Written for impulse online. Read the original piece, here.
Launched just this September, VELT creates bags inspired by the lifestyle in Vancouver, Canada. Every VELT product is created with its user and environment in mind, with a substantial emphasis on functionality without sacrificing comfort or personal style. impulse had the opportunity to sit down with the minds behind VELT, Clayton Chan and Andy Tran, to talk about their growing label..
What’s the story behind VELT?
Clayton: I first saw a place in the market when I was a student and shopping for a backpack. I couldn’t find a bag that was reasonably priced – a basic backpack would be around $60, and something that was unique would jump past the $200 price point. I didn’t feel like I could spend that kind of money while I was in school. This was before 2012, when Andy and I were already talking about creating something together. So we thought: “Why not do backpacks?” It’s something different: we’re into clothes, but we’re also into something that is strong, individual and unique. We wanted to make backpacks that represent who we are.
Andy: We wanted to create something that wasn’t t-shirts. Everyone does t-shirts. We figured doing backpacks and accessories is a good gateway for other things. People might say $95 for a backpack is expensive, but a lot of people put out $100 into buying a t-shirt. Once you invest in a backpack, you realize that your life just gets a little more organized. Spread the price out over two years and it becomes an investment.
How did you two meet?
Clayton: We met through mutual friends in high school. We always had homies that were kind of into clothes but not as much as we were, so we built our relationship around fashion and styling. We connected that way.
What is VELT’s vision and philosophy?
Clayton: Minimalistic functionality without sacrificing comfort and to make an honest product. We have a love for high quality and unique products and we do the best we can to satisfy the customer at our price level.
What are your influences?
Andy: From wearing what everyone wore in high school and realizing in post-secondary that we don’t actually like any of that shit. Honestly, we grew up wearing Ed Hardy, True Religion - stuff like that.
Clayton: We approach our products with a technical and modern approach. There’s brands out there that have more of a heritage kind of look and that’s not what we’re trying to do. In the end, there are only so many backpack shapes that you can do, so we’ll do that but with our own take.
Andy: If you look at Herschel, they do more of a heritage kind of look. And there’s Côte&Ciel which has a futuristic kind of look. We try to make a bag for everyone.
Clayton: In Vancouver, I was taking an hour bus ride every day just to go to school. A backpack is comfortable. f you have a long day and a lot of things to carry – a backpack offers the capacity to fulfill that need, and make it comfortable at the same time. I got a friend to test one of our samples. When he came back to us and he said, “Wow, what a difference it makes.”
What were some challenges faced in starting VELT?
Clayton: We faced a lot of legal issues, logistics, and problems we didn’t expect to have when you start a company. But I’m glad that there are these problems to overcome, because they are definitely a huge learning experience for me and Andy.
Andy: There’s so much more to just designing and creating a product. We had to rent a U-Haul truck just to release our product from customs.
Clayton: Our website issue – if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional web designer, try hiring an amateur. It’s usually better to put out those extra dollars. Our website got delayed for a whole month because of that.
Impulse: How long does it take to create a bag? From the design, to the production and testing process.
Clayton: I work closely with the designer on the production process. I bounce ideas back and forth through Skype because he’s located in Hong Kong. He lets me know what will work and what won’t, but he’ll try to accommodate my requests. That’s why the sample process can take up to 4 months to complete. But at least you know you have a good product. He’ll send me 50 different fabrics and source out the ones I pick, which is really convenient because I don’t have to be in Hong Kong to do all of this. It takes a little bit longer, but at least I can stay in Vancouver. For production, there’s a factory who makes the bags for us – they ship the samples to test once they’re ready, and we just keep cycling this process until I’m happy with the final product.
Andy: Sometimes the samples don’t turn out to be what we expected. We had one bag where samples looked amazing but I remember looking at it during production and wondering what happened. There’s shape changes and stuff. One of these bags were supposed to be way wider, but we made it an inch smaller when we were placing units, and we’re so glad we did it. The bag turned out much better.
Clayton: You have to test your own products. I think whenever a designer makes their own product, like clothing, they should know what happens after you’ve washed it 10 times. That’s important. I know when Andy and I test our bags, we use them hard and really try to test them.
Andy: I’ve used two of the bags for a good 14 months in the harsh Edmonton winter, and they survived the test of time. It’s pretty durable.
What’s next for VELT? Do you guys plan on expanding outside of bags?
Clayton: I’m going to be going back to school next year for product design. I have an International Business degree, but I’m really into fashion and I only realized this after I graduated.
Andy: It’s good that the both of us have a business background. Being creative is one thing, but we need to be able to sell our stuff and channel it in the right way. I do more of the brand management and marketing.
Clayton: At the moment, we want to get into retailers so customers can get a feel for the product. I know they will be surprised at the quality and how it compares to competing brands. Outside of bags, I want to create a bigger product line, do 6-7 backpacks and accessories in the future. We’re not ready to do clothing until we’re happy with the capital that can be used to make something that we honestly love.
Andy: Everyone does t-shirts and tries to do a fashion line but they don’t have the creativity or knowledge about anything like proportions. We figured doing backpacks and accessories would be good gateway for bigger things.
A lot of people do t-shirts or their own fashion line but don’t have the knowledge about basic things like proportions. We wanted to start with backpacks and accessories as a gateway for bigger things.
Clayton: If Andy and I were to ever do clothing, I wouldn’t want to do it any less than the highest level of quality of the designers that we personally love. We wouldn’t cut corners in terms of quality and the same thing goes with our backpacks..