Kealan Sullivan is a Toronto fashion OG. In a city where fashion boutiques in the downtown core are here today and gone tomorrow, Sullivan stood her ground as a highly respected, successful business woman for over 10 years. As the owner behind 69 Vintage, her life revolved around sourcing and selling the best secondhand pieces she could find to a city full of discerning thrifters.
Now that she’s entering a new chapter, I caught up with Kealan to see what I could learn from her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened up about how she started her business, how she ended it (on purpose), and what she’s passionate about now. From creating a runway collection (which I’m wearing!), to traveling, to reconnecting with herself, Kealan is doing it her way.
LoveMirian: What is your background in fashion?
Kealan Sullivan: It’s a question people ask a lot and my first answer is, “I don’t really have a background in fashion.” However, my entire life revolved around fashion in one way or another. The interest was always there but I was in denial of it, mostly because I look at fashion as being on a superficial level. I always wondered how I could sink my heart into something that was on the surface.
But more and more, every event and creative thing I went to all cycled back to being fashion-related. I did a lot of costuming and was really into the party scene of the ’80s and ’90s. People would love what I was wearing and ask me to make them stuff. I wasn’t the greatest sewer but I was committed so I would make stuff for people. All of a sudden, in my mid-20s I decided that I was going to make stuff and sell vintage and that’s what I wanted to do. Everything I learned was mostly through people. Just a lot of passion, experimentation, and paying attention.
What made you decide to close 69 Vintage?
I wasn’t bored or frustrated and the business was actually doing well. I was finally feeling like I was in control of my inventory and aesthetic. It’s funny because I didn’t expect this to happen but then one day I was on vacation up north and I realized I was really missing out on a large part of what other people were doing with their lives because I was always in that store. My entire life revolved around it. Every social interaction revolved around it. There was a lot of anxiety tied to it because I always wanted to perfect it.
I was in a groove but I started getting curious about some of the other things I was passionate about or good at. I was getting into my 40s and looking at the decade ahead wondering what was going to happen between now and 50 if I didn’t make a change. I was consumed by the business I had started that everyone thinks gives you all this freedom. So I said “I’m going to stop.” I made the decision and I haven’t had one day or moment that I regret the decision.
What else are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about relationships. How people communicate, our relationships with ourselves. These are the things that I find myself reading about, talking about. How we can be more balanced, connected, honest, optimistic, and in control of our lives. I’m working on building some workshops around that.
We don’t communicate what we want or need so we don’t get what we want or need. These are big things I didn’t even start learning until my mid-30s. I had a lot of interesting conversations with people in my shop everyday and I realized how much people are missing out on connection.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far?
I have a lot of paradoxes in my personality. I’m super bold, but I’m also super shy and insecure sometimes. I have so many amazing ideas but sometimes I get overwhelmed by them so I get stuck. I love change and quick-pace spontaneity but I’m also a person the needs and really thrives on routine. The most challenging thing has been facing that aspect of my personalty all the time.
There’s parts of my personality that I’m constantly in battle with. That was always a big thing for me when I was younger. I didn’t have a lot of friends when I moved to Toronto. I had to get myself out, go to parties by myself, and meet people. I’d get social anxiety but that’s what taught me how to do it. Now I’m at a place where my character has fallen into balance. I don’t feel that I’m facing challenges everyday anymore. I think the stuff I want to work on now with other people has a lot to do with the challenges I faced in the past.
How did you build the confidence you have now?
Let me tell you now, I never had confidence. You just have to do it. You build by doing, by action. You can’t get it from sitting at home talking yourself into it. This is what every human goes through. But the difference is some people do it, and some people sit there and sink because they just can’t get past that one point. And with that comes confidence because you’re like “I did that, I can do that again no problem.”
Feeling inspired yet? Want to finally get started on that project you’ve been putting off forever? You don’t need all the answers. If you have the passion, most everything else you can pick up on the way.
Check back later this month for part two of our interview where we’ll dive deeper into her runway debut as a fashion designer, see what inspires her, and even get some advice on how to take our lives to the next level. In the meantime, keep up with Kealan’s adventures via her Instagram here.