Allegra Shaw Talks Starting a Sustainable Clothing Company and the Pros and Cons of Life as an Influencer
At 25 years old, Allegra Shaw has already spent seven years tirelessly creating content, a move which has earned her almost 650,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 135,000 on Instagram. We got the chance to ask the Toronto born-influencer questions about her journey so far–from the creation of Uncle Studios (the clothing company she founded with Bobby Dunn and Shirin Soltani), to the pros and cons of the ever-growing YouTube community.
What was the most challenging part about starting Uncle Studios?
I think the most challenging part of starting a brand in this day and age is staying true to our values (sustainability and ethical practices) while trying to grow our business in a market that’s over saturated with underpriced garbage. We spend a lot of time trying to educate people on why our prices are more than you’d see on a fast fashion website and why its important to consider where the product is being made and by whom before making a purchase. We are definitely seeing a shift in our customer’s mindset when it comes to fashion though, which is great.
How would you describe the products?
Everyday sustainable staples- with a focus on female empowerment and androgyny.
What’s your favourite piece from the site?
This is definitely a hard one because we’ve put so much love, thought and time into each product. We’ve put a lot of time into developing our tee shirts because that’s what we feel best in. Both Shirin and I have always said jeans and a white tee is the perfect outfit, so it was our first product that we made from scratch and wanted it to be perfect. Although, I can’t lie, since, we released our linen tunic dress, I pretty much haven’t taken it off.
Do you have any plans on expanding in the future?
We’ve already started expanding our line with more fashion-focused pieces. That being said, we try not to use super trendy fabrics because we always want our pieces to be items that last for years in your wardrobe. And while we are currently on-line, we are also considering some sort of in-store experience – because we are very proud of the quality and feel of our clothes, we think our customers will benefit from touching and feeling them before they purchase. We’ve already experimented with pop-ups and will be doing more in the future in both Toronto and other cities. We’ve had a lot of requests from buyers to be in retail, and have held off to focus on our direct to consumer model. However, this year we’re ready to take that leap. The key is to find the right partner. Shirin is really the mastermind behind this so I can’t say much more, but, keep your eyes peeled.
What is your go-to outfit for summer?
Loving neutrals, so I’d have to say a beige wrap skirt, white tee, Balenciaga Triple S sneakers and a fanny pack worn cross body.
You have almost 650,000 subscribers on YouTube – why did you decide to start sharing your life on that platform?
I started at the end of my grade twelve year. I was going through a really rough time in my family life and felt a little lost with being a human. I was super creative and my creative outlet had always been writing. Yet, for some reason, during this time I was finding it difficult to write. I had been an early watcher of beauty videos on YouTube and felt that it was something that I could do. In the early days, I used YouTube as a creative outlet for my beauty and fashion ideas. But, it was also an outlet for my other creative instincts – learning to shoot and edit videos was therapeutic for me. I got into a zone and just created something. I really liked that. I kept my channel quiet for a very long time though.
How would you describe the YouTube community? Is it supportive?
My Youtube community is a pretty unique community. I feel like it’s a group of people that love fashion and beauty, but are also really there to better themselves and learn. They’re willing to reflect and grow as humans and I really like that. I find them extremely supportive especially given how negative the YouTube community as a whole can be.
What’s the hardest part?
Balance in general. Work vs. Life. Engagement vs. Criticism. Fitting in Vs. Standing Out. It’s definitely extremely straining mentally. You have to have the right tools in order to deal with people constantly judging you and tearing you down. That’s why its super important to me to take really good care of my mental health and why meditation, exercise and being kind to myself are important parts of my daily routine.
There are so many influencers now on social media, do you ever get stressed about standing out or feel the pressure to keep releasing unique content?
I definitely feel the stress of an oversaturated market. I first started this journey when being on the internet was not so cool and now it seems that everyone and their mother (literally) has a blog or a YouTube channel. I think people see this job as easy and that’s just not the case. Luckily for me, I absolutely love making content and really enjoy the challenge of constantly evolving and releasing new and unique content.
Lastly, can you tell us some of your favourite spots in Toronto?
I’m obsessed with tacos and go to Grand Electric more than I would like to admit. For drinks, Cocktail Bar is a great spot. For a nice dinner, [my boyfriend] Joey and I love going to Skippa–best sushi in Toronto for sure. And I can’t forget where I grew up: The Beaches. When you go there, it just feels like you’re not in Toronto anymore and you’re in some small town. I love it.