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This week marks 4 years for local label ARMED Jewelry - a true success story of a self-taught designer and maker, Desiree Girlato, who used a savvy combination of talent, smarts and instinct to build the stellar brand and the little shop by Trinity Bellwoods we all know and love. 

Taking it from her kitchen table to a boutique was huge leap for Desiree. “Since opening the store in 2011 I have seen stores come and go similar to mine. Retail is rather tricky, balancing both your cost and the need to bring both new and interesting product in regularly. I don't think anything has necessarily changed, but what I have learned is that without a strong brand other factors are almost irrelevant in the chase for retail glory” she says.

"Without a strong brand other factors are almost irrelevant in the chase for retail glory."

The secret to her success with ARMED? “Branding, branding, branding...I have been pushing for strong brand loyalty since I started and it's still my mission on a regular basis. Sometimes you see your "competitors" using tactics or strategies that really work, but it's important to remember to not stray from who you are and what you stand for as a brand. People who follow you will appreciate that and at the end of the day what makes you stand out is your difference from other local retailers and designers. But with that being said branding is not the only ingredient to success, I think what I stand by is my customer service (and not your average corporate response), but rather a personal vibe that each customer feels when they come to the store.”

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This loyalty to her customers is what Desiree finds most rewarding about being a designer and a small business owner. “It's pretty exciting hearing the response from your customer first hand or seeing different ways your collection is translated in editorials by stylists. That to me makes each collection exciting to design, create and launch.” Paired with her extraordinary business sense, Desiree's design work is down right AMAZING, so we expect to see many more years of great success for this Toronto brand. 

Meet Desiree this weekend (September26+27) at INLAND to shop her collection ARMED at 99 Sudbury St., Toronto | Sat. 12-9, Sun 12-6. #madeinlad 

Written by: Deborah Lopez-Delgado, Ryerson University Fashion Communications student.