As a little girl, Chantal Lévesque wanted a bicycle. So, she fashioned some dolls, peddled them door-to-door, and sold enough of them to buy her bike. It’s a simple story that speaks volumes about this woman’s great strengths: remarkable creativity paired with a solid entrepreneurial spirit.
This creativity developed while helping her mother, a bridal seamstress. I know what you’re thinking: So that’s how she decided to become a fashion designer! Quite the contrary, in fact. Watching her mother working tireless hours had the exact opposite effect on Chantal, who decided to pursue accounting instead. However, while working for Desjardins, Chantal bought three sewing machines off of a Columbian swimwear designer. Shortly after that, she launched a collection of 12 swimsuits that solved most of the common problems women face with this garment. The results were conclusive, and, before long, Chantal – with the help of her mother – was making made-to-measure bathing suits for all her co-workers (while continuing to work at the bank)! It was not until October, 1985, when she became pregnant with her first son, that she decided to start her own business.
This preface highlights the fact that Shan truly started from nothing, which makes the company’s current success all the more exceptional.
Today, Shan has 600 points of sale in 30 countries, including such prestigious locations as Harrods in London, Le Printemps in Paris, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, and Tsum in Moscow. The Quebec-based company also manages six boutiques in North America, and has a number of franchises. Most recently, Shan opened an outlet boutique in the beautiful Jardin de Ville store in Mirabel. An ideal partnership, if ever there was one!
Ask Chantal the reason for her business success and she answers without hesitation: the quality of the product and total control over the production process, which still takes place entirely in the company’s Laval factory. More than 150 employees (some of which have been there since the very beginning) work in the hightech facility.
Chantal’s savoir-faire has earned her a number of accolades, including: Créateur international maillots ou lingerie de l’année, presented in Paris in 2011, the Exportation et développement des marchés internationaux award at the 2012 Quebec Chamber of Commerce Mercuriades, and the 2013 award for an entrepreneur active in international markets, presented by the Quebec Business Women’s Network. Such recognition further emphasizes the power of the company’s 100% vertical integration, which gives the brand enormous flexibility, and keeps it well ahead of the industry. Shan is rapidly adapting to the changing nature of customer needs.
Summer 2015 will be a busy season for Shan, as Chantal launches Balnea, a simpler line of swimsuits. These new basics will be perfect for women who may not want to sport a more detailed suit at the pool or spa. A new vision is also in store for the brand’s menswear division, created by Chantal’s son, Shan, who is in charge of its development.
And that brings us to the celebrations in October, 2015. Chantal may not be able to divulge what she has in mind for her company’s 30th anniversary just yet, but one thing is certain: the possibilities for Shan are endless.