THIS IS ABBY. SHE’S A TORONTO-BASED CREATIVE AND CO-FOUNDER OF MAKEWAY, CANADA’S ONLY BRICK-AND-MORTAR WOMEN’S SNEAKER BOUTIQUE. ABBY SHARES HER PASSION FOR SNEAKERS, THE WOES OF STARTING A BUSINESS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A PERSON-OF-COLOUR IN WHITE SPACES.
ABBY, WE’RE SUPER EXCITED TO HAVE YOU AS OUR MAY MUSE! LET’S DO AN ICEBREAKER FOR OUR COMMUNITY. WHAT ARE THREE THINGS YOU THINK WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Number one is I'm a big suck. I feel like some people don't realize that, [but] I'm very sensitive. I feel all the emotions all the time, even though I might not show it. Number two [is]I love good energy, no matter what I'm doing. If I’m working at the shop, or on set at a photoshoot with my nine to five, or honestly going to get groceries— I want to have a good ass time. I try to find joy in almost everything. Number three is I'm an overly grateful person. I look for reasons to be grateful. The pandemic has been really difficult from a mental health perspective. It's been difficult because I'm so used to being around a million people and being around all my friends. But on top of that, there’s been all the social injustice and distrust with [the] government. There's so much more to the pandemic than meets the eye. Despite all of that, I'm still so thankful for what the pandemic has allowed me to accomplish in my own career.
THIS PAST YEAR HAS BEEN TOUGH ON ALL OF US IN DIFFERENT WAYS. BUT TOUGH TIMES CAN HELP US GROW — WHAT’S BEEN ONE OF THE TOUGHEST ADJUSTMENTS YOU HAD TO MAKE? HOW DID YOU FIND GROWTH THROUGH IT?
I actually moved back home [during] the pandemic. I'm a very independent person [but] I wanted to be financially cautious, because who knew what was going to happen. [During] the first round of the pandemic, I felt bad for my parents, [because] it's just the two of them, and they're like me— they love going out, they love having a good time, they love seeing their friends, and they weren't able to. [So I decided] to move home, even though I knew I was going to feel like a child again. Moving home was a really difficult decision for me because it meant that I was losing this independence that I’d built for myself for the last few years, you know, moving to Toronto and building my career. But in the end, it's been so beautiful to be home and see my parents every day. We were never very close, but this has definitely given me a different respect for them, and [I look] at them in a different light.
IN LATE 2020, YOU LAUNCHED MAKEWAY WITH YOUR CO-FOUNDER, SHELBY WEAVER. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE MAKEWAY?
Makeway exists to level the playing field in the sneaker culture between men and women. It is a place for women to discover a community of people who love sneakers. If you don't love sneakers, it's a place for a woman to discover sneakers. Sneaker culture has [always] been gatekept or intimidating for women. I've loved sneakers forever, and I've worked with sneakers for a long time, and even still, I have this imposter syndrome of Should I even be in that conversation? Or, What do I know about sneakers? Yet, I still have a wall of sneakers in my basement. It's interesting because it wasn’t a welcoming place for females for such a long time. Makeway is that solution to the pains of being a female in sneaker culture.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE OPENING THE SHOP?
I remember I was very apprehensive. Shelby was ready to go, and she’s had a business before so I definitely leaned on her for expertise. I knew I wanted to do it. To be honest, we would’ve loved to [have opened] earlier, but it worked out. We got the unit at Stackt Market [that] we've always wanted, and if we had done it earlier or later, it wouldn't have been available. Even though it sucks that we only opened for two days and then got shut down because of the lockdown, it was actually ok. It allowed us to focus on our online business and figure that out, instead of having to do it in real life and online at the same time. I was pleasantly grateful about [what] the November lockdown brought us because it really gave us a moment to stop, look around and be like, What is our actual strategy for online? We had a strategy, but [the lockdown] allowed us to execute the strategy and then course correct. Now, when we open up in real life, we can just open up since we always knew how to [run the store] in real life.
It also helped from a media perspective and a promotional perspective [because] when the second lockdown happened, people wanted to support us even more. It gave us that extra boost of, There's a sick [sneaker] store. They're amazing, and now they're shut down. People felt for us, and it was so beautiful to see—my heart was so full. People were so good to us and [before we closed] people who read our story in the Toronto Star, were like, I read this, I got in my car right away, and I wanted to buy shoes. I was [so grateful]. People felt the need to rally with another small business, especially a female-owned business.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO SNEAKERS?
Growing up, I was a big basketball person. To me, wearing the best sneaker on the court was big. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to wear the Penny Hardaway or the Grant Hill [sneakers], and they both have their own signature shoe [from Nike] and I wanted those so bad. Like, I needed them. And I wanted to play like them. That was the start of where my love and my interest in sneakers laid. When I think about it, how cool would it have been if I was that young and got to wear a Lisa Leslie shoe? Or, instead of a male shoe, I would have a shoe that was designed and for women. I look back at all these opportunities that there could have been for female basketball players. Sheryl Swoopes did have a shoe [in the mid-nineties], but it was impossible to get because back then basketball wasn't that big [in Canada].
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE PAIR OF KICKS?
