TORONTO - Target aimed its bull's-eye north of the border on Thursday with a pop-up shop featuring its collaborative line with Canadian-raised Jason Wu, whose creations have catapulted the designer to international fashion fame.
With the one-day store opening, the U.S.-based discount retailer offered consumers a taste of what to expect when Target launches in Canada next year. The retailer plans to open 125 to 135 stores beginning in 2013.
The Jason Wu for Target line launched earlier this month in the U.S. and sold out within days. A separate batch of merchandise was previously ordered so as not to draw from the items sold in the U.S.
"I'm really happy to be Target's first collaboration to launch in Canada," Wu said at the downtown Toronto pop-up shop.
"As you know, I have Canadian roots. I learned how to sew in Vancouver when I was 10, so it always feels like home every time I come over."
A line snaked nearly a city block around the makeshift venue as consumers waited for a chance to purchase up to three items from the collection. Target will donate an amount equal to 100 per cent of the sales from Thursday's event to United Way Toronto.
When the doors opened just before noon, the first 25 people in line were ushered inside to a raised platform area for a quick photo with Wu and the retailer's canine mascot, Bullseye, before they headed to the racks.
Earlier, Wu had surprised those waiting in line when he darted out of the shop on King Street West near Blue Jays Way to greet some shoppers.
Among them was Debra Howley, who had been waiting outside since 7:30 a.m. for the opening, and had her eye on a navy trench coat and dress from Wu's collection.
But for Howley, it was the designer who was the biggest draw.
"I've been an admirer for a long time and I was going over his collections again this morning," said Howley, who was waiting in line with her mother-in-law Dorothy. "So I'm so excited that it's going to be so affordable that I'll be able to come away with three beautiful pieces that I'll wear for a long time."
Justin Chan came with a highlighted print-out of images featuring looks from the Wu line he hoped to snap up for his sister — and succeeded.
"It went pretty great. I got in, got my stuff, I'm ready to leave soon," he said. "Whatever was highlighted, I got it."
Chan's brother-in-law, Jason Lee, shopped at Target when he lived in New York and plans to check out the store when it launches in Canada.
"They have a lot of fair prices and you can buy a lot of items. They have clothing, they have groceries, everything — housewares and stuff like that."
Target Canada president Tony Fisher said the temporary shop opening was a chance for the retailer to introduce the brand to Canadians in a "very unique way."
Fisher said there will be other events in the lead-up to next year's launch, and said the retailer "can't wait" to partner with Canadian designers to bring their brand to life at Target.
Construction will start later this summer on the first stores, with locations opening first in the Toronto area, Fisher said. The company will work west and then return east.
Target is taking over the leases of as many as 220 Zellers locations, and Fisher says current store employees can apply for positions in the new Target stores.
"Zellers employees all across Canada will have a chance, just like everybody else, to apply for a job at Target. They'll have an equal opportunity to work for Target like everybody else."
Wu said that the inspiration for the Target line was French new wave films. The collection is awash in prints with bold florals and solid striping, and feminine touches like pearl-accented collars and delicate ruffled sleeves. The line featured a mix of poplin, shift-style and flared-hem dresses, pleated skirts and short-sleeved tops with ties.
"It was really about this idea of a nonchalant chicness and also clothes that are not only good for right now but a good investment piece for the closet," he said in an interview.
Wu said he was keen on working with Target because he sees the retailer as being "dedicated to design."
"They come from a long line of great collaborations from Missoni to Gaultier to McQueen," he said. "To be in that great lineage of designers and partnering with them and also to bring my wardrobe to a wider audience is really quite intriguing for me, and I was really happy that I did it."
Wu is also well-known for creating the white, one-shouldered gown worn by Michelle Obama for the inauguration of her husband, U.S. President Barack Obama.
The garment is now in the Smithsonian Institution's First Ladies Collection. For Wu, the experience of designing for the first lady and having his own connection to American history was "pretty significant."
"As a designer, I never thought that that would be the road that I would end up being in," he said. "It's really such an honour to be a part of something that was so big and so significant and so important, and I'm just happy to be a little part of it."