DEVOA – Daisuke Nishida at Leisure Center

This article was published in the Nov/Dec edition of FOLIO.YVR. All photos courtesy of Helen Siwak.

Daisuke Nishida is the kind of person who does not leave anything up for interpretation when talking about what inspires him. Speaking through a translator at Leisure Center Vancouver only minutes before the opening reception of his event Future Nomads – Here to Go: Prisoners of the Human Condition, he is animated and open while discussing what led him to design clothing, and venture into the world of visual art.

Nishida’s Grandfather was a tailor, he says through a translator. And his mother practiced traditional ikebana, which is the traditional Japanese art of arranging flowers into graceful and artistic formations. However, to his family’s surprise, Nishida started in the world of sport, first practicing and then instructing wrestling. After this, he became a medical instructor and finally forayed into clothing design without any formal education.

His experience instructing anatomy laid the technical foundation for his career in clothing design, specifically his studies of 16th-century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius, who is known as the founder of modern anatomy, and published the Fabrica, a collection of drawings on the human form that was regarded as revolutionary at the time.

“The way he was drawing wasn’t the exact human form,” Daisuke explains, referring to photos of Vesalius’ work on an iPad. “Nobody understands why. The part that no one understands is what I am interested in. I want to be like him, making new patterns of clothing that people might not understand.” These photos show people with their muscles and flesh exposed, holding graceful yet unnatural poses, not unlike the figures on display in his exhibit.

In 2005, he started the DEVOA brand, based on a booklet of sketches and design ideas that are still used to inform design choices to this day. His clothes sit somewhere in the realm of tech wear and high fashion, and he continually pushes the boundaries of what defines the brand. A deep understanding of the human body is core to Nishida’s design philosophy, and it informs the materials and construction he uses. He traces the seams of his jacket, which follow a path that avoids being sensed by the nerve located on the forearm. His trousers are cut with an unnatural line, making the legs appear longer and slimmer.

“My experiences made me think that I couldn’t be a normal fashion designer,” Nishida says, referring to his lack of formal fashion training. “I am trying to present the structure of the human body and how to present it through my clothes.”

Nishida’s emphasis on learning by doing is apparent in his visual art, as with his fashion design. The washi paper used for the to make clothing for his miniature figures is an art form with over 1,000-years of history. His decision to use this medium is too painstaking to be considered experimental. One gets the feeling that Nishida doesn’t like doing things that are easy.

“There is a lot of failure with this,” Nishida says. “It’s critical to present the colour, and I mix four colours without knowing what the outcome will be…the unpredictability is the most beautiful part of it.”

Leaving Leisure Center, I walked past the display space at the front of the store for a second time. Alongside several racks of his brand DEVOA’s most recent collection of men’s technical wear are several glass cases holding human figures clothed in his designs and held in dreamlike positions with webs of thin chains. A staff member informs me that these figures are meant to be futuristic forms of the human body, which are slightly disproportionate to suggest the idea that the human body will evolve over time.

In this futuristic timeline, everything comes in black, including an overcoat that seems to melt into a canvas of black washi paper. The clothing for the figurines is made with this traditional Japanese art form, which proves to be one of Nishida’s many specialties. Nishida’s exhibit in Leisure Center follows stops in Berlin, Shanghai, and Kyoto, where each show is designed specifically for the city that hosts it. Leisure Center was selected due to his connection with the owners – Mason Wu and MuYun Li – and Nishida states that even though many retailers sell his clothes, he is confident that only certain retailers would understand his exhibition and want to host it.

His collection and exhibit are sure to be well received in Vancouver, where local-based designers like Arc’teryxReigning Champ, and Lululemon are known to prioritize function and fit above all else. When asked about style in Vancouver, he agrees that DEVOA has a chance to meld into the city’s tech-focused style. “People in Tokyo try too hard,” he says, grinning. “In Vancouver, people choose to wear comfortable clothes.”

Noteworthy

Here are a few interesting and noteworthy things that I have stumbled across in the last few weeks while kicking around lovely old Vancouver, BC. Although it gets dark at 4:30PM now, there are far more opportunities for layering and having absolutely nothing better to do on a Saturday then shop.

Kamuy Vintage

I heard about a vintage workwear shop that was located in a basement in Gastown, and it was a no-brainer that I would be checking it out the following day. Underneath Out and About boutique on West Cordova (a great store for design-focused gifts and trinkets), sits Kamuy Vintage. From the moment I walked in, I knew it was unlike anything else in town. Racks of well-curated finds are stuffed into their basement space, and I managed to find a vintage Japanese army jacket after only a few minutes (I didn’t pull the trigger yet though, maybe next time).

