A former competitive swimmer and lifeguard, Dior wanted to create swimsuits that wouldn’t slip off on a slide
Selene Dior, 23
Founder + CEO, Vitae Apparel
Life Story: Selene Dior was born in China, but she moved with her mother to Richmond when she was 10 months old. The pair stayed in Canada for five years, with Dior’s mom working two or three jobs and getting the landlord to check in on her at night. When she was six, her family decided to head back to China, only to return when Dior was in Grade 10 because her mother wanted her to attend university here.
Dior had other plans. She had swam competitively in China, and although her family didn’t have the funds to keep her in the sport, she became a lifeguard and quickly identified an issue. “I would see so many women in the summer come off the slides and diving board, and their bikini top would fall off,” she remembers. “It was embarrassing for them, and it happened all the time.”
She began designing swimwear and looking into manufacturing—something helped by her time in China and fluency in Mandarin and Cantonese. She launched Vitae Apparel—named for the Latin word for life—in December 2016 while she was studying for her first-year finals. Dior dropped out of school (“my mom was pissed,” she laughs) to focus all of her efforts on the company, pivoting it to athletic wear in 2018.
Bottom Line: “Community has been the biggest factor of our success,” says Dior, noting that Richmond-based e-tailer Vitae now has 15 employees and blew past $1 million in revenue in 2020. “They love our brand, what we stand for, what we do, the fact that we’re transparent. We have a 40-percent customer return rate—that’s pretty high for a clothing brand.”