26 with dyed pink hair, Gaby defies old-age CEO stereotypes in more ways than one. What started as an Etsy shop with a goal to sell bridal gowns beyond her home-town of Vancouver, Gaby now runs two—soon to be four—bridal lines, one—soon to be two—stores, and a modelling agency. Not bad for someone rejected from business school.
“I grew up with a single Asian mother, so, like with a lot of first-generation kids, you have to help your parents in their work or with their family business. So I grew up sewing, and helping her with wedding dresses in particular, because she was doing bridal alterations for boutiques at the time. Because she was a single mom, I didn’t have other people to look after to me, so I was basically raised in the bridal scene.”
“After high school, I was planning to go to business school and I didn’t get in, and at the time my mom had started a custom dress shop. I ended up having a bunch of free time, so I started to help her run the business. At first, it was more admin, and then I eventually started designing and sewing, and I custom-made wedding dresses for about three years. By the time I was twenty, I felt like I had reached my peak with what I could do in the custom world, so I was like how can I make this business more scalable? And that’s when the idea of Truvelle started.”
Starting in 2013 with Truvelle, Gaby launched her second line, Laudae, in 2016, and has two more on the way.
“The main part of the business is manufacturing. So I do all the manufacturing in Vancouver, but we also have a flagship store in Vancouver and soon in Calgary—the business is about 30 people in total. We work pretty far in advance, starting with ordering our fabrics, which happens about a year and half before a collection launches. I still do all of the design, all the patterns, company strategy, photo shoots… but mainly manage the business and its operations.”
So where does the modelling agency fit in?
“I started Stranger Agency earlier this year because, for my own brands, I wanted to shoot with diversity but that was harder to find at the time through the Vancouver agencies. So I started doing a lot of Instagram casting, and through that, I had a pretty good roster of people that weren’t repped, but I had worked with and knew were good. While that was happening, there was so much talk about how we needed more diversity in the modelling industry—even I was complaining about it—and it got to the point where I decided I needed to do something about it if I was going to complain. So I reached out to a bunch of people in my network and started casting.”
Surrounded by lace, Gaby’s own style has fewer bells and whistles.
“I’m not very girly, and I think because I design wedding dresses I try not to be a super girly-girl—almost as a point. I don’t really wear dresses and I dress a lot more unisex at times.”