All images from Lifetime Collective.
Words Zarah Cheng
When I first walked into Little Mountain Workshop, I wanted to try on all the clothes and smell all the soaps. I was there to meet with Trevor Fleming, co-founder of Lifetime Collective, so I didn’t have time to try on anything but I will tell you that I indulged in some soap-smelling (hello, Coffee Bar Soap). As we sit at a nearby café over more caffeine and sorbet, the designer-slash-boutique owner tells me about Lifetime Collective’s spirited beginnings as a collaborative effort between friends. Founded in 2002 by Reid Stewart and Trevor Fleming, the collective has grown to become a diverse and dynamic group that ranges from artists to photographers to skateboarders to musicians. Never forgetting its roots, Lifetime Collective is ever-evolving and never sleeping.
What is Lifetime Collective?
It’s always evolving and always changing, but it’s basically a huge collective of friends and the medium just happens to be sharing clothing. The collective [takes on] a lot of different forms: artists, musicians, videographers, photographers. And all that comes together and is expressed as a clothing brand. That being said, the clothing brand is multi-faceted. It has collections in both the boutique direction and within skate culture. We did that about four or five years ago – we segmented the brand to be able to service those two different areas.
How does Little Mountain Workshop tie into Lifetime Collective?
It kind of just happened because we needed a new office space [laughs]. It’s not as simple as that, but we just bought our brand from under our investors and were going out on our own again. We were looking at office spaces around the city and went in a bunch of different directions. We were looking at places on the second stories of buildings and art spaces and warehouse spaces. And we were debating, “Should we get more space than what we need and run an art community out of it? Or what would be best for the brand?” But we felt that having this [store] more tied to our customers and being able to interact with them on a more regular basis was important. So I would say it’s a curated space to showcase things that we’re interested in.
Lifetime includes everything from fashion to skateboarding to film. What motivated you and Reid to expand the collective so dynamically?
When we started, it was just friends that we grew up with that were part of the collective and it grew organically through word of mouth. And luckily for our friends and for us, these guys went along to do some pretty amazing things in their own genres. That helped us to get exposure on a more global basis – them introducing us to their friends – and so it’s always just been that, really organic. We don’t pay anyone on the collective, so everyone is doing it for the cause. I mean, if we use artwork we pay our artists, but everyone is there because they want to be involved in something like this.
What helped the collective grow into the different directions, from skate into more of a fashion boutique direction, was [us having] this company for 13 years and changing over those years. We never wanted to have a company that was always standing still because our customer is always growing up and changing too. So we didn’t want to hold back and just be that company that we were then – we adapted our company with our interests. So my interests took a boutique direction from going on trips buying with my wife and helping her open her boutique. Reid is still very deeply entrenched in that skate culture so it’s great to have those two outlets to design for. That’s really why that happened. Not because we were thinking, “We need to tackle this other market!” But it happened because we are genuinely still interested in what we are doing and have a passion for it. Without change, it’s pretty tough to force yourself to do that.
What inspired the Spring/Summer 2014 collection?
For inspiration, I can speak for my side of it – Reid would have to speak for his side – but on a boutique level for the Men’s and Women’s collections, we design all of our own fabrics in-house. All the prints that you see are designed in-house. We don’t really have very many market fabrics in the collection. Fortunately, we’re at a point where we’re able to do that. So when we do our colour storyboarding, we can carry that through into our fabric productions. There are a lot of things that get influenced. This specific collection had a huge pull from early 90’s pop culture. Two of the main prints, one’s called the “Zack” and the other the “Slater”, straight up Saved By The Bell references. When we’re storyboarding, sometimes it will go in a whole other direction from where we started out because we’re collecting images from all over the place. And that will lead us to another direction for designing fabric or pulling inspiration for the prints in the collection. Inevitably, photos and inspirations for the prints end up drawing us into another place to shoot the collection.
What was your creative process in developing the art direction for the S/S 2014 look book?
For the first part of the look book, we actually did a lot of studio work here – we did it at Little Mountain Workshop before it was open. The spring part of it was shot around back of the studio and that was all Ian [Lanterman]. But the summer portion was shot in Joshua Tree, Palm Springs. Because we were working on the new [The Living Dream] film, we decided to shoot the summer portion where we were shooting the video, just to give the seasons a very different look to them.
There is an image in the look book that I’m obsessed with. It’s one with a man and a woman looking through a window at each other. It’s so creepy and unsettling. To what extent do you collaborate with the photographers for the look books?
That was definitely tied to the narrative of the video. We were doing this whole play on light, shape, and reflection. There are a lot of geometrical shapes and stuff like that in the prints as well. That shot was definitely exploring the space and if you see the video, it makes sense. That was shot by my friend, Joey Indrieri, who’s part of the collective. He’s a photographer out of Venice. He was the photographer and the film director for the video as well.
At the end of the S/S 2014: The Living Dream video, there’s a quote: “The Living Dream has nothing to do with sleep.” What do you mean by that?
This is more of Joey’s direction but basically, to always have your eyes open. I always feel that for so many people, the things they do in their dreams or what their dreams are is never their reality. And to a certain extent it’s a play on that. You’re awake, you’re conscious, and you’re living it to the fullest.
Do you and Reid design all of the collections’ pieces?
Our collaborators within the company are the collective. Especially in Reid’s collection, we’ll have collaborations with artists within the collective to do a print say for the Rick McCrank collection or for anything else within the Uniform Standard. We’ve done that in the past with my collection too. I draw a lot of my own stuff now and we just kind of do our own thing. We have an in-house Women’s designer, Laura Tanner. She designs the Women’s collections and I work mostly with her because we share some fabrics. But aside from that, as far as collaborations go inside the company, we work with the collective. Especially for the t-shirt art.
To expand on that, pretty much everything we do through the whole process tends to involve the collective in some way. T-shirts for the season are always designed by artists in the collective. Photography for the season is always with a photographer in the collective. Videography goes the same way. And then we have our publication, Free Thinkers. It’s a way for us to expose those in the collective and also to work with people outside of the collective that we’re interested in. Maybe they