Permission Shop Is Reimagining Canada's Athletic Fashion Market

Canada’s newest athletic fashion store has reimagined retail and activewear to inspire real, resilient, and mindful women.


Photography courtesy of Permission


When you walk into Permission Shop, which is perched on a corner of Toronto’s arterial Ossington Avenue, neighbouring the Peace Collective and other city hotspots, the incredible exuberance of the freeing Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood is met with a serene and safe vibe. As if you’ve been welcomed to a resort in Spain, or an upscale boutique in Los Angeles. The grey building is filled with arches in different hues that grace your overhead, and with each step deeper into the store you’re met with “little surprises” like other sorts of curves and bends.


“[Arches] have a lot of symbolism to us. It’s such a symbol of strength, and that is something we really wanted to showcase. Different curves and movement,” said Laura Santino, co-founder of Permission. The notion of movement is the brand’s visualization and interpretation on inspiring others to continuously evolve. “We went to our architect and said, ‘We want arches!’”


“Arches!” echoed Amanda, her sister and the second half of Permission.




Permission is Canada’s newest IRL and e-commerce store that offers a careful curation of athletic fashion. It’s where performance activewear marries street style, in a reimagined retail experience. When planning the foundation of the brand, pre-launch, the sister duo knew for certain that they wanted to do away with the things they hated about shopping, specifically the things that made them feel uncomfortable.


“We wanted to completely eliminate [all of that] and create a space that made us feel so good inside,” Amanda shared. That largely includes tackling the blanket concept of a fitting room space, and instead making it feel “very natural.” They’ve created a mini haven of dressing rooms, where you’re able to shop with whatever experience matches your level of comfort.


“And it’s very day to day. It’s so dependent on mood. That’s why we created it like: choose your own adventure. Sometimes you want to stay in the fitting room, and that’s totally cool, and other days you want to get hyped up and have an experience with all your friends. It’s about playing with comfort level.”


Photography courtesy of Permission


Our noontime conversation on a warm Friday in June, just days before Ontario’s government announced they’d be opening up for phase one after a third lockdown in the course of the pandemic, proved that the girls are nothing short of bonded. In fact, they say they’re each other’s soul mate.


Laura: “We can literally finish each other’s sentences.”


Amanda: “If you took us apart and did this interview separately—”


Laura: “—we’d probably say the exact same things. We’re so grateful for the bond we share. I think, especially building a business together, it can be so hard and you really need someone who gets it and who you work well with. Someone who puts you in check. I think we do that to each other.”


This is their first dive into entrepreneurship; I was shocked to find out, too. The sister duo, just two years apart, always dreamed of one day having their own business venture together, and ironically their dreams came to fruition last year when they opened their business in a year that no one could predict. “Opening a business during [a pandemic] teaches you a lot. We’ve had our ups and downs in the past year, but we’re definitely ready to weather whatever’s coming at us in the future. We’ve only known COVID, so we’re excited to move forward into some sort of normal… Whatever that is,” Amanda shared.


The two budding entrepreneurs said the on-and-off-again lockdowns have made them value those in-person experiences more, and are looking forward to continuing interacting with Permission customers. “I think we’re still really getting to know our customer, and we’re excited to meet them and really build a community with them.


Photography courtesy of Permission


One thing is for sure, though. Their customer is not one archetype, but a mosaic of women from different life paths and athletic (or lack thereof) backgrounds.


The sisters’ individual journeys of finding their own way in fitness is symbiotic to that. They explain that with the notion that athleticism doesn’t always equate to sport. “Growing up we just didn’t find our place within sports,” said Amanda. “As we got older we really wanted to find our own ways in fitness. It was different for the both of us.”


Amanda tried out spinning one day on a trip to New York City and soon fell in love, making that a main source of regular movement in her life. Laura’s admiration for strength training led her to realize that this avenue is what makes her feel most powerful.


“I guess that was the lightbulb moment for us. Like, oh, I guess we don't have to be in sports for us to be athletic. It’s really about finding your niche and what feels good for you and what makes you excited to move. We were really just so inspired by that, as well as everything we wore to feel our best.”


Translating that into the shopping experience was really important to them. They wanted to build something that felt good for anyone, whether a customer is an athlete or just wants to go for a walk… or sit on their couch!


“I think we created a space that really values everyone. Whatever [type of] movement they have in mind,” Laura adds. In other words, they’ve aimed to provide everyone the personalized opportunity to own their own permission, whatever it may transfigure into.


Photography courtesy of Permission


What they’re currently loving:


The added appeal of everything Laura and Amanda wore while navigating their fitness journeys contributed to the Permission’s foundation. “Everything we wore to feel our best” played a big part in the decision to eradicate the generic and sometimes alienating feeling that traditional sportswear and activewear stores provide.


Amanda dishes that right now she’s most excited about the shop’s recent launch of L*Space Active. “Everything in that line is so soft and feels so good. And the bright colours are so cute for summer.”


“We also just launched Girlfriend’s Collective’s spring colours and there’s this sky blue set that is just calling my name,” Laura adds. “Plus, all their bike shorts — I just can’t get enough!”