Celebrating local culture through an offering of comfy casualwear.
Jonell George didn’t think she’d ever be at the helm of a clothing brand. But in 2017, the writer and mother–who now works on her brand, Lost In, with her daughters–awoke from a dream that motivated her to explore the concept of getting lost in one’s own city, and the culture within it. “I thought, I would love to do something with a concept where you’re creating a culture and an environment through fashion,” she says.
Hailing from Toronto, George says she “remembered always traveling on public transportation to get to different areas of the city,” adding that this allowed her to explore elements of its diverse communities. “I’ve had times, especially as a youth, where I’ve gotten lost in Toronto myself.”
The Lost In brand branches off from this notion through its collection of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats (it will also launch jogging pants and a zip-up sweatshirt style later this year). Adorned with various logos promoting local love, one design in particular combines a few pieces of significance for George. “I wanted to make it a cooler version of the TTC line design that I grew up with,” she says of a graphic on Lost In’s goods that feature a subway map bookended by a pattern that represents a heartbeat. “Subway lines are the heart of the city,” George notes. “They connect you to every aspect of [it]. So that’s why I added the ‘pulses’ at the end of the design.”
Lost In’s offerings have expanded to also include an homage to the New York borough of Brooklyn. “New York has an extensive subway line,” says George of why she chose it as the next city after Toronto to represent through her label. “It’s somewhere that I feel very comfortable. It reminds me a lot of Toronto except it’s busier and bigger.” She notes that New Yorkers are “very big on representing their borough”, and says they’ve used the Brooklyn pieces as a test to see what resonates with Lost In fans. “I’m thinking down the road of [featuring] the fashion capitals that have subway systems,” she says, adding they will also develop “some basics for the person who doesn’t want something that has too much design on it.”
For George, her brand’s swell of support has been extremely meaningful given her deep connection to the city that inspired it all; and she says that watching customers interpret Lost In’s pieces in their own individual way has been inspiring to watch. “We love to see the people who purchase our products create their own style with it, and feed the culture we’re trying to build,” she says. “Skateboarders, for example, wear it differently than basketball players or people in the music industry.” George also says that it’s been fulfilling being able to “infuse” her own sense of style, and that of her daughters, into the brand’s identity. “I’m keeping my generation cool, and they’re also feeding their generation,” she says.
Although she’s not been able to explore Toronto the way she normally would given the restrictions in place because of COVID-19, George is looking forward to getting out to do more of the events Lost In has been a part of in the past; and she’s ever looking ahead to how to grow the brand’s presence, and those of local peers. “My hope is that it’ll be a store front eventually, and that we can pursue partnerships with other local brands,” George says of what plans ideally lie ahead; Lost In has worked with several Toronto-based suppliers, including Peace and Cotton, to create its wares, and continuing to foster connectivity with other makers is always top of mind.
Another thing that George is giving much thought to is how a surge in interest in supporting Black-owned brands in the last few months can be sustained. “A lot of people didn’t know this is a Black-owned business,” she says. “I never walked around shouting it from the mountain tops. But once they discovered it, a lot of people jumped on board and wanted to support us.” She says that the momentum in investing in Black livelihoods has impacted Lost In positively. “People who didn’t know the business before know it now,” she notes, continuing on to highlight the necessity in consumers expanding the “why” around their purchasing moving forward.
“I would hate for it to be the cool thing to do for the moment,” George says. “[And] I would love for people to support us not only because we’re a Black-owned business–that’s one aspect of it–but also because they like our designs and the quality of our work. If you want to put a hashtag on a photo of something you buy from us like #BlackLivesMatter or #BlackOwnedBusiness, it continues the journey. That’s a positive thing. But I want people to support us because they like what we do.”