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Ethical Gift Giving + Supporting Local Moms: Why We Love Clothing & Toy Company Modern Rascals

Jana Reid, owner of Modern Rascals, is my neighbour and friend, and our kids are buddies. While these things make me want to promote her business, they are far from the only reasons.

Jana launched Modern Rascals two years ago, and it has quickly grown to become a beloved local brand that can be easily spotted. With extremely fun prints (e.g., raccoons, fruit, forest creatures, the solar system, rainbows) in the brightest of colours, the clothes are cheery—the kind of palette that kids love. I’ve often heard Jana say, “Remember what you loved wearing as a kid? It was probably really colourful.” She’s right. Kids don’t tend to gravitate to the muted grey hues like adults do.

Bright colours is just one aspect of Jana’s business that we admire. She’s also strongly committed to gender-neutral clothing, and only selling brands that adhere to high standards for workers. The decisions made from the design room to the shipping room involve a set of values that take priority over profit. This isn’t fast fashion or cheap fashion; it is high-quality fashion with a backstory that sits well. 

About six months ago, Jana introduced toys into to Modern Rascals, and the company’s Instagram feed became even more fun to follow. Photos of the Grimm’s Rainbow Building Boards or Grapat Wood Nins had me reimagining my own childhood, the convoluted plot lines that would be dreamed up for magical worlds! 

I chat with Jana very regularly, outside her house by the local library or in the school hallways when we’re picking up our kiddos. I always get a lot of wisdom from our moments of conversation, which usually last but a couple minutes until our sons start pulling on us or someone scrapes a knee.

One particular chat that stands out was when she told me, “People think they’re getting a great cost when a piece of clothing is sold for cheap, but there’s always a cost. It might not be directly linked to their wallet, but it will be a cost that affects someone or somewhere else.” I liked that, because every decision we make affects other humans and our planet. A transaction is rarely as simple as A to B. When Jana sells something through Modern Rascals, she’s thought of the entire web of connectivity as best she can, and I, as a customer and a fellow human, appreciate the thought she puts into it. Plus, my kid loves his rainbow shirts and bright blue velour pants, and seeing him in them brings a smile to my face too.

While shopping local and choosing more expensive brands isn’t always possible, it sure does feel good to support a local friend/mom who offers amazing wares with a responsible business model. 

We’re always curious to find out how and why people started their business, and we know that a lot of women do a 180 after they have children, so this week we’re profiling some of our favourite Toronto brands that were started by moms making a difference. 

JM: What was your job before you launched Modern Rascals?

JR: I was a Director of Products and Solutions at a Toronto Financial Services start-up. I defined, built, launched and supported entire credit cards from the ground up.

Why did you start your business?

When my eldest was little, I couldn’t find bright, fun kids clothes. Everything here was so…monochrome and sedate. And I was looking for clothes that let kids be kids. I found clothes that I loved in Europe and was buying a few things every season for my kiddo. People were stopping me on the street daily to ask where I had found them. I knew that there was a gap in the market, so I jumped and started Modern Rascals.

Oh, and I was super tired of the general misogyny in my corporate jobs and figured it wasn’t likely to change any time soon.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of helping to bring new brands into Canada, like Wobbel’s balance boards or Grapat’s diverse wooden people. And my heart grows three sizes every time I see our clothes in someone’s school or family or Santa photo, to see that people trust us and that we’re included in important life and family events!

What are your hot sellers for the holidays? Gifts that you’re excited about?

Our hot sellers have been some of the brand-new toys! The hot new toys are the Wobbel balance boards and the Waytoplay flexible rubber roads.

How has motherhood shaped your business? 

Motherhood has made me more efficient with my time. It’s helped me refine my priorities (covering for the adult dude at work who doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own life, not so much) and made me much, much better at apologizing!

What’s a lesson you learned this past year that has helped you as an entrepreneur?

We’ve had tremendous growth this last year, and there have been some learning curves right along with it. Sometimes we make mistakes and that practice of apologizing and helping make things right has ended up helping me everywhere. It doesn’t feel so awkward to acknowledge when I’ve messed up, and being able to face those moments with less dread, shame and procrastination is very freeing.

What’s a holiday (or wintertime) tradition in your home that you’ve grown to love? 

We do a book advent calendar with the kids. The first year I only had about ten books and I’d tuck each day’s in a different bag and pretend it was new again. On Christmas Eve we do The Night Before Christmas along with cocoa and a movie and a pair of PJs for something special.

And I can’t resist a plate of homemade cinnamon buns.

With Canada Post on strike, what’s the best way someone can purchase holiday gifts from Modern Rascals?

I enjoyed maternity leave with both kids, and my partner took three months paternity leave both times. We have maternity leave in Canada because postal workers went on strike in 1981. In solidarity we’re not offering Canada Post alternatives, because as parents we have directly benefited from their actions.

We’re sticking with Canada Post. We’ve found that 95% of our packages are making it through. And we always offer local pick-up as an option! 

Check out the Modern Rascals site now. We’re pretty sure you’ll fall for something very quickly.

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