Consider this a public service announcement: it’s high time we all start paying attention to Vancouver. While we’ve been busy paying attention to whatever is happening in New York, or L.A., or even Toronto, Vancouver has quietly pieced together one of the most interesting menswear design communities not just in the Americas but in the world. With a small, yet impressive crop of young stores and brands, Vancouver has become a case-study in the power of autonomy. Free from, but not ignorant of, the goings-on in the traditional hotspots, Vancouver’s menswear community has flourished over the past few years, carving out an acute aesthetic which appeals to an audience far beyond the Canadian border.
The roots of Vancouver’s scene trace back to 2004 when Craig Atkinson, the CEO of CYC Design Corporation founded Wings + Horns. If the CYC name sounds familiar that’s because the company is best known for producing highly sought after sweatshirts for brands like Supreme and Arc’teryx. As for Atkinson, he had spent much of his career in Japan where he peddled vintage Americana and developed a deep appreciation for Japan’s attention to detail. These two interests surface in Wings + Horns, a brand that for over a decade has blended utility and quality to create collections that are as crisp as the Canadian cold. Three years later, CYC also introduced Reigning Champ, a sister line to Wings + Horns with a greater focus on straightforward sweatshirts and other fleece pieces.
It was also in 2007 that Roden Gray first opened their doors, with a similar “Japanese quality meets Canadian grit” sensibility. This aesthetic can also be seen in the other three boutiques which make up Vancouver’s surprisingly robust retail scene – Inventory, Neighbour, and Haven. All four of their stores have their own unique style – Neighbour leans heavily toward European minimalism, Haven focuses more on showy Japanese designers, Inventory is known for carrying updated (and expensive) workwear, while Roden Gray falls somewhere in between the other three – but they all manage to complement each other, and more surprisingly, they’re all worth visiting.
In celebration of their eighth anniversary, Haven actually just launched their own private label brand called Cypress. The entire initial collection features just eight different garments, two pairs of shoes, a handful of colors and only a couple patterns. They’re toned down pieces that are meant to be worn daily. This is best seen in the Cowichan sweater, which features a classic Canadian knitting style, done up not in a bold patterned but in a stern solid black.
It’s both a representation of just how strong the scene is up in Vancouver right now and a sign of things to come for the city by the shore. If this scene continues to thrive as it has over the past few years, we’ll surely see even more brands emerge along the Northwest Pacific coast.