‘Pursue something authentic to you, and others will connect with your vision’, says Victoria Ashley, Founder and CEO of Laundry Day, the Canadian brand of 70’s-inspired smokeware that’s elevated the high life to a Vogue-worthy experience.
Although Victoria had no previous experience of working in the cannabis industry, or designing and manufacturing artisanal pipes, grinders and rolling papers, she identified a gap in the market after she started smoking cannabis to help her sleep, but felt frustrated by the stereotypical ‘pipes covered in dragons’ on offer. She recounts how she scoured boutiques, dispensaries and online stores searching for beautiful pieces that aligned with her passion for fashion, design and art, but couldn’t find what she was looking for.
‘There was simply nothing that catered to a modern aesthetic, or that aimed to elevate and expand the collective status quo,’ she explains. Realising her education in merchandising and experience in retail management gave her a unique perspective on the customer base she felt she represented, Victoria took a giant leap of faith and, in January 2016, launched Laundry Day.
A key element of the brand’s early success, Victoria explains, is that she had access to a beautifully curated retail space: a boutique called Merge, which she owned with a friend, where she could showcase her wares to an already-established community of friends and customers who immediately supported her stylish new venture.
‘I wasn't anticipating such incredibly positive feedback,’ she says to explain her surprise at how well the brand launch went. The experience made her quickly realise that she had a product and story that many people could relate to, and that inspired her to keep going.
Growing the brand didn’t come without sacrifice, however, and after three years of juggling the responsibilities of both Merge and Laundry Day, Victoria decided to rather focus solely on Laundry Day. This meant packing up her life in her hometown of Torfino (a relaxed surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia) and moving south to the province’s capital city of Victoria, to introduce Laundry Day to a larger, more cosmopolitan, audience.
It was the right move: Laundry Day has enjoyed increased recognition from high-end press like Vogue and Nylon while stylish stoners frequently rave about the thoughtful design and beautiful packaging of the brand. Scroll through the Laundry Day Instagram feed and it’s clear from the tagged Shares that fans of the brand love the dual functionality of these eye-catching products as a sexy, smooth-draw pipe but also as highly-Instagrammable objet d'art pieces that they proudly display via #shelfies in their own homes.
Her journey so far may seem glamorous to the outsider, says Victoria, but make no mistake, it’s been seriously hard work, especially as a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated world as well as in the controversial business of cannabis. ‘There have definitely been times when I’ve felt unwelcome and not taken seriously, based on my gender and my chosen profession,’ she admits.
It’s during tough times like these, she explains, that she relies on the support of other female entrepreneurs: a community of ‘strong, incredible women that I look up to and who are there for me whenever I need to talk my issues out. They’re happy to share in both my struggles and my successes.’
Still, Victoria is quick to acknowledge her privilege to safely, and legally, operate in the cannabis space, in comparison to many others, mostly people of colour, who have had the opposite experience. ‘This is a community that has been previously overlooked, persecuted and vilified, and that needs to change.’ Through Laundry Day, she’s committed to sharing the stories of those affected by cannabis-related incarceration and to amplify, and give back to, organisations that are working towards social justice within the cannabis space.
As for the future, Victoria continues to challenge the narrative surrounding cannabis through interesting design with Roommates - her soon-to-launch brand that uses home decor pieces to complement the Laundry Day experience of elevating the ordinary into the extraordinary.
If there’s one thing we’re sure of, it’s that anything this style master touches will turn to retail gold but Victoria remains as humble as ever, saying: ‘I always say: you don't need all the answers at once… Just put your ideas out there and take things day by day.’
Words: Justine Stafford