The “pop-up” says on its website that it was supposed to end July 31st, but I snuck in this visit in early November. Let’s hope they stick around.

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Wearing vintage Japanese army jacket

Garuda

I noticed a friend of mine wearing a pair of off-white (not the brand) techwear-inspired pants while I was at his house for a pizza party. While we listened to the COLORS SHOW channel on YouTube and talked about Arc’teryx, he mentioned that they were a custom order from a clothing designer friend – and this is how I discovered GARUDA.

Initially founded in Auckland, NZ, the company was moved to Panchkula, India after only a few years of operation. Now the brand runs its own private workshop to manage every step of their process from design to manufacturing and beyond.

Their collections are wide ranging, and are organized into 4 “kits” for different use in a day in the city, and many items are made to order.

Photo from https://garuda-ss.com

DEVOA

This month saw the release of the November/December edition of FOLIO.YVR, where I interviewed Daisuke Nishida of the menswear brand DEVOA from suburban Tokyo.

I could speak at length about the clothes he makes, but for me what is more interesting is the man behind the brand. Nishida started out as a wrestling/MMA athlete and then instructor, where he started to think about how the human body moved efficiently while in motion.

He then began a career as an anatomy teacher, where he became inspired by the works of Andreas Vesalius, a figure who is seen as the grandfather of modern anatomy. Vesalius created drawings that showed the muscular structure of the human body, while elongating and affecting certain features for reasons no one knows.

Now, Nishida makes trousers that make the wearer appear taller and slimmer, and designs the seams of his jacket sleeves to, I’m not even embellishing here, caress the wearer’s arm ergonomically and minimize contact with the nerve.

Nishida does all this and practices visual art too; he is currently touring the world with his collection of visual art, featuring handmade figures and clothing that depict a futuristic human race wher everyone wears black techwear.

He worked with traditional washi paper to make this art, confirming my hypothesis that anything he wants to do, he will figure out. Keep an eye on Daisuke Nishida and the DEVOA brand in the future.

DEVOA brand
Photo from https://devoa.jp/collection

Where in the world: The Gurkha Trouser

Fashion with a history rooted in war is nothing new. Availability in military surplus stores and a certain Robert DeNiro movie led the army jacket to become popular as civilian garb, and standard military issue turned into everyday practicality (even for the flak it catches) in the form of the cargo pant. But no singular piece comes with such a captivating story as the Gurkha Trouser.

The Gurkha Trouser’s name comes directly from Nepal’s highest-order soldiers, who first came to prominence fighting British East India invaders in the early 1800’s. Native to the region of Central Nepal, the Gurkha’s had incredible stamina, borne of living at high altitude. This combined with their fearless demeanour and knowledge of their home terrain led them to stun their invaders, who took much longer than they had anticipated to defeat them in the Anglo-Nepalese war.

Gurkha Soldiers marching during WWI

Since then, they have went on to fight for their previous aggressors, the British, in miliary campaigns across the globe. If you visit Whitehall Road while in London, outside the Ministry of Defense, you can find the World War I Gurkha Memorial, a solier standing proud and resolute with an inscription reading “Bravest of the brave” at his feet. Although it is hard to tell whether he is wearing the distinctive style of buckle under his army jacket, one can dare to dream. Now they have crossed the final frontier – menswear – as the Gurkha trouser has become favoured by Instagram style icons, seen in Florence’s Pitti Uomo and even New York City.

The Gurkha Trouser’s design is defined by its double-pleated cummerbund style waistband with buckle fastenings to allow the wearer to adjust the fit if they fluctuate in weight. It’s not uncommon to see curious adaptations, like in a short or featuring ticket pockets. The overall effect is an increase in attention towards the legs, perhaps seen best without a jacket at all to defer any wandering eyes.

Ernest Hemingway was a gurkha short fan during his Cuban days

Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to make a stance on these pants. On one hand they are clearly functional and are a nod to some of the most badass John Rambo-types the world has ever known. But one part of me wants to view it as a tactless repurposing of a traditional garment, verging on a fad and so far-removed from sartorial standards that it could easily fall into disuse. Like anything else you see for the first time on Instagram, it is at the danger of falling victim to the next trend , and ending up in the dark end of well-curated closets.

Will from @thedonsclub

But at the same time, sometimes we have to look back in time for inspiration, and the important thing is that the Gurkha trouser doesn’t feel stolen from the Gurkha’s themselves, who still occupy highly coveted positions in the British military (albeit with standard issue cargo pants). Although far from the battlefield, its presence prompts casual menswear fans to look into the fascinating history of its original wearers, and it seems too esoteric to ever be taken up by fast fashion.

