Startup Fashion Week features Oakbark & Chrome

 The fashion world   is abuzz from Startup Fashion Week™ (SFW) as the organization marked a decade of nurturing talent this past season. A brainchild of Founder and Executive Producer Jodi Goodfellow, SFW has evolved from a modest idea into a transformative force for small businesses, making it the first and only multi-city fashion week in Canada. Read on below for some of the new faces of Canadian Fashion that were showcased this past season. 

Name: Oakbark & Chrome


Instagram: @oakbarkandchrome

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Oakbark & Chrome is a partnership run by two ambitious horse-crazy women, Athena Leone & Roxanne Rabalais.

Athena also runs Pup & Pony Co. creating matching accessories for horses, dogs and their people. She owns a lively rescued retired racing thoroughbred named Brahm’s Opus and a rescue cocker spaniel, Gibbons. She enjoys partaking in many outdoor activities and understands the importance of having proper and hardworking athletic gear. She has worked in the healthcare field for over 15 years and was able to find an outlet for her creativity in both Pup & Pony Co. and Oakbark & Chrome.

Roxanne also runs Spiced Equestrian, a lighthearted apparel and accessories company. She competes as an adult amateur in national level dressage shows on a one eyed mare named Fable, and has a baby horse named Céleste she is bringing along. She has been in the equestrian industry for over 20 years and has enjoyed being part of and learning about all facets of it, especially about the amazing people who are part of it. Roxanne has always been drawn to business and branding, participating in the startup business program offered by Waterloo business centre at a young age, and choosing to do her studies with the York/Sheridan design program.

What inspires you?

The inspiration for our products are meant to reflect the high standards we see established in all facets of the equestrian world. There is an incredible way that personal growth as an athlete in the saddle, can translate to growth in every part of your life. The strong friendships in the barn, and reliance on team work with an incredible animal, is a humbling experience. That drive to do more, be more, and offer the best of both form and function in the pursuit of doing the best by your horse is such a strong drive, and yet is the standard for so many equestrians. There is something ultimately magical in being in a barn full of contented horses munching away at their hay in the late evening when everything has been done to your satisfaction. We wanted to share that world and those values, and through our brand we are able to offer details to make the worlds of equestrianism and fashion converge.

Tell us the story behind your brand.

We wanted to develop a brand that was going to uphold the ideals we so respected in the horse industry, of inclusion and community support, as well as elevate a nonetheless utilitarian product to the level of high fashion. It was important for us to use a leather that withstands an active, outdoor lifestyle and when felt evokes strength with a touch of femininity.

We chose to incorporate a stirrup into our designs as a beautiful symbol of support as it supports the rider in the saddle. Through our social media presence, we’ve never been afraid to align our brand with important social stances. We’ve also been actively working with various non profit groups, such as Saddle Up and Read, which works to improve literacy rates and spread accessibility to the wonderful world of horses to disenfranchised communities. Being able to combine our love of horses and fashion is an absolute dream come true, and helping to spread that love is what drives us.

What’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in your field?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can be so easy to want to handle everything yourself, especially when just starting out and money is tight, and prospects are uncertain. Finding talented individuals to work with that can do what you need to grow your company, better and faster then you can do yourself, will be important to keep momentum going. In other words, decide early on what your best talents are and decide what it is you can best do for your company – and delegate/outsource the rest. Taking on too many tasks and having to learn too many skills will keep you from growing. We say this as women who have a very strong tendency to want to do everything ourselves, and therefore understand the internal struggle.

What do you love most about SFW?

SFW has been such an incredible opportunity, and Jodi Goodfellow has worked so hard to offer designers all the tools we need to succeed. It’s in the sense of community where everyone genuinely wants to raise each other up that we find the most value, and very reflective of what we want to embody as a brand. Being in business can be isolating at times. Ideas flourish best when they are aired between friends, and there is something magical about such a creative atmosphere. Although marketing and making contacts and sales has to be just as important as the creative work for a brand to thrive, being amongst so many talented people is by far the thing we love most.

Looking to learn more about Startup Fashion Week? Read more here.

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