I’m a big Frank Ocean fan. I think about Frank Ocean quite literally every day. The shoe has nothing to do with Frank Ocean except he wore it in a photo once and I was like, I need those. They're the [Nike] Cactus Plant Flea Market Vapormax. Before they were even released into the world there was a photo of him on a bike wearing the shoes. Then I was like, I'm never going to get them because they're not coming to Canada in my size and I know the odds. If there's a shoe I want and it's very popular, there's little or no chance I'm going to get it for retail. Anyway, I live my life. [In 2019,] I was the account manager for Nike Sportswear and I had just finished a project in Chicago. I was on the agency side, so my client at Nike was a lovely human being, and I guess he found a pair for me and sent them, not knowing how much I wanted them. Not only was it a gift of thanks for doing this amazing thing in Chicago, but it was also this moment where I'm like, Oh my god, I feel so much closer to Frank Ocean.
YOU’RE ONE OF THE FEW WOMEN I’VE SEEN IN THE CANADIAN SNEAKER SPACE. HOW DO YOU WANT TO USE YOUR VOICE?
[By] celebrating women and women-of-colour. It's being able to find these women because it's easy to find influencers who love sneakers, but I'm so thankful to have met some incredible women who have already been pushing this narrative [of women in sneaker culture]. There's an intimidation factor when it comes to the woman who loves sneakers and have smaller followings. I want to find those women and I want to be able to share their stories. For example, [Makeway] worked with Complex Canada for International Women's Day, and we found five female sneaker lovers that you need to know in Canada, that are technically influencers, but they love sneakers and have really cool stories. It's shining a light on some of the women that are really into [sneakers] and have cool stories and are doing amazing things for the culture.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO EMPOWER THE FUTURE GENERATION OF FILIPINO-CANADIANS?
I always wanted to work in sports. I wanted to play in the WNBA, but that wasn't going to happen. The next best thing was to work for the NBA or the WNBA. That was my childhood dream. [In high school] I did one of those career quizzes, and one of the answers I got was sports management. I looked into it, and I was like, This sounds sick. We were supposed to do a presentation, where you find people in that career on the internet, and did research on them and presented it. I remember looking at the long list of men, and they were all white. From a representation standpoint, I couldn't see myself working in sports because I wasn't a white male. From that, I stopped wanting to work in sports— it was an immediate turn-off. Then, I shifted my focus and went into business. Many years later, through a series of moments that I call destiny, I ended up being the lead public relations person for the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC for MLSE. That's where I started my career, and I was there for about seven years—[it] was an incredible experience.
That was a moment where I was like, I don't want any other people to feel [discouraged]. While I was there, I noticed that there was a handful of Filipinos who worked for MLSE. We made it against all odds, against our parents not having any connections. We made it to some of the most coveted roles in Canada to work for MLSE. That's when I was like, I want to start some sort of mentorship for Filipino-Canadian youth who want to work in sports. That [idea] actually ended up becoming this larger thing where we found other Filipino-Canadians who are about the same age group who wanted to do a similar mentorship but in different fields. Once we all realized we had the same objective, we were like, Let's just do this together, and created Rise Tribe, a nonprofit that's focused on powering the next generation of Filipino youth. This is our fifth year and we've had some incredible moments where we've got to see some really cool successes within our community, whether it's through internships or actual jobs. It's been really cool to see the community grow and to see Filipino-Canadian youth actually go in pursuing their passions.
IS RISE TRIBE ONE OF YOUR SIDE HUSTLES?
Yeah, it's one of them. The easy LinkedIn version [of myself] is co-owner of Makeway, co-founder of Rise Tribe and Head of Development for Mad Rocket Entertainment, which is an agency.
FEELING BURNT OUT IS SUCH A COMMON FEELING, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU NEED TIME TO REST OR RESET? WHAT DOES SELF-CARE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I'm still trying to figure that out—I'm not great at not working. When I'm working on [a project] it doesn't feel like work and it brings me so much joy. [I recognize] that burnout culture is not good for you—I don't want people to feel like they're [constantly] grinding and they're hustling. It's just that I truly enjoy working. I enjoy these things. For me, I'm not looking for self-care because I'm doing stuff I want to do. I do love watching TV [though]. I’m a big [fan of] Avengers and Star Wars, so I'll literally go sit and watch reruns of the Avengers movies or Star Wars movies.
AT THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FUTURE?
My greatest accomplishment is not a physical moment. It’s truly being who I have always been, and being successful at it. [In the future,] the goal is for Makeway to have a signature collab shoe with a sneaker brand. I’m manifesting that every day. But larger than that, the goal is for Makeway to make women feel like they're a part of sneaker culture, and ensure that they have a voice.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL THE MOST EMPOWERED?
When I'm able to work and help someone find [themselves]. When I'm working with youth, or when I'm working with other women who want to open their own business, or when someone asks me for advice, I feel the most empowered when somebody is like, Oh, my God, I never thought about it that way. Or, Oh my gosh, I'm so excited. They have this moment where something I said, or something we've worked on gives them that feeling of, I got it. That makes me feel like I got it.
WHICH PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES DO YOU LOVE THE MOST?
I actually quite like my goofy smile. When I'm so in the moment, and I have the biggest smile—that makes me happy. I can tell when I'm smiling and when I'm [really] smiling, so I like that about myself—when there's that moment of pure happiness and you're having a good time.
WHICH PERSONALITY TRAITS DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF?
My ability to be grateful all the time. Being able to step away and look at a situation and find the beauty [and] the greatness in a moment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity from audio to text.