POLITICS

Young entrepreneur's East Coast clothing line spawned from classroom project

11/23/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
HALIFAX - It all started with 30 hoodies and 30 friends.

Alex MacLean, a 22-year-old business student at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., decided to start a clothing line for an entrepreneurship class last March.

MacLean produced his first batch of hoodies — the phrase "East Coast Lifestyle" prominently displayed — and enlisted his buddies to don the clothing around campus and at the ski hill.

Seven months later, East Coast Lifestyle has exploded into a full-scale clothing and accessories company, with nearly 100,000 products sold worldwide.

"I wanted to make a clothing line that really represented the East Coast, because there was nothing really established yet," said MacLean in an interview. "Every day it's getting bigger and better."

East Coast Lifestyle now sells everything from stickers to tank tops and sweatpants, with items ranging in price from $3 to $54.

The company's logo, drawn by MacLean, features an anchor loosely ravelled in thick rope. It's more than a representation of the brand, it's an identity — something that proudly tells others where you're from, he said.

"I really just think that people ... are trying to rep the lifestyle they live," said MacLean, whose clothes are sold online and in about 30 stores across the four Atlantic provinces.

East Coast Lifestyle started making waves after local NHL superstar Sidney Crosby posed for a picture this past summer while wearing one of MacLean's signature T-shirts.

When the photo went viral, the young entrepreneur decided to reach out to other local celebrities, including Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon, singer Matt Mays and rapper Classified.

"After those big name celebrities started wearing the clothing, more and more people started to really respect the brand," said MacLean, adding that the company likely wouldn't have been as successful without the star-powered support.

A visit to the company's Facebook page reveals just how far East Coast Lifestyle's apparel has travelled in just a few short months. It's become a custom-of-sorts to post pictures of the brand throughout the world, adding to the budding company's success, MacLean said.

"It's been to Tokyo, Australia, Germany, Africa, Iceland, Greenland, all over the world. People from the East Coast are travelling around and bringing the brand with them," said MacLean.

"I think it's really showing that Maritimers are all over the world."

Michael Sheppard, who teaches the course at Acadia University that fostered MacLean's business venture, said he didn't anticipate East Coast Lifestyle would evolve as quickly as it did.

"He's been a shining light of that course so far," said Sheppard. "For a business to get sales before the end of the term, which he did, was amazing.

"It was just incredible to watch this business grow over the summer after the course ended. We couldn't have predicted that."

Sheppard said in the beginning, MacLean donated all of his profits to charity and continues to support community groups in the Halifax and Wolfville areas. He said that has contributed to the company's success.

"His approach was to make East Coast Lifestyle a social venture," said Sheppard, adding that celebrities likely latched on because they identified with the brand and the causes it supports.

While he's only been in business for seven months, MacLean already has several employees and a few assistants to help with the business as he finishes his forth and final year of university.

He said his next move will be expanding into the U.S. and hopes to eventually have the brand in stores along the entire East Coast.