It’s not the place, it’s the people. It’s not the island, it’s the life.

It’s not the place, it’s the people. It’s not the island, it’s the life.

When I first dreamed of turning crab drawings into cute colourful hats, I was just a boy at the ripe age of twenty-three, with a few whiskers on his chin, and a new career teaching in West Vancouver. Although I grew up on the North Shore, I had just spent the past six years, living, learning, and playing on Vancouver Island. The Island Life is not a concept I conjured up in a board room with some corporate yahoos, but rather a lifestyle, unbeknownst to me, that I had become accustomed to while living in Victoria, B.C. I had no idea that in May of 2023, I’d embark on the most daring, and challenging adventure of my life. I had no idea what I had just begun. 

Island Life Apparel Inc. is the materialization of all of my lived experiences with friends and family, not only on Vancouver Island but also on the islands surrounding it. It is a testament to the immense beauty of the Pacific Northwest and a reflection of my love for the places I’ve explored and the people I have explored them with. In just three months, I have seen the visions that lay dormant in my mind for years take form, and nothing could have prepared me for the rich learning and long days that this entailed. Since I left the big island in 2019 to begin my teaching practicum, a part of me has always yearned to return to Vancouver Island and bring my work with me. As each school year passed, I became more attached to the community and surroundings I grew up in, and I realized that it wasn’t just the places I missed, it was the people. Just as I have attachments to Salt Spring Island, Hornby Island, and countless breathtaking gems on Vancouver Island like Sombrio Beach and Tofino, I realized that what made these places special was the people I spend my time with and the people who have lived there for time eternal. Were I to leave my pupils in West Vancouver, and my friends and family in the lower mainland, I would feel a similar magnetism to the mainland because connection and community are pivotal to my happiness and integral to the root-structure of my very being. It’s not the place, it's the people. 

Thus, as a product of such a conundrum, I decided to create something that would reconnect me to these places I longed for and allow me to continue teaching, learning, and playing where my lungs first drew fresh air, North Vancouver. Little did I know that starting a new company takes an immense amount of time and energy, and in my case, learning. I do subscribe to the notion that any endeavour I undergo shall receive the time and attention it deserves. This of course has been a challenge as at the time of Island Life Apparel Inc.’s conception, I was also teaching and coaching full time. It took some time to get used to waking up before sunrise and falling asleep with my to-do list in hand, but beyond all doubt the rewards have been worth the effort. 

The rich learning that has occurred in the past three months has been immeasurable. Although I have always loved to draw and make handmade cards for my loved ones, I have never created art in such a capacity before. I have considered myself to be technically literate, but creating websites, managing inventory, designing apparel, and navigating the catacombs of social media have been a learning experience, to say the least. Let’s just say I haven’t gone viral on Tiktok yet, but it’s on my list! The feeling that there is always more that can be done is tantalizing, and many of my early mornings are a product of an active mind, that seems more ready than the body to begin checking boxes and taking steps to ensure I deliver to my community what I have set out to deliver. 

By far, the best part about starting Island Life Apparel Inc. is the community. Connecting with friends and recollecting about past adventures and experiences is ultimately what drives me forward. I have been overwhelmed by the immense support of new friends and old friends alike. The engagement and feedback I receive daily keep my cup full, and my to-do list long. I want my art to be a reflection of not only my experiences and passion but of everybody in the island life community. I want people to feel as if the stitches and buckles they wear carry with them a little piece of themselves and a little piece of their own island life. 

The simplest and perhaps the most intuitive epiphany I have had of late is that Island Life Apparel Inc. is not just a celebration and reflection of the island, it’s a celebration and reflection of ‘the life’. I feel that everybody has their own idea of what ‘island life’ entails, and it’s very likely that there are commonalities and differences amongst the lot. People’s values and opinions differ and evolve, and to me, that is beautiful. There is no singular definition for what ‘island life’ looks like, and just like I have forged my own connections with the land and the people in the Pacific Northwest, so too can you. It’s not just about the island, it’s about ‘the life’. At Island Life Apparel Inc. regardless of how you choose to define it, I want everyone to have a piece of the good life, the simple life, the island life. 

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