"Hey man, where'd you get that sweet hoodie?" This is a question that Simon's been getting asked a lot while hanging around the beaches/streets of Vancouver. Simon is the founder and creator of the fresh new West Coast label called Twenty Four Friendly (instagram: @four_twenty_friendly). Yes, the name makes everyone chuckle and wonder about what his product is... but calm down, guys. It's a hoodie. And it makes total sense when you sit down and have a conversation with this chill, laid-back, nature-loving, West Coast dude.
Tell me about the label. How does it represent the West Coast?
"The aesthetic, the cut, the material, everything sort of combines to make it perfect for the West Coast lifestyle. The label itself was inspired by my time spend out here enjoying the natural beauty and laid-back vibe. It seems to facilitate and excel the creative process."
What are some of your concerns with today's apparel industry?
"It's pretty obvious that we, as global citizens, lean pretty heavily on one area of the world for production and manufacturing. It's easy to justify from a business perspective because of the low cost, and seemingly inexhaustible labour force, however, this is not sustainable in my opinion. After visiting a number of large cities in China last year (Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong), the effect of overproduction became obvious to me, and its much worse than what I had thought prior to seeing it with my own eyes. So in answer to your question, one of my concerns is the centralization of garment manufacturing and the lack of domestic production."
What is your vision of an ethical and sustainable clothing line? How have you been working towards this vision?
"Ethical treatment of workers in every link of the supply chain is imperative. We're very lucky to have partnered with a Rotary Club member, who owns and runs an ethical operation in Mexico using reclaimed fibres. Ever since manufacturing moved overseas, Mexico's economy and work force was also hurt. We are working on a charity type program where we give back to Mexican communities in need. Communities that used to feed their families from labour wages at local factories now closed due to the overseas manufacturing trend. We are very happy with the healthy relationship and they greatly appreciate the business, not to mention that they produce some great materials to work with."
"Our factory in Vancouver is a positive work environment that is small and naturally-lit. While the price to produce each garment is more than what we would pay overseas, I enjoy being able to bike to our meetings, speak directly with the people who hand-make the pieces, and play a larger role in the small details that gives the look I have in mind. Plus, the quality meets our high standards."
What do you do on your down time?
"Ha. I'm captivated by the creative process, so whether it be drawing, sewing, or making music - this is where I'm most happy and productive. I'm also very active and enjoy fitness, yoga, swimming, etc. Travel is a must as well.
If we ever saw you walking down the streets of Vancouver, what would we most likely catch you in?
"Lately, I have been wearing one of my pullovers - I've been getting great responses from people while wearing the piece around Vancouver, so I think you'd see me in one of those... luckily, I have a wide range of colours. If not, probably black and greys, longer cut."
How do you want to grow your label?
"I'm working on getting the line in some local surf shops and head shops - we're very young as a company so we're still evaluating our best path forward/ We just launched our e-commerce website (www.fourtwentyfriendly.com) last week, so we have one major milestone complete! I think it could do well on the West Coast of Canada and the US, and we've had some interest in Australia as well. So we'll be pursuing marketing and retail channels in these areas."
The photo shoot with him was really fun. I really liked the blend between the beach-campfire-surfing-hiking-loving style of his clothing line and the urban cityscape of Gas Town, Vancouver. After interviewing him and his views on the fashion industry, I could tell that the future is bright and exciting for this young company. Make sure to check them out and show some support for our local business! :)