So buckle up with a range of retailers who are capitalizing on this phenomenon like Rubinacci (best seen on @thedonsclub) running at a higher price point ($500 CAD), and PiniParma and Cordone 1956 ($350 CAD) offering middle range options. But keep in mind if you have at least a few months of winter before you can pull it off like this:

Fashion and the Future of Tech

The intersection between tech and fashion can be a confusing place, and nowhere is this more true than when observing the styling choices of the world’s best-known thought leaders, CEO’s and founders in technology.

In a move that may have created 2000’s “tech-bro” fashion, Mark Zuckerberg humble-bragged that he wore only hoodies and gray tees to “clear his life to make as few decisions as possible except serving the [Facebook] community.” This statement made it clear that tech would go on to turn conservative business dress norms upside-down.

Photo of Mark Zukerberg
Most public appearances by Zuckerberg feature this gray t-shirt

It was an interesting (albeit slightly pretentious) way to claim that business wear was unfit for the modern company. Instead of calling it stuffy, uncomfortable, or an unnecessary financial burden, referring to getting dressed in the morning as a drain on valuable brainpower was powerful enough to create ripples of change.

Today, this trend continues. In March, banking giant Goldman Sachs relaxed their dress code, allowing their employees to ditch the suit and tie for something more Silicon Valley. Other companies capitalized on the unwillingness of customers to make their own styling decisions, and now we have Stitch Fix and self-branded “Silicon Valley Stylists” pushing people away from ratty sneakers and t-shirts, but arguably into a homogenous blob of oxford button downs and chinos.

It seems symbolic then, that Zuckerberg, a bastion of tech-bro style, would see his greatest controversy as a CEO come from someone who is antithetical to him in every way – especially when it comes to style.

Five days ago, the Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Facebook a sum of $5 billion for privacy violations that came to light with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users improperly obtained. This saga came to be thanks to the actions of whistleblower Christopher Wylie, a data consultant, political researcher and Victoria, BC native.

Wylie was recently covered in an article by Paul Flynn for Fantastic Man, which delved into his experience at the centre of a media firestorm, but also the experiences leading to his involvement with Cambridge Analytica, and his current position as consultant for fast-fashion giant H&M.

What’s most interesting about Wylie is his signalling of a new generation of tech leaders. Far removed from Zuckerberg’s awkward and vanilla on-camera persona comes Wylie’s confident and sophisticated facade (“He looked like a pop star and spoke like a professor”, said Flynn). He is seldom seen without electric-dyed cropped hair and was photographed for Fantastic Man wearing Dries Van Noten and Stone Island.

Christopher Wylie for Fantastic Man

Most media appearances by Wylie are done wearing something unconventional, but what sets him apart in the fashion world are his nuanced opinions about the effects of the industry.

In an article with The Guardian last November, he spoke about a lesser-known aspect of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, how fashion-based data was used to target messaging towards users with pro-Trump and right wing tendencies. Simply put, knowing what brands a user liked or engaged with signalled strongly about their political leanings. “When you look at personality traits, music and fashion are the most informative [tools] for predicting someone’s personality”, he said. Users who followed American denim brands such as Wrangler, Hollister and Lee could be linked to low levels of openness, and were therefore “more likely to engage with pro-Trump messaging.”

Wylie blames the fashion industry for creating “cultural narratives” that allow people to be easily pigeon-holed and targeted with political messaging. This seems like a difficult place to lay blame, clearly this is more the fault of the companies that exploit data rather than those who make blue jeans that just happen to be worn by people who do shift work. However, another of his claims held more water. Politically right-wing movements often develop uniforms, whether in the case of the Italian Fascist “blackshirts” of the 1920’s or alt-right supremacists in white polos and khakis in Charlottesville. These uniforms are inexpensive, easy to identify, and emblematic of the messaging used by these groups.

None of this should be surprising for a wunderkid who dropped out of high school, studied law at the London School of Economics, and was midway through further studies on fashion forecasting when a job opportunity for the then called SCL Elections (later to be Cambridge Analytica) came calling. His current position is further removed from politics, but not from the scientific study of the fashion industry.

As a part of H&M’s Artificial Intelligence Ethics Unit, he takes on projects that answer questions about how the brand impacts their customer’s mental health, among other things. This is welcome news when talking about H&M, a company that is easy to shove off as a fast-fashion parasite.

