By Katherine Ellis
Photography by Aleyah Solomon
Oliver Bartoszek, a recent graduate of Ryerson University, has slowly filled a niche in Toronto with yoga wear for men. Using organic fibres and local manufacturers, Soh Calm has become a new up-and-coming business in Toronto.
In this issue of FAJO Magazine, Bartoszek shares the story of his company and how it all began.
1. What is Soh Calm?
Soh Calm is a men’s yoga and loungewear company that’s been in the making since late 2009, when we first dreamt of creating the Rolls Royce of sweatpants. All of our products are designed and sewn in Toronto with eco-friendly materials, including bamboo and hemp.
2. What was the inspiration for the name of your company?
The name comes from a running joke/compliment we give our friends that goes a little like, “Wow, you’re soooo calm!” Later on, we added the “h” because we discovered that “Soh” was the name for the 5th note of a scale, and being big admirers of classical music, it just felt right.
3. As co-founder, why did you feel there was a need for a store like Soh Calm?
Our evolution into yoga was the result of many things, but certainly one of them was the idea that there were no companies which help men feel comfortable and confident with what they’re wearing. Lululemon for example may have devoted followers, but the majority of males just cannot identify themselves with the brand. In that sense, we are certainly filling a niche.
My business partner Tyler Schembri, who I met back in our high school Mentor College, is in charge of product development and has been responsible for many of the innovations which define Soh Calm today.
4. If you could describe Soh Calm in three words or less, what would they be?
Comfort. Quality. Class.
5. Is this your first foray in the fashion industry?
Yes it is, but to be honest, I don’t look at it that way. Soh Calm creates a simple and well-designed product. If we get picked up as something that is “fashionable”, like Canada Goose or Lululemon, that’s cool, but it’s never been our goal.
6. As you mentioned, you use hemp and bamboo in your products. Why do you use them and are there are any other products that you use?
I could write a novel on the benefits of bamboo and hemp. Not only do they grow at tremendous rates without any need for pesticides or fertilizers, they are naturally anti-bacterial, odor resistant and moisture wicking. We also use a variation of organic cotton and recycled polyester for strengthening or softening certain blends. The materials can be quite tricky to handle when it comes [to] production, but to this day, it amazes us that more companies do not take advantage of them.
7. Who is your customer?
Our customer is the modern man. He understands the value he’s getting and the impact he makes when purchasing a locally crafted, well-designed product.
8. What is your personal style?
As cheesy as it may sound, I believe in the art of simplicity. When you can eliminate the mundane, it allows you to focus on innovation and creativity… the important stuff. I try to reflect this in everything, from the way I dress to the way I run a business.
9. Do you have any current projects? If so, what are they?
On top of the launch of our new line in June, we have lots of content coming in the form of videos and articles, which will help introduce anyone interested in learning about yoga. I’m actually very excited for the release of this work because I think it will really help bring a fresh perspective on yoga.
10. Where can your clothes be purchased?
They are only available on our website, but you can expect to find us in yoga boutiques across Ontario and British Columbia very soon.