If there's one thing we like to do at this time of the year, it's unpacking boxes of new Spring gear and discovering new collections from our favorite brands. Especially when these collections are "Made in Quebec", just like Success Clothing.
Photos: Jean-Philip Lessard (@jpl_photography)
Recently arrived in stores and online, the new Success Clothing collection is fire. Since we take pride in supporting local brands and love to see what's behind their creations, we talked to Vinny Success, the brand's creator, about his new collection, the inspirations behind Success Clothing and the state of streetwear in Quebec.
How and when did you decide to launch Success Clothing?
When I was studying Graphic Design at Cégep Ahuntsic (2003-2006), I started having freelance clients who needed my design services. I was a student and I had no cash, so I took all the contracts that came by: Websites, logos, branding, layout, business cards, etc. In fact, I didn't really like the kind of projects I was working on, so I had the brilliant idea of producing a series of t-shirts and giving them to those customers to thank them for doing business with me. I had total freedom and didn't have to respect specific parameters or requests from customers. The t-shirt line was called Swag. I think it was 2007, I made 5 different colors for every day of the week. To my surprise, the t-shirts became more popular than my design services and one day I received a call from Fly Society store in downtown Montreal, who wanted to buy 20 shirts. Problem is that I only had thirty made! That's when I decided to launch a real brand, and I had to change my name because Swag would quickly become a rather outdated name. After a year of brainstorming, I had a flash in a dream and decided to call my brand Success, because that's what motivated me the most at first. So I took a Sharpie, a sheet of paper and drew the Success logo. We still use the same one today. That was in 2008, where the adventure really began!
Other than that, what motivated you to get into the streetwear industry?
When I was in high school, I used to skateboard a lot and was the only one at the school that was sponsored. On the other hand, there were very few brands that really spoke to me. At that time, either you were a skater who listened to punk, or a fresh who played basketball and listened to rap. We spent our time fighting in the playground, skaters vs fresh. Those who knew the 90s and early 2000s will remember! My problem is that I was skateboarding, but I did not listen to punk, I liked rap. So I was caught between the two styles, I didn't want to dress "Prep" neither dress like a punk.
In the early 2000s, there were several brands that changed my life, combining exactly the those two styles: LRG, Droors, Alphanumeric, Akademiks, Triple 5 Soul (not to mention the pioneer, Stussy, but at that time the brand was less active). It was the beginning of a new era, probably the beginning of modern streetwear as we know it.
When I started my brand in 2008, my mission was to create the clothes I wanted to wear in this period of my life.
For sure I wasn't the only one looking for that kind of style, a mix of skateboarding, sneakers, music, car tuning and lifestyle. I always keep this aspect in mind when I design my collections: If I wouldn't wear it, I won't do it. My brand has become a way to let my creativity flow without having to respond to specific rules, it's like an artistic escape for me.
How would you describe the most recent Success Clothing collection in a nutshell?
For the Spring 2018 collection, I kept my basics (hoodies, t-shirts and caps) but I decided to embark on a new adventure: Success Sportswear. It's a division of the brand that I'm going to start implementing gradually in each collection, from one season to the next. I want to bring a more sporty touch to the brand, with more advanced pieces in terms of materials and cuts, while decreasing the graphic presence on these pieces. The first item in this division is the Initial Tracksuit. It is built with a technical polyester blend, which combines lightness and breathability. The garment dries quickly for those who will use it for sports. Instead of printing big logos like basics, I just put the first letter of the Success signature, which is why it's called the Initial Tracksuit. Then I cut my crest logo in 2 and embroidered each half on both sleeve. I thought it would be a good idea to be able to recreate the logo by joining the two arms together.
Where did you take inspiration from for this last collection's creations?
The designs and logos for this collection were strongly inspired by the things that represent me in this phase of my life. Every collection I draw is a reflection of my state of mind at the moment I draw it, so every time I look at my past seasons, I can remember the memories of that period of my life, much like people who get tattooed. This season, there are several news items in the collection. It's our 10th birthday, so I drew a logo to celebrate it by taking inspiration from my favorite bottle of rum. I wrote "Aged 10 Years" on it. Also, I made a logo that was a nod to the PyeongChang Olympic Games by juxtaposing my crest with the 5 Olympic colors. Since I enrolled in the traditional Vietnamese school to learn how to read and write in my mother's language, I drew a logo with an Asian temple and I attributed the phrase "welcome to the house of opportunities" because I strongly believe that the opportunities are there only when we are receptive, otherwise they pass before our eyes without being noticed. Finally, I also made a logo inspired by the album Wu-Tang Forever, with a globe, because this year will be the beginning of my international expansion and I wanted to create a symbol to celebrate this milestone of my life.
What do you think it takes for a Quebec brand to break into the international market?
It's really funny because before selling in Quebec, I had already sold internationally. It seems that for people to appreciate your work here, you have to succeed elsewhere. After you did, you can come back home and have the support of your friends. I had to sell in New York, Paris and Tokyo before the local shops started to have an interest in Success. When I started in 2008, very few stores wanted to try my brand because they said the brand was not strong enough, or they did not want to take a chance because I wasn't known or anything. One of the only stores that believed in me from the beginning is Empire! I bumped into Phil Grisé a couple of times at rap shows, and one day he told me to come to the office so we could try Success at Empire. I will always remember it.
I arrived late because I had a flat tire on the highway, my hands were all dirty after putting my spare tire on and when it came time to place the order and Phil asked me to bust out my laptop, I didn't even have one. Forget about it, I was too broke for a laptop! We ended up taking sheets of paper, drawing lines with a pen to make columns for sizes Small to XXL, and we placed our first order, by hand. It's been almost 10 years. Thank you Empire!
Where do you see Success Clothing in 5 years?
With the elements that have gradually been put into place for future international expansion, I believe, in fact, I know that in five years my brand will have a much greater reach on the world scale. Thanks to the internet and the democratization of streetwear, there are no more borders now. People connect to their instagram and can shop around the world from their fingertips. I know it because our website receives more and more orders from people living far away, in several different countries. We ship orders throughout Canada, the USA, Europe and we're starting to get in Asia. Now it's time to start doing wholesale on these other continents to be able to go deeper in each of these markets. I am confident that we will be able to do so.
One thing is for sure: When my brand is distributed on a large scale, we will remember that everything started at Empire, with the flat tire and order by hand episode!