The Story of Malene Grotrian Design

Since opening the doors to her own atelier in December 2008, Malene has been dressing some of Vancouver’s most notable talent. Inspired by timeless, unique, European style, all designs are sophisticated and created with femininity and elegance in mind. Her collections offer a variety of evening wear, professional wear and custom designs. All pieces are designed with unexpected details to create a nouveau classic expression and are made locally in Vancouver B.C. Canada.

Born and raised in Denmark, Malene Grotrian graduated in 2004 from the Danish design school, Teko Center Denmark. After furthering her design and fine art studies in Italy with Teko Center’s programs, Malene re-located to Canada and continued honing in on her skills and love for intricate, detailed tailored designs and couture fashion. It was during this time that she discovered her true passion for women’s evening wear and her signature bustier; these experiences inspired the inception of the Malene Grotrian label in December of 2008.

In September 2009, within her first year of business, Malene earned the attention of the fashion elite as well as a personal invitation to show at the exclusive New York Fashion Week where she unveiled her 2010 Spring/Summer Collection to rave reviews.  The world continues to watch as Malene Grotrian and her label experiences a meteoric rise on the world stage.

OpenSource had a chance to connect with Malene along with her business partner, Jenna Fortin, during a rare down-time just before the holidays.

OS: What have been some of the challenges since starting your business, and what have you learned from them?

Malene: The biggest challenge of the business in the beginning was capacity.  I found myself working extremely long hours to keep up with everything going on.  In March 2009 Jenna Fortin started working with me on a part time basis to grow the Marketing and Branding side of the company.  After a successful trip to New York Fashion week in September 2009, Jenna came on board as my business partner in January 2010.  For the past year the challenge of capacity has improved, but we continue to deal with “not enough time in each day” to get all the things done we wish to.  There is a fine balance between making time to work on your business rather than working in the business and we are working to perfect that balance

OS: What would you say are the 5 key elements for starting and running a successful business?


1) Engaging experts in areas of importance (Website, Branding, SEO, etc.) with a passion for what they do

2) Building a strong Network of “go to ” people around you for advice, opinions, etc.

3) Ensuring a solid financial systems, paying close attention to important areas of accounting (i.e. cash flow)

4) A great team working in the company,  and providing an engaging work atmosphere for the whole team

5) A clear direction of where you want the company to go in the future

OS: What would you say to people wanting to take that risky leap of leaving their job to become an entrepreneur?

Jenna: Ensure you have a strong business plan in place and you have done the market research for your sector.  But most importantly follow your passion and show that passion to your target audience.  Passion lives through people and creations whether it be a service or a product, if you can clearly communicate the passion you have for your business, others will notice and want to be a part of it.

OS: How do you go about marketing your business? What strategies and tactics do you employ?

Jenna: The best form of marketing we do is networking, good old fashion face to face networking.  Building strong and long term relationships with our clients has been the #1 thing that has propelled the business to where it is today.  Maintaining the relationships and networking to create new ones is key.  In addition to networking we use our website and email newsletters as a continual way to inform our clients and fans of what’s going on. Social Media is a must as well to increase and maintain the brand awareness and to keep the buzz going by announcing exciting and interesting news and events.

Strategic Alliances and collaborations with like-minded businesses are another great ways to market our business. We firmly believe that win-win collaborations are a great way to market as well.  We host Style Soiree’s at the studio boutique which offer our clients the chance to host and network with guests of their choice.  Each year we also produce 2 major fashion shows to launch Collections, these large scale events have proven valuable for our marketing efforts.  Last but not least Public Relations is a major part of our marketing strategy.  Major media hits have proven valuable to our brand awareness and we continually work to receive coverage in local and international media.

OS: What are some emerging trends that you are seeing in your industry?

Malene: Brighter colors are starting to become more popular again than in the past. Eco-fashion is a big trend right now as well.  We use bamboo’s and organic cottons in some of our collections.  This Eco-Trend also included clients wanting more locally manufactured and made products – we proudly manufacture our collections in Vancouver BC.

OS: Has the economic recession impacted your business? How are you adapting?

Malene: We started our business at the beginning of the Recession and we were very lucky to not feel the effects too much.

OS: What are your 5 &10 year plans?

Malene: We have a very exciting launch happening very soon but it is a big secret so stay tuned!  We will be launching it to our subscribers first so be sure to sign up.

Short term we are focused on expanding our brand in the Vancouver and BC market place and long term we hope to have a presence in Europe and the US.


For more information on Malene, check out this video:

If you’ve never experienced one of Malene’s exclusive (and complimentary) Style Soiree’s, be sure to contact Jenna to arrange one for you and your group. It’s a must! Jenna can be reached at 604-568-0666 or email

Be sure to follow Malene Grotrian on Twitter! @malenegrotrian