The former gymnast got the idea to make soft, flexible bodysuits out of recycled water bottles
Some entrepreneurs create ideas; some ideas create entrepreneurs. In Caroline Bertrand’s case, it’s too early to tell, but her first endeavour seems to fall firmly in the latter category. Even at a young age, as a gymnast growing up in New Brunswick, Bertrand thought the bodysuits she’d constantly have to wear could use some remodelling.
She also always wanted to start her own business. But she bided her time, collecting a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Queen’s University before coming to Vancouver to ply her trade for brands like Lululemon and Shopify, where she still works full-time.
But after considering it for some time and working on about eight prototypes, Bertrand finally decided to launch Borderline Bodysuits in late 2018. The product’s soft material, made from recycled water bottles, and its flexibility (read: it’s not impossible to go to the washroom) led to a successful Kickstarter campaign (it nearly doubled its $3,900 goal) and some $15,000 in sales in 2019.
And while some of Bertrand’s plans have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 28-year-old has no intention of giving up on her dreams.
Many weekend days start with photo shoots for Bertrand, who’s always trying to accumulate content for Borderline’s website and social media accounts. “I’ll rent a nice camera lens from a camera store; it’s cheaper than buying one,” she says with a chuckle. “And take a friend I know that’s an actress or someone who wants to get into modelling, and go for a fun little two-hour walk and take photos.”
It doesn’t hurt that Bertrand, who lives in Kitsilano, is surrounded by natural beauty. To that end, Vancouver plays a huge role in Borderline’s image, even though she sells the suits worldwide online.
“Running a clothing line is all about how you can tell your story consistently,” explains Bertrand, who credits Toronto-based brands Saltwater Collective and Mary Young as major sources of inspiration. “But you need a shit ton of content to do that.”
Bertrand edits the photos and takes to social media, using the Vancouver-based Instagram scheduler Later to plan out her posts throughout the week so she doesn’t have to think about it.
As a remote merchant success manager at Ottawa-based e-commerce platform Shopify,
she’s in a “very unique position. By being immersed in this entrepreneurial community on an everyday basis, I’m able to see the company's impact and live through it as well.”
During her lunch breaks, Bertrand often makes time to visit her manufacturer on Clark Drive or her pattern maker, a block away at the Cutting Room.
Although it costs more to manufacture locally than abroad, and even though she “hates spending money,” Bertrand was adamant that it was the right move for her. “It’s not like creating a garment that’s been done before, so it was about making this invention come to life,” she says. “After many iterations, I finally got it to a good place, and I wanted to do it locally so I could keep my eye on production and not waste money overseas.”
Ben Owens Photography
Before the pandemic, Bertrand would often take a night course at the local community centre to hone her skills. “I’m trying to level up in things like photography because it’s very expensive to pay photographers,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a fashion course or a design drawing course. Trying to do one nightly class a week where I level up a skill set, hoping to make myself more useful.” Bertrand guesses that research and development of the product made up about a third of her costs, compelling her to spend wisely elsewhere.
These days, Bertrand finishes things off by fulfilling orders with her label printer and shelved inventory and sending them to customers on her nightly COVID walk. Though she’s pulled almost all of her marketing for Borderline during the pandemic–“I just didn’t think it was appropriate for me to keep pushing that message”–online orders are higher than this time last year.
“It’s really cool to see how people still have the appetite to support local and sustainable goods,” Bertrand says. “And people are still shopping within their means. The universe won’t let this shut off.”