even more,” he says. “I saw my passion for it, and since then I’ve really been giving it my all every day.”
Bold, colourful hoodies with the brand’s name and logo front and centre are the staple of the line. But they have many other products in their arsenal including tank tops, hats and socks branded with anchors.
It wasn’t until last April, months after the first sales, that MacLean designed the distinctive anchor logo. “It’s a big logo,” says MacLean. “And that’s because you really want to show that off.”
He decided on the anchor on a plane ride home from Florida with his family while doodling with a pen and sheet of paper. “I just knew that was going to be it,” he says.
MacLean, who will graduate from Acadia University in May, says there is no targeted demographic for the brand. He wants the line to be accessible to all ages. “You can be a baby or you can be a granny,” he says “It’s for whoever is going to represent it proudly for where they’re from. For the first time ever you can wear the same shirt as somebody else and it isn’t embarrassing. It brings you together. It’s unique that way.”
Taylor Northie says whether you meet someone in your home city or abroad, wearing East Coast Lifestyle is a great conversation starter.
Northie works on the creative and design end of the operation. She does photography, website and promotional design and has a hand in helping MacLean design the clothes.
When Northie moved to Halifax from Ontario last year, she says MacLean showed her what East Coast living truly means. “It’s what really drew me to stay here,” she says. “He knew what he was doing when he chose the name of the company.”
She and MacLean are currently working on diversifying the line and putting out a range of products that appeal to a wide audience. She says they’re bringing in different designs that feature logos with lobsters, lighthouses and other iconic East Coast symbols to reach a demographic that might not want to wear the giant logo.
Though she hasn’t been living in Halifax for very long, Northie wears the gear as if she was born here. “I’ve been realizing lately that I wear this stuff almost every day myself,” she says.
MacLean says people who travel away from home love the brand because they can show off where they’re from. On the East Coast Lifestyle Twitter page, they retweet pictures nearly every day from customers who are travelling all over the world wearing their hoodies.
MacLean credits a lot of the business’s success to word of mouth and social media marketing. East Coast Lifestyle currently has more than 90,000 friends on Facebook and 30,000 followers on Twitter.
One of the landmark moments of the year for the company was when NHL star Sidney Crosby was seen in a picture online wearing an East Coast Lifestyle hoodie. “Crosby is paid by Reebok to wear Reebok, but he just wears East Coast Lifestyle because he likes it,” says MacLean.
MacLean is proud to say that as much of the manufacturing and producing as possible is done in Atlantic Canada, with some outsourcing to Toronto.
In terms of future plans, MacLean wants to move the business into the United States. He says there’s a huge market from Maine to Florida, but they haven’t yet heard of it because the company is still so young.
East Coast Lifestyle is currently available at the 25 Pseudio store locations across the Maritimes as well as their online store.
MacLean never expected the company to grow so big, and he’s excited to celebrate the anniversary. “My original mission was to make 30 hoodies,” he recalls, “get a good mark in the class and move on with my degree.”
MacLean ended up getting an A on the assignment that lead to his successful business venture. After one year, he has learned that it’s a sense of pride that had been the key to the brand’s popularity. “If you’re from the East Coast and you’re proud of where you’re from, you’ll wear it proudly.”