With an initial draw to East Room for aesthetics and a space that visually aligned with their brand, Kotn found more than one reason to stay connected within the East Room community.
As a small startup company at the time, Kotn was first introduced to East Room in need of an event space where they hosted a party that’s still talked about to this day. As Kotn continued to grow, their company needs changed — they were now accommodating corporate business meetings and workshops, where they found community and connection, as well as a workspace all at East Room. We spoke with Mackenzie Yeates, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Kotn who thrives in café-like workspaces, where a balance between concentration and connection to industries are both equally beneficial to growing your brand. Mackenzie expresses, similar to Kotn, where creating lasting impact, connecting with a community, and affirming their ethos in exciting new ways — East Room parallels.
Do you remember the first time you heard of East Room?
⎯⎯⎯ The first time I heard of East Room was from a picture on Instagram. The aesthetic of the space was what drew me in initially. My first interaction with East Room was putting on a Kotn party that we held here 4 or 5 years ago. We were still a really small startup-type business at that point, and we didn’t have a space to host an event. So we rented out East Room’s [main hall] and we had a white tee party. It was an indoor-outdoor, start-of-spring type of event. It was an amazing party and people still talk about it today.
How do you envision your perfect work environment?
⎯⎯⎯ My perfect work environment definitely has to be inspiring in some way and I think being in a space that visually inspires me helps me think about things in a new way. I think being able to move around to different locations is important in a work environment to keep things fresh during the day. The perfect work environment to me is like a café. My husband always makes fun of me because sometimes at home I listen to café sounds when I’m working. I love to be in that environment where I have some sound around me, people around me, but I’m still able to focus on my own work and have a space where I can concentrate and be productive. For me, East Room is the perfect café-like environment.
How important is it to be around other creatives, businesses, and disciplines?
⎯⎯⎯ As an entrepreneur it’s really important for me to be around other creatives, industries, and disciplines, because when you’re starting and growing a business you’re constantly faced with different challenges, and having people that can give you advice, or connect you with different industries, or that can help you along the way, is super beneficial to growing your brand.
What was your previous workspace/office like?
⎯⎯⎯ We actually have a Kotn office but I still utilize East Room as well. The Kotn office is really a creative space where our design team works with samples. We have a photo studio there, and it’s a very busy open space that is active all the time. It’s super inspiring to be there some days of the week, but there also isn’t the opportunity to have quiet focused time. We also don’t have the ability to accommodate big meetings, so we rent out East Room to have leadership meetings, or host workshops with our leadership team.
What made you decide East Room was the right place for you and your team?
⎯⎯⎯ We felt like East Room was the right place for the Kotn team because the aesthetic is really aligned with what we love. Our space is similar but it serves a different function. We love the use of vintage furniture, light, and plants — it really helps us to stay inspired. We also chose East Room because of the location and because it is a Toronto-based business. It didn’t feel right as a Toronto-based business ourselves to go with a big chain co-working space. It really feels like you’re more of a community when you work here.
As a fashion brand, what are some specific requirements for you to create the right workspace?
⎯⎯⎯ As a fashion brand concerned with aesthetics, natural materials and history are very important to us. Being at East Room in a historic building where you have a lot of vintage furniture, natural materials — like wood, and stone — really aligns with our brand. It’s really important that we keep that brand consistency, even within our own team environment.
On a mission to change how things are made. Better for the people, better for the planet. Our products are made with the principles of considered design, relentless quality, honest value, and positive impact.
So much of what makes Kotn unique and special is a commitment to sustainability, community, and long lasting products. Do you find this integrated, conscientious attitude becoming more widespread in the industry?
⎯⎯⎯ Sustainability, an interest in long-lasting products, and a conscientious attitude are definitely becoming more important, especially for our customer group. We also see a big change in the industry when it comes to younger consumers and younger people who are entering the fashion industry. Almost every fashion program now has some sort of sustainability component, so I find it’s a great way to recruit people into our organization, because everyone that works for Kotn is very aligned with our values and is very passionate about sustainability. It’s great to see that becoming more important for consumers and employees alike. When I started my career at Holt Renfrew I was part of the team working on H project, which is their ethical sustainable area. Trying to curate brands for that space back in 2012-2013, there really weren't a lot of fashion brands that were focused on sustainability and ethics, and the ones that were had a very specific aesthetic — picture market bags, pom pom dresses, and things like that — and I always felt like my values shouldn’t dictate my style and my aesthetic. That was part of the inspiration for starting Kotn. We wanted to create great quality, long lasting clothes that were much more basic and versatile. When we launched in 2015 there were a lot fewer sustainability brands, and now that sustainability and fashion are intrinsically linked, there’s definitely a lot of green washing and people jumping on the marketing trend. It’s important to do your homework and understand where your products are coming from in the fashion industry and buy things that are going to last a long time in your wardrobe.
For us, applying for B Corp status was our way to be held accountable for our commitment to our communities and our environment—a code of conduct to abide by at the bare minimum.
Kotn is a certified B Corporation, can you explain more about what this means and how you achieved this distinction?
⎯⎯⎯ Kotn is a certified B Corporation. What that means is that we’re part of a group that is assessed by B Corp. You have to meet a lot of rigorous standards in order to become B Corp certified, so we’re very proud of the certification. In order to get that distinction, you have to go through a very lengthy process and answer many questions about your manufacturing process - how you treat your team, people within your supply chain, etc. We were originally certified in 2017, and we just got recertified because we updated a lot of things within our process. In 2021, when we got our new rating, we were the 4th highest ranked apparel brand in North America within B Corp, just under Patagonia and some of the big companies that inspire us. That’s been a real honour, and for customers B Corp is a great place to go to be sure the companies you are shopping from are doing the things that they say they do.
– East Room is a shared workspace company providing design-forward office solutions, authentic programming and a diverse community to established companies and enterprising freelancers. We explore art, design, music, and entrepreneurship. Visit our news & stories page to read more.