Q&A With Toni TiraborelliMarch 07, 2017
This spring officially marks 25 years since we opened the doors of our very first location at Bayview Village Shopping Centre in 1992. In honour of our 25th anniversary, we sit down with our very own President and the mastermind behind Toni Plus, Toni Tiraborelli to talk plus size fashion over the years, changes and challenges as a retailer, and what to expect from us this year.
What inspired you to start Toni Plus?
The inspiration for Toni Plus came from a very smart man. It was 1991 and I received an invitation from the owner of Bayview Village, the late Ori Fidani. He identified a need in his shopping centre for an upscale shop to cater to the discriminating plus size clientele that frequent his mall with nowhere to purchase their wardrobe.
After wrapping my head around the idea and researching the Canadian plus size market (which I was totally naive about at the time), I realized that this could be a great opportunity. We opened the first Toni Plus location at Bayview Village in the spring of 1992.
What was the attitude of plus size women and clothing back then? How do you feel this evolved?
The attitude of plus size women 25 years ago was that they felt frustrated and challenged to find clothes that allowed them to develop a personal style. The selection was dismal compared to their girlfriends who wore a size 2 to 12.
Attitudes have changed dramatically in the past decades. The biggest change that I’ve seen over the years is that as the selection improved for fuller-figured women, as did their self-confidence. When a woman is allowed to express her personality and create the image she desires through fashion, it’s empowering.
I’m proud to say that Toni Plus has worked very hard to engage designers and established fashion collections to enter the plus size market with offerings that are more fashion-forward, shaped and exciting.
How has Toni Plus as a retailer evolved over the past 25 years? What has been the biggest change?
Fashion is all about change. As any retailer in the fashion industry would agree, our biggest challenge is to continually evolve and and remain relevant and top-of-mind. In order to do so, we must continue to evolve to meet our clients’ expectations. They put their trust in us every season to show them a collection that is not only on-trend and beautiful, but that fits their shape and lifestyle perfectly. We are constantly expanding and exploring the markets we source from—both domestically and internationally—to ensure that we are offering the very best fashion of the season.
The biggest change is definitely how we communicate with our clients. Twenty-five years ago, we would simply pick up the phone and give our clients a call when new arrivals hit the floor. Now and then, we would place an advertisement in a magazine or newspaper. Today, we continue to offer personal service via phone, as well as other forms of communication to fit our clients’ lifestyle and preferences such as over email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
What’s next for Toni Plus?
We are currently working on many new projects that our clients will be thrilled to hear about!
Firstly, we are very excited to be launching an online store this spring. We are also adding a tenth store to our repertoire, with our very first location in Québec at The Hudson’s Bay in downtown Montréal. When it comes to our designer labels, we are expanding the selection of our private label toni T., which is rapidly becoming a favourite in our stores.