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Boutique men’s store launches on Reid Street

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All smiles: Kaitlyn Simmons, left, and Lianna Masters, co-owners of Banter & Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A boutique for the well-dressed man, or anyone wishing to become one, has opened in Hamilton.

Banter & Steel is a men’s apparel and lifestyle store co-owned by sisters Lianna Masters and Kaitlyn Simmons.

Sourcing brands from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, they have carefully curated a selection of contemporary clothing, workwear, accessories, gifts, home and grooming products for men.

Ms Simmons studied fashion business at Toronto’s Seneca College, graduating from the two-year programme in 2009 and later working as a buyer for Gibbons Company, while Ms Masters’s background is in business administration. They have long had ambitions to open a store.

Together, they have created a hip, minimalist and welcoming space, and aim to complement it with an accent on customer service. “We definitely wanted to create a shop that feels comfortable — there is a couch — and nice and homey, but where you are not overwhelmed by quantity of product,” Ms Masters said. “We wanted our customers to be able to see everything, and ask questions.”

Ms Simmons said: “We didn’t want it to feel like a department store. We wanted a boutique feel so that our customers don’t feel like they’re in any other store. Guys don’t like to look through racks. We make it easy for a guy who knows what he wants to come in, not spend too much time, and browse or shop.”

The co-owners have been on buying trips to brand showcases in New York, and will be travelling to Las Vegas in August to view the spring/summer 2020 collections. They also do extensive research online.

Brands include Montreal’s Bosco Uomo suits and Lief Horsens shirts, Rustic Dime chinos and T-shirts from Los Angeles, Far Afield shirts, T-shirts, shorts and swim trunks from the UK, Fulton and Roark grooming products from the US, bags by American manufacturer Hook & Albert, and bags, wallets and phone cases by Australian maker Bellroy.

“We are trying to bring new and quality brands to the island, some that people maybe have not heard of, even overseas,” Ms Masters said. “The goal is to bring something new to the customer, to give them more choices in brands and styles. There are always new brands popping up. Our focus is on small-volume, high-quality products that we like.”

Customer service is an important part of the business, the owners say.

Ms Simmons said: “We offer our customers advice and support. We want them to feel they can ask questions, or that we can pull an outfit together for them. We don’t want them to feel like they are left to themselves to figure it out.”

Ms Simmons said the store’s name is a play on the fashions it carries.

“Banter is the casual, playful denims and T-shirts while Steel is the suits and accessories, the more serious side,” she said.

The shop opened in the third week of April. So far, Ms Masters said, the response from customers has been positive. “People seem to really like it,” she said. “They notice the difference as soon as they walk in, they like the look and feel of the shop.”

Ms Simmons added: “Three months in, we’re doing really well. We continue to get the word out, and we are looking forward to it growing and becoming something really big.”

Banter & Steel shares the space formerly occupied by Electronic City with Luxury Cuts, a barber shop operated by Kenton Trott, who is a friend of Ms Masters and Ms Simmons. The two stores are separate, but an interior doorway allows customers to slip from one to the other.

The shop will have its official launch this evening from 5pm to 7pm with an “after-work, happy hour shopping event”, Ms Masters said. There will be giveaways, and a tailor will be on site to offer free tailoring for any suit purchased.

Banter & Steel is located at 51 Reid Street, directly across the street from Music Box

Suits you sir: Kaitlyn Simmons, foreground, and Lianna Masters (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Co-owning sisters: Kaitlyn Simmons, left, and Lianna Masters (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Friendly banter: Co-owners Kaitlyn Simmons, left, and Lianna Masters (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Banter and Steel (Photograph by Akil Simmons)