Someone like Wylie doesn’t come around very often, and his trajectory should be watched by anyone who cares about the massive amount of power the fashion industry holds (beyond the ability to empty people’s wallets). And when compared to his counterparts in the tech world, he is above all, much less boring.

-C

Veilance releases S/S 2020

In recent news about things that I can’t begin to afford, Veilance (no longer Arc’teryx Veilance) released their Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week, which will drop in January of 2020. In the age of “hype” and limited run releases, it’s nice to see a company focus on growing excitement for a collection over an extended period of time. Veilance shows no sign of deviating from Arc’teryx’s brand values of longevity and purposeful quality, and this will likely never change as long as they are keeping it real on Vancover’s North Shore.

This collection is inspired by French photographer Vincent Fournier, with Veilance Creative Director Taka Kasuga stating:

“Vincent’s photographs, specifically his SPACE UTOPIA series, which was shot at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, show what is possible when limitations are shred…the pieces in this collection are designed to empower the wearer in a similar way. To offer total freedom through their ability to adapt and protect in all climates.”

Fournier’s SPACE UTOPIA project was the result of touring space centres for an entire decade, in Utah, Bangalore, and Russia among other locations. This was a product of his obsession with sci-fi novels, films and comics, and harkens back to an era that is re-entering the spotlight as we approach the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The space race of the 1950’s onward was the ultimate test of mankind, an adventure where people were thrust into the most inhospitable environments imaginable. Fournier is trying to capture feelings of isolation and smallness, but also the excitement of exploring new frontiers and the technological constraints that made this difficult.

Mars Research Station #4, Mars Society, San Rafael Swell, Utah, 2008. (Vincent Fournier)

As a child, Fournier remembers visiting the Palais de la Découverte science museum in Paris, when the year 2000 was seemingly an eternity away. Now, we are caught somewhere awkward between an abandonment of the Moon’s exploration and Elon Musk’s ambitions on Mars. Surely I can’t be the only one wondering why we don’t go to the Moon more, and maybe someone with an education not in business marketing can explain this. However it is in this time that Veilance decided to take inspiration from interstellar ambition.

This collection is marketed as “expanding into territories new and old”, which seems like a copywriter’s way of describing, well, any new collection in fashion ever. Chirps aside, they are making a push into performance denim with the Cambre pant and jacket, developed from Japanese 3D ergonomic patterning and laminated construction.

Cambre Jacket & Pant

Although little information could be found about the idea behind this, the idea of a slim-fitting, performance-focused denim jacket its appealing as hell. It looks sleek and undeniably different, and also begs the question of whether it could be alterable to achieve a truer fit. As an example, the Blazer LT, a wind and water resistant offering looks distinctive, and is practical for Vancouver’s dark, wet winters. However it suffers from the trickiest part about menswear, this being everyone is nowhere near as symmetrical as they hope, and long arms, square shoulders and everything but a model’s fit wreaks havoc on the fit of a blazer. Perhaps if this denim can be fiddled with, it can make the high price point a bit easier to swallow.

Aside from a strong returning roster, some new luggage offerings promote airport hopping in true minimalist style, and to top it all off the “featherweight” pieces are super lightweight.

In related news, clumsy use of my hands resulted in a toonie-sized hole in my Frame LS shirt. I am recovering from this loss slowly, but not without the knowledge that I purchased it on ProDeal and should just retire it to a life as the lightest, most technically-sound pyjama shirt in existence.

The wait until these products actually releases begins…until then, it may be best to relax to some music without words and enjoy the Vancouver summer until wildfire smoke robs us of all joy.

On Butchers and Barbers

The Less-Identified Barbershop

As the mercury starts to rise in Vancouver, the telltale signs of summer are everywhere – patio drinking has re-taken it’s place as everyone’s post work hobby of choice, spike ball games spring up like weeds in your local park, and the first taste of wildfire smoke came and went through the city two weeks ago.

Summer also means more time walking slowly, without the ever-driving rain keeping you away from spontaneous discoveries in your own neighbourhood. For me, Uptown Barber was one of these discoveries. Hidden in plain sight between a skateboard shop and a window of For-Lease signage in Mount Pleasant, the business has no sign to make its appearance known.

Once inside, there is sparse seating in the muggy one-room outfit, and three heavily tattooed and pierced barbers operate on a cash-only basis. The music is a toss-up, unidentified metal during my afternoon session, but the employees, mostly musicians from the sound of it, are keen to chat on any style or flavour that you mention. When I mentioned upstart outlaw guitar picker Colter Wall, my barber Ben had a half dozen Vancouver-based country artists to list off, surely a bit of trivia for a city known more for electronic and Carly Rae Jepsen.

