an interview with founder, Brian Vu | summer 2016
“You live differently when you travel. If your constantly in your own element with the same routine, seeing the same people, creativity becomes rigid. When you’re somewhere completely foreign you think differently, you carry yourself differently, it's when you are most loose.”
I met Brian in 2016 and was immediately captured by his movement. There was something extremely honest and pure about his work, a feeling of genuine passion and commitment. Brian's shop is located in the heart of the Junction community and features an assortment of authentic one of a kind pieces, hand crafted globally and designed locally by Brian.
CR. Let's first begin with the inception of Latre. How did this journey begin for you?
BV. There was a lot of sample when I first opened, a lot of trial and error. It was totally different, I mean if you look at blogTO's article on the shop, there was very little product in the store, I was mostly guessing. The items and concepts that I thought were cool, for example the African Indigo panels- hanging up there, in the begining people thought I was crazy, 'why is this guy selling old rags', now it's four years later and I've sold so many. My point is, that's how things work, you don't know until you try. You follow your creative intuition, sometimes the ideas seem weird and obscure at first; it took two years for people to wrap their head around indigo, to really understand it and develop and appreciation for it.
CR. Tell me about your latest creative explorations when it comes to the designs you create for your shop.
BV. My new crazy idea is French antique textiles from the 17th century. Once again, trying to come from an obscure angle. I met a woman a while back at a textile market and for the past 12 or 15 years, she has traveled across southern France, finding old textiles and fibres, she collects them. When I met her and told her my unique angle, and what I'm passionate about creating, immediately she said to me, 'I have the perfect fabric for you to make clothes with'. These fabrics were home-spun back in the 1800's; we’re talking about fabric that has existed for over 150 years, each thread woven with all natural fibres. Just grasping the concept of that is so cool. Back then it was all hemp and linen. This is during the time when textiles were their Rolex, so to speak. So that's my new angle, using these textiles to bring to life my designs. As an artist you do irrational things sometimes, pushing limits and boundaries beyond what is accepted as standard, we all go through a similar roller coaster.
CR. So in a sense, your a fashion designer.
BV. I guess. I try not to describe myself in that way. I like to say I'm more of an artist. I love making things that I think are nice and hopefully I connect with other individuals that think the same way. As you know, there is always a market for anything that you want to do, as long as you're genuine, positive and focused. Things will eventually work out the way you truly want them too, as long as you are keen on being positive and as genuine as you possibly can be. You'll run into people that will get it and understand what you are trying to bring to life or individuals who will extend their hand to you.
CR. So how did you come to design clothes and open your own shop. Did you always see yourself doing what your doing now?
BV. No, not at all! I knew I loved to work with my hands, I have a fine arts degree with a focus on sculpture. After University I did a few pieces of art work and tried to get my work into a number of galleries in Toronto. They didn't say no but they didn't say yes either. They kept saying 'maybe, maybe, maybe', I was young and hot headed, I got fed up so I decided to open a restaurant and sell my art work in my restaurant.
My connections were largely in the food industry, so when I got the urge to move on from the restaurant business, I had no connection to fashion or design what so ever. I was a blind mice so to speak.
CR. How did you segue into opening your own shop and designing fabrics and clothes after owning a restaurant?
BV. I had the restaurant for six years and the last few years I was so unhappy. The final two years I made tons of money, I thought the money would cheer me up but if anything it made me more miserable, I lost my spirit and I lost everything. My desire to be creative was shot, it was gone because I hadn't done anything with it in so long. My partner sat me down and said 'think carefully, do you want to continue this or do you want to move onto something else?' It was a major cross in the road for me. I remember she said 'don't forget, money isn't everything.' I mean we were making money but still, I wasn't happy. At the same time, our success caught the eye of an investor who wanted to make the restaurant a franchise. So there I was, faced yet again, with another test to see how greedy I was. The condition was, I would be responsible for double or triple the work that was already making me feel empty. My decision became very clear and I sold it.
CR. After being in a space completely void of creative inspiration and for so many years, what inspired you and sparked the creative flame once again?
BV. Travel. I traveled the world. I went to Cambodia, Japan...I needed to get away from everything and refocus. I said to myself, what makes you happy? What will make you smile again? When I'm creative, when I'm using my hands, when I'm around other creative people; that's when I'm the most happy and so, here we are.
When I came back, I spend two years working for and with other creative people, that's when I started building and developing my own ideas. When ideas flow and things start to make sense to you, the universe moves fast, It took me a year to build and create this shop after 4 years of immersing myself in creativity again.
CR. What inspires your design process when it comes to making clothes?
BV. Traveling, because you’re not in your element, everything around you is new. You become much more open and are willing to accept everything.
You live differently when you travel. If you’re constantly in your own element with the same routine, seeing the same people, creativity becomes rigid. When your somewhere completely foreign you think differently, you carry yourself differently, it's when you are most loose and when you are loose, you absorb your surroundings much easier and are effected by them.
In Vietnam, I visited Mount Sapa and the people who lived in the villages there. They lived in the woods and all they did was hand make goods and dye or design them using indigo. At that time I had no idea what they were doing or what indigo was but for some reason I was so attached to it, not knowing of course, that I would later be using indigo and it would be such an instrumental component of my art.
They were such simple people, they didn't have much but they were so happy- laughing all the time and doing indigo. If you compare their lives to ours, they have nothing and yet, they have everything.
CR. What words can you share with other creatives trying to pioneer new concepts and movements.
BV. Just be genuine and do honest work, keep at what you love to do and stay focused. By being true and honest you attract and connect with like minded people, it's important to surround yourself with that and build with it.