Should Vancouver take lifestyle advice from a couple of greybeards whose collaborative wet dream peaks with Pink Floyd and descends to Kitsilano pantboots?
Its a trick question we already do.
In addition to dressing us, the boys from Lifetime Collective have infiltrated everything from Tofinos breweries to Portlands turntables over a weighty 10 years. It took the Live 8 concert to get the guys from Pink Floyd back in the same room, but Trevor Fleming and Reid Stewart have knack for bringing artists together. If they linked up with Pink Floyd, itd be good.
The Vancouver-based fashion house plays out more like a college dorm a loosely aligned group of bands, designers and artists sharing ideas, playing music and drawing on each others T-shirts. The quixotic start, making catalogues and packing boxes in Trevors grandmas Calgary basement, was a way to support their artistic friends and simultaneously dodge the branding of the snow-skate industry, but it has grown up and evolved with the creators in time for their decadennial.
"Everyone involved in the collective would be down in the basement helping pack boxes. We paid in beer, and when we first started making socks, everyone got socks," Trevor recalls.
They didn't have the money of their California contemporaries so their growth has been slow and steady.
"What really got our foot in the door was we grew up in the snow-skate industry and all the companies we looked up to like Volcom and Sessions were out there branding kids with their logo in 1,600 different ways," explained Trevor. "These sports are all about self-expression. It was an art and thats exactly what art is self-expression. And we felt like, 'Really? Why are people out there branding kids, instead of pushing kids to express themselves?'
"We didnt go out and try to brand kids, we introduced them to artists and different avenues of things to get involved in. We wouldnt just run our logo 16 different ways, wed work with 16 different artists and take their art and incorporate it into clothing in some way. Allow that kid to have another avenue, another passion, somebody to idolize or follow and express that by wearing that person's art or sharing their story." (see ARTS)
They officially met through friends snowboarding in Alberta, although Trevor was (disputedly) leading point-scorer against Reids childhood hockey team in Ontario. Their camaraderie is easy, with all the eye contact and finished sentences of a couple who still enjoys spending time together. Trevor jokes that it is the longest marriage of his life.
Both have real families now. They take care in how they dress. More noticeably, those buddies they knew were cool back in the day? Theyve gotten big too. Now its not simply a matter of swapping art like so many hockey cards. Record labels and managers have control over what their artists lend skills too and how it is presented to the masses.
"I hate using the word organic, but we dove into doing clothing super naive. We were like, 'Wow, this is a really cool way to help our friends grow and they help us grow.' When we decided to call it Lifetime Collective our goal was to expand that on more of a global scale."
Stopping to glance around their showroom, the heart of their intimate operation, they tick off the Japandroids and Constantines as having performed where stretch racks of next season's clothes, light tables and two-metre tall pin boards lined with product photos now sit.
"We try to use this space as much as we can. One of the things I learned about the record industry or whatever Live Nation wouldn't let us have them play here. It was like they had this deal, so we had to do a secret show. We couldnt promote them or put their name on the flyer. But it worked out good in a way; we can only hold so many people here and it was super packed anyway," laughs Trevor.
"When bands we worked with were smaller it would be like, 'Hey were gonna do this party, want to play?' And boom, things would happen. Or, 'We want do your merch for the table.' And now it's like bands are on labels and labels control that and (say) 'Were going to make our merch in this city through this company,' and bands never really see it until they show up there. Its this whole other animal the bigger bands get the harder it is to work on an organic level with them."
Lately their Pacific Northwest look is riding a wave of Americana from coast to coast, and as their reach grows, so do their design influences. Travel is an inspirational outlet for the founders and international culture rags like Monster Children in Australia are giving them props for their widening appeal. While their aesthetic, quality and price has slowly up-scaled towards boutique, the duo aims to remain true to their subterranean roots. To refresh their own relationship and give thanks to square one, the upcoming collection is diverging along interest lines.
Reid is able to express his passions with the Free Thinkers magazine they produce seasonally and the new Lifetime Uniform Standard Collection, coming fall 2012 while Trevor focuses on the main collection and conceptualizes most of the catalogues and videos, having just returned from the Fall shoot in Iceland. (See MUSIC)
"I feel like the skate and snow industry kind of got really boring. It's refreshing to go and focus on that and see what we can do a bit differently and have fun with it. It's been good for us," says Reid, glancing at his business partner.
"Being able to go from concept to first colour to story board on our own collections, where before wed have to come together and compromise on everything...This way allows a lot more creative freedom for each of us. Each project is stronger because of that," agrees Trevor. "But (Fall) was done in Iceland, just because I wanted to go to Iceland," he adds with a chuckle.
Both in their mid-30s, they take lengths to assure that they are responsible, business-minded adults. Trevor takes his work on even the farthest reaching vacations and Reid rattles off the milestones of a decade in fashion design, but they never stray too far from silly.
What's your collaborative wet dream?
Trevor: I've never thought about my wet dream. I don't have those anymore. A diamond-studded T-shirt with Damian Hirst.
Reid: If it were the 70s, Pink Floyd, but it sounds so cheesy ...
Trevor: A Kitsilano package. I'd like to get Lululemon and Ugg together in a three-way collaborative pantboot. Built into one.
A pantsy?? Nice. Onesies are huge, do you make one?
Reid: We have a flight suit. [laughs]
Trevor: Oh man, going off the rails here at the end.
What are some adjectives to describe your clothes?
Trevor: What's an adjective? Put that. Trevor says, "What's an adjective?"
Reid: Inviting, fun, accessible affordable.
Who would you like to shout out?
Reid: I've always really liked Heather Martin's stuff. She has a high-end clothing brand called Mono. In our past Zine we interviewed Collage Collage. I love what they're doing a place where kids can go and be creative. The city needs something like that.
Trevor: Im going to have to be super cheesy here, but my girl keeps me grounded in a lot of things. We travel around a lot together. She definitely helps me stay in touch with the fashion world.
Reid: We're gonna go there, hey? There's so many creative people here, but they cant make money. Everyone thinks of Vancouver highly and talks about it and goes back to it but you can only cap out so hard here.
What would fix it?
Reid: Another shout out inway ... Quite a few brands from Vancouver being successful, like Native and Herschel, helps us. This past trade show in California, this guy emailed me back saying, "Wow, there's a lot of cool stuff coming out of Vancouver. I had no clue."
Trevor: The good thing though, because it's such a hard place to make it a struggle the artist community really pulls together helps each other out. The more people make it in Van and stay in Van helps the rest of the chain.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
Trevor: Jail. No, I'm kidding.
Reid: Teach or something. Art teacher.
Trevor: Working with wood. I'd live on an island and just be clearing it. And whittling.
Do you ever want to walk away from it all?
Reid: Oh yeah, just yesterday.
Trevor: Once a year.
Reid: What we do is really labour intensive.
Trevor: Emotionally intensive.
The fun won't end there though. The duo allude to having Sled Island-like secret schemes in mind for Vancouver, and while an ambitious barge party dream of Trevor's might never come to fruition, they definitely have a tenth birthday to bash. Lifetime Collective just launched a new website; this season's collection and roster of current Collecti can be browsed within. The Free Thinkers magazine is also available anywhere their clothes are sold, and at select JJ Beans, where Reid has personally dropped them off.