There’s something about sweating under a sheet for half an hour for a shade over twenty dollars and wanting to come back. For lack of a better word, a lot of barbershops reek of scene, and are tough on the wallet too. Businesses like Uptown are something special.

On Striped Shirts

Second only to cuban collars and rayon, wide and colourfully-striped shirts are quickly becoming my favourite summer staple. Part of the key to this is opting for a wider stripe and vintage-inspired colours. Known as a butcher’s stripe, there is no clear measurement for what sets it apart from any other stripe.

Interestingly, the name derives from the setting apart of a master butcher from an apprentice, who would wear a thinner pinstriped apron until they progressed to broad accompanied with narrow, and finally the coveted wide-striped edition.

High cutaway or button-down collars serve these shirts well, and although I have found a lot of inspiration where these shirts are paired with ties, most of these are undoubtedly from Pitti Uomo. Needless to say, this may not work in Vancouver.

G. Inglese for No Man Walks Alone

On another note, who doesn’t like moody bedroom synth pop in the summertime? I stumbled upon local artist Diamond Cafe on the advice of a friend-of-a-friend at a party, and immediately took a liking to his work, which conjures the end of the night in a backyard soiree with tiki torches and cigarette smoke. Enjoy!

Arc’teryx Veilance – Wallet Review

Working a lot of retail over the past couple years has taught me two very important things (thankfully it taught me something to make up for making barely above minimum wage without a fleeting prayer of commission).

The first of these is where the concept of margin comes from; the space between the cost of production and the sticker on the product itself. This magical space is a place of Peter Pan-esque show and sparkle. It is important for anyone to know how much of the retail price they are paying is made up of storytelling, sensory appeal and psychological trickery. I don’t mean to antagonize the seller by saying this though, because the feeling captured by owning a truly well-designed and fulfilling product is tangible too-and hopefully tangible enough to cover that gap. 

The point is that it is important for the buyer to be aware of this, especially when purchasing anything related to fashion, where designers and streetwear brands convince the masses that it is reasonable to pay $700 for an embroidered t-shirt. The gap between cost and price will always exist, but hopefully you can decide to invest in a compelling reason to explain it.

The second thing that I learned is that if you get in with the right brands, you can get hooked the fuck up. This ties into my first point because it was only after acquiring a large number of items advertised at a high price for almost nothing, that I realize I felt mostly the same as a person, but had a new appreciation for good design, functionality, and choosing products that truly fit your personality. All the deeply discounted or free product in the world didn’t mean much if I didn’t feel strongly for what I had acquired.

During a Christmas season several years ago, I served a short stint at Arc’teryx, Vancouver’s king of everything outdoors. I came to appreciate their sleek and well designed technical wear, and had the opportunity (I would never have otherwise) to try their technical menswear Veilance line.

Part of this included purchasing the newly released Casing Billfold 78mm wallet, admittedly because I lost my other wallet -purchased at the famed leather market in Florence- in a folding lawn-chair. I later found it but elected to stay with the Veilance piece. Here’s why:

The main difference with the Casing billfold is its construction. Relying on laminated fine grain, water-resistant Horween leather, the lack of stitching provides the minimalistic look typical of the Veilance line. The silhouette is clean and sparse in detail, most pieces by Veilance are hard to pick out from a crowd, but at the same time they are difficult to truly replicate.

From a functional standpoint, this wallet is for the truly minimalist. Eight cards pushes this wallet to the absolute limit, and it isn’t for anyone who likes to carry more than six to eight bills in cash. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge problem for me (I’d rather further drive myself into dangerous levels of credit card debt, thank you very much).

Although the price of $325 CAD may be hard to swallow, I am beginning to see where its value come from after almost a full year of use. Daily use has left almost no impression on its beautifully constructed exterior. The wallet glides into my pocket, and I can hardly feel it when it’s there. Aesthetically, it feels sleek as hell when I place it down on the bar before paying for whatever the daily special is with a minimal tip. I often find myself lusting after the companion Casing Card and Casing Passport editions, although I would need to be flying many more planes to justify the latter.

The bottom line

I truly believe that this is an example of good old-fashioned, unadulterated value provided by Veilance, even at a high price point. Comparable luxury wallets can run in the range of $500 for tackily branded, “Italian leather” offering from Louis Vuitton. For the functionality and exceptional eye for design, I feel that the Casing Billfold is worth the investment. I hope that it is successful enough to provoke Veilance to keep experimenting with accessories and god knows what else.

Coming soon: reviews of Veilance Frame LS and Actuator Hoody.