Jalisa Luces-Mendes, owner of Toni Marlow in Toronto
The ups and downs felt during the pandemic are real, with some days being better than others. But owner of gender-inclusive undergarment line Jalisa Luces-Mendes has been proud to witness people coming together to support one another. Luces-Mendes encourages us to focus on being gentle with ourselves and to raise a hand if our business needs help.
“I hope we all remember how most people came together in this experience and were able to see each other’s perspectives. I think it’s the most unity on a mass and local scale that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, and hope we continue it moving forward.” – Jalisa Luces-Mendes, owner of Toni Marlow.
For Jalisa Luces-Mendes, their undergarment clothing line is more than a business. It’s their vessel to push the world closer to inclusivity. Luces-Mendes started Toni Marlow because they sought undergarments that had full coverage, comfort and functionality. Luces-Mendes says, “I always wore men's boxer briefs, but I am assigned female at birth, so I needed something that would accommodate my hips, bum, thighs as well as my period. I also felt that there wasn't a lot of representation and diversity in the fashion scene. So we looked to address that and shake that up a bit.”
Seeking to help people feel comfortable in their own skin, Luces-Mendes made a website for their clothing line that also offered several ways to support the LGBTQI2S community. They partnered with EGALE Youth OUTreach to donate $1 from every product sold, and created an online space where people have open dialogues on the issues affecting them and their communities.
This strong online presence paid off when the pandemic struck, and shopping moved online. Toni Marlow was already set up with a fully functioning ecommerce site. Customers were comfortable using it, and it had also been a social hub. Luces-Mendes feels grateful for their loyal customers, appreciating how so many are coming together and looking out for one another. “I actually really like this pace and how people are being more understanding, compassionate and patient. I hope those things continue when the world and the economy really reopens.”
The challenges of running a business during the pandemic have been overwhelming, but Luces-Mendes’ has countered with self-compassion. Luces-Mendes encourages others to do the same. “Yes, we are in this together, but that does not mean everybody has the same experience, and I just want to acknowledge that. But we’re all going to find ways to get through this. Seek out your local resources from government and local community organizations. I am always praying for the best for everyone.”
Toni Marlow has donated portions of their sales to Non-Profit Organization EGALE, which helps improve the lives for LGBTQI2S people and issues through research, education, awareness, and advocating for human rights and equality. In honour of pride month, TELUS will be donating $2,500. Join us and show your support by making a donation today.
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