Fixations: Why this retail exec is going to the dogs — in a good way

Marcello Leone with his dogs, in his RYU office: "Success is never straight."Ben Nelms for National Post

Marcello Leone: RYU (Respect your Universe) CEO and president talks about his love of tribes, both at work and at home.

FPM: How has the apparel market changed during your career?

Leone: I started selling shoes when I was 14 years old so I’ve seen a number of trends. I’m 51 now, but back then, I was carrying my little Adidas bag and the only track pants we had were those cotton grey ones — no shape, no form, no tailoring, no nothing. We probably wore a suit six days of the week when we had to and then we went  home, took it off and put something comfortable on. That was our generation. This generation wants value, they want comfort, they want to feel good and they don’t want to wear a suit and tie all day. The old days are finished.

FPM: How can a brand be unique, but have broad appeal?

Leone: It goes without saying that all of the components of product — the proprietary patents that we’ve developed for our performance products to be functional, comfortable and completely different from everyone else — you have to have. Brands are built on tribes, communities, purpose and emotional connections, and everything has to be real, authentic, exciting and experiential.

FPM: What’s next for RYU?

Leone: I looked at our first 26 months in business as beta for us to see what kind of pull, what kind of effect we have in the community. The beta period suggests the pull is very strong. We’ll have nine stores by the end of this fiscal year, six in Canada and three in the United States, and we’ll have methodical growth in the urban cities to about 29 locations by the end of 2022. We could also be looking at some international joint-venture partnerships outside North America.

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