8 Vancouver-born fashion brands now known around the world
Vancouver isn’t necessarily a place that comes to mind when you think of ‘fashion’, but our beautiful city has spawned some pretty impressive clothing brands over the years.
Best known for its laid back ‘athleisure’ style (thanks, Lululemon), VanCity has become a tour de force when it comes to influencing – mostly over the past decade. While casual wear is at the heart of many local brands, like Smash + Tess and Reigning Champ, we also compete on the global style scene with trendy stores like Aritzia and Indochino.
Take a look at eight top fashion brands you might not know here in Vancouver.
Perhaps the best known of all. Chip Wilson started the yoga-influenced brand in 1998 as a studio, opening a single stand-alone store on Kitsilano 4th Avenue in 2000. Lululemon quickly wowed yogis on the West Side in the 2000s, and shoppers couldn’t not enough of the black bootcut “groove” pants made from the exclusive Luon brand material (trademark 2005).
After successful expansion to Vancouver and Canada, the company set its sights on the south with a location in Santa Monica in 2003. Today, the company operates 491 stores around the world, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Japan, France and more.
Notably, the iconic groove pants have been demystified by the “Wunder Under” skinny fit in recent years. The company has also expanded its offering to include more clothing like jackets, sweaters and swimwear, as well as a line for men. Lululemon is undoubtedly the inspiration behind today’s massive athleisure push.
This celebrity-loved clothing brand was born and raised in Kerrisdale. Founded by Brian Hill in 1984, the concept of women’s clothing began operating at the back of his family’s department store, Hills of Kerrisdale.
Aritzia opened its first store in Oakridge Center that same year, expanding significantly in Vancouver, Toronto and other Canadian cities until it turned to the US market. The retailer, which calls itself “everyday luxury,” opened its first US store in chic Bellevue Square in 2007.
Expansion has been slow and steady in the United States, but the company – which is known for everything from its comfy TNA tracksuits to chic Babaton suits and bold Wilfred pieces. In recent years, the brand has caught the attention of Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Eiza Gonzalez, and Hilary Duff (who, by the way, was an OG fan since she was a teenager shooting movies in the Lower Mainland).
Today, Aritzia operates 101 stores in total: 68 in Canada, 33 in the United States, and a handful of spin-off stores for their Wilfred, TNA and Babaton brands. Their concept of A-OK cafe was also successful, with stores in Toronto, Burlington, Calgary and New York.
This blockbuster bag and travel brand is a worldwide hit, but people often don’t know Herschel hails from Vancouver! Founded in 2009 by brothers Lyndon and Jamie Cormack, the duo have a mission: to make backpacks less boring.
The name Herschel is sentimental to the Calgary-raised duo: Herschel is the name of the Saskatchewan town where their great-great-grandparents immigrated from Scotland in 1905.
Beyond classic backpacks, popular with children, adolescents and adults, the brand is also present on Instagram with its elegantly designed suitcases. In recent years, Herschel has also launched full-fledged clothing with hats, jackets, t-shirts and more. A Gastown flagship store cemented their roots in Vancouver in 2017, but today they have 9,000 distribution points in 90 countries.
Smash + Tess
Another for the loungewear category. Founded by mother-daughter duo Teresa and Ashley Freeborn with their friend Mercedes LaPorte, Smash + Tess officially debuted in 2016. The brand was designed to fit women of all shapes and sizes, and most importantly, to be comfortable. .
Their wildly popular rompers put them on the map in Vancouver, ultimately creating a “romper revolution” on Instagram. The beloved style comes in short and long versions so that they can be enjoyed all year round.
Big name collaborations with celebrities like Bachelorette star Jillian Harris and Millennial Queen Hilary Duff put the mark even more on the map, including on the pages of Vogue magazine. The clothing company also landed a coveted position on the Globe & Maillist of the fastest growing companies – citing skyrocketing growth of over 4,000% during the pandemic.
Reigning Champ is the vision of founder Craig Atkinson (also founder of wings + horns), who started the business in 2007. The collection of premium, high-quality basics has built a slow and steady following in Vancouver – but This was not the case. t long before the streetwear brand got noticed elsewhere (David Beckham is a fan).
The collection is not only locally designed, but also produced in their own tailoring factory. Quality remains of paramount importance to Atkinson, who discovered the world of fabrics after launching a brand in Japan in the mid-1990s.
High-level collaborations increased Reigning Champ’s visibility: the brand has partnered with other apparel companies like Asics, Converse and Everest, as well as organizations like the NBA and MLB. In June 2021, Reigning Champ was acquired by another Vancouver-based company, Aritzia, for $ 63 million.
Vancouver’s natural beauty lends itself to plenty of nature activities, so it’s no surprise that one of the world’s biggest outdoor clothing brands has sprung up on the North Coast. Technical Line Arc’teryx offers all the essentials one could need for everything from skiing and high performance climbing, hiking and everything in between.
Climber Dave Lane conceptualized the brand in 1989 when he was not happy with what was available in the market. He first started a business called Rock Solid Manufacturing, before teaming up with a friend (and another avid climber) Jeremy Guard in 1990. They changed the name of Arc’teryx the following year in homage to the first known bird Archeopteryx Lithographica.
Today, “Dead Bird” – a nickname for the brand inspired by their iconic fossil logo – operates 80 brand name stores and is available at 3,000 retailers worldwide.
Who Said Vancouver Can’t Dress Up? Menswear brand Indochino is about as far removed from athleisure as it gets, offering custom tailored suits. Founded by University of Victoria alumni Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani in 2007, the brand was designed with the belief that a personalized wardrobe doesn’t need to break the bank.
The company has grown exponentially after landing a $ 42 million investment from Chinese company Dayang Group. Cash flow has brought Indochino offline and into the world of showrooms, where customers can take their steps to place orders in person. Indochino now operates 60 stores across Canada and the United States, continuing to revolutionize the bespoke menswear space.
Notably, Gani left to start the custom yoga mat business Sugarmat in Montreal, while Vucko became the COO of the food and cookware business Epicure. The company is now led by CEO and Chairman Drew Green.
Vancouver-based John Fluevog has been an influencer in the fashion industry for 50 years. By launching his eponymous line in 1970, John is revered for his daring and eccentric designs. Originally a partner of a store called Fox and Fluevog, the legendary designer quickly gained attention for his Victorian-inspired “Pilgrim” style (silhouette still known).
In the 1980s, John was flying solo and created another signature: his angel soles, made from natural latex harvested from the rubber tree. After selling his Jaguar to open a second store in 1985, he quickly expanded to the United States with locations in Seattle, Boston and even the United Kingdom. Madonna helped elevate the brand even further in the ’90s, sporting the black platforms Munsters in the controversial film. Truth or Dare.
Now 73, John remains more relevant than ever with 26 standalone stores in places like Melbourne, Denver, New Orleans and New York. Our own provincial health worker, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is such a big fan that she even had a pair of shoes designed. and named for her.