By Deena Douara
“It was written.” The phrase is tattooed in Arabic on his forearm, inspired by Yanal Dhailieh’s favourite book, The Alchemist. Also, perhaps, inspired by the fast rise of his Peace Collective fashion brand, despite having no background in either fashion or business.
“Essentially what it means is, what’s meant to be will be. You should chase your passion and follow your heart, don’t worry about the outcome,” he says. “Do the best in knowing what you want to do and the universe has a way of helping out along the way.”
Dhailieh says the idea for a fashion line – the name even – has been with him since university, though his studies were in biomedical science. “There was always a voice in the back of my head.”
But it wasn’t until he read Paulo Coelho’s book, he says, that he took action.
“It really resonated with me…It wasn’t until I read the book that it hit me— what’s the worst that could happen if I just try?”
Now, Toronto vs. Everybody and Home is Toronto shirts appear across the city on those wanting to express their city love, whether they shop at a tattoo parlour store, boutiques along Queen West, or at The Bay. Or whether they are Jose Bautista.
Peace Collective also now offers Canada-wide messaging on new designs and have partnered with Mendocino on a premium collection.
Dhailieh’s own city pride was particularly spurred by his love for the Raptors and Blue Jays. A son of Syrian-Palestinian immigrants, Dhailieh grew up in neighbourhoods with a lot of newcomers – first in Scarborough, then Weston and Finch, then to Maple, and finally downtown. He says watching Toronto teams forged a common bond, particularly since American media often ignores them.
So naturally, it was at a Raptor’s game that he wore his first screen-printed shirt – Toronto vs. Everybody – where a lot of people seemed excited by it.
“It’s an interesting time to be from Toronto,” he says. “Fashion, music, culture – Toronto’s become very relevant and important.
“You travel now and you say you’re from Toronto, people get excited and I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
Dhailieh says that if he was going to pursue fashion, he was going to have to commit, and succeed. His parents were in Kuwait during the Gulf War, where they escaped to Syria and then flew to Toronto – his mother hiding the fact that she was very (very) pregnant. Less than two weeks later, Dhailieh was born.
“Knowing that they gave up everything they had to bring us here gives me something to work towards,” Dhailieh says.
Both parents being from war-torn countries, Dhailieh knew he wanted to give his brand greater purpose.
“I wanted it to represent unity…giving back and helping other people.”
So an important part of Peace Collective is the donation of a portion of proceeds to charity – $4 per garment.
Inspired by his time volunteering in Morocco after university, where he saw young panhandlers who should have been in school, the company’s initial charity outreach went towards the World Food Programme. Since then and in response to customer feedback, the support has gone towards Breakfast for Learning, which helps feed hungry Canadian children two healthy meals and a snack.
“By me doing something I never thought I’d do; by me chasing my passion and doing something that was different, I wanted to give back and just kind of pay it forward.”