Retail, as we know it, is dead. Some might call this an arguable truth, but for Marlon Durrant, Founder of Md, a Toronto-based men’s custom shirting company, it is the premise upon which he has built his business. As store fronts seem to be falling like dominos and e-commerce continues its ascension as the modern way to shop, Marlon rests on the laurels of Md’s genesis— creating a private lifestyle experience for each of his clients. Operating out of a paradoxically modern yet rustic studio at 137 Avenue Rd, Md is a bespoke company, designing and creating shirts, and other custom, items for Toronto’s elite man and his network. Md clients are able to trade in their dreaded department store and mall shopping experiences for something much more personalized. They meet with an Md consultant and collaboratively come up with the best way to use personal style to enhance the various areas of their lives.
Although the company saw its official launch in 2000, Md’s story started years prior in Kingston, Jamaica, Marlon’s birthplace, where he spent the first six years of his life. Marlon reminisces about his childhood and the fashion influence his parents, Marva Farquharson and Milton Durrant, had on him as a young boy. “They use to buy fabric, then take it to a tailor to get it custom made. I enjoyed the process.”
Marva always encouraged Marlon’s creativity and was the driving force behind the family’s move to Canada. After arriving in Toronto, Marlon continued his family tradition of visiting the tailor for custom clothes for special events, something that inspired his first attempts at entrepreneurship in fashion. As a teen in high school, he and some friends started a small-scale T-shirt business, selling to crowds at parades in Toronto. Upon his graduation, he started moving full throttle towards a future in men’s fashion, launching Md out of a briefcase. He made calls to friends who worked in business, offering to customize shirts for them. One client’s satisfaction lead to the business of another, growing his clientele through hear-say alone. To this day, Md has yet to spend a penny on a marketing, relying on their relationship-building strategy towards growth. Despite Marlon’s big aspirations for Md’s future, he is committed to ensuring that his personal approach to client services is not shaken.
While Marlon was sowing the seeds of Md, he was also building something else— his family. Marlon met his wife, Claudine, at the age of 15. Since the first days of Md, Claudine has lent her unwavering support to her husband to help him grow his vision, making her own creative contributions along the way. Now, their three children, Quinn, 26, Tess, 23, and Mac, 18, are finding their way into the family business. Quinn, a Derivatives Trader on Bay Street, has helped his father to improve efficiencies within Md. Tess is Md’s newest and only other official employee and Mac, who is soon to graduate high school, is already showing signs of his father’s entrepreneurial tendencies. On the subject of mixing work and family, Marlon had this to say, “I always wanted to have my family involved in the company in one aspect or another, but I had to leave it to them. It worked out that Tess was very happy to jump in and be a part of the business.” Marlon’s parents have maintained their presence in Md over the years, with Milton, who is a sign artist, designing and creating the signature branded box packaging that holds the ‘Tailor’s Half Dozen’ (six shirts) and ‘Tailor’s Dozen’ (twelve shirts).
"Diversity is huge. There are so many options with custom"
Most fashion brands operate on a collection basis, designing several related pieces to fit a creative concept. Marlon takes a different approach, keeping his clients at the front of his mind, allowing his fabric and design choices to be navigated by the men in the shirts. He strives to be the eyes and ears of his clients, applying his own intuition to ensure that the final garments he is delivering will suit and celebrate every aspect of his client’s profession, lifestyle and personality. As a bespoke company, Md approaches design one client at a time. This means celebrating individual differences and creating products to serve the client. Marlon sees diversity as an opportunity to achieve a higher standard in product quality and client satisfaction. — “Diversity is huge. There are so many options with custom. From the type of collar, to the type of cuffs, the type of sleeves, the front placket, the back of the shirt.”
As Md turns the corner into a new stage of growth, Marlon faces many milestone decisions on how to scale while sustaining the personalized nature of his brand. Despite the fact that the future trajectory of the company has yet to be mapped out, one thing is certain: Marlon will not compromise providing his clients with the personal and private experience they’re hoping for.
INSIDE SCOOP: TESS DURRANT
Tess, the newest and only other permanent employee at Md has found her groove at the company, helping Marlon to bring his creative visions to reality. She plays an integral role in virtually every aspect of the company, focusing on developing Md’s brand identity while also organizing and assisting at Corporate Measures events— a service Md offers to corporate companies looking to upgrade the personal style of their staff at large. As an observer of her father’s fine-tuned approach to client service, she notices what sets him apart. “There are so many people that come in and tell me, ‘I love your dad.’ He motivates people beyond style and beyond fashion. He listens to his clients, because he genuinely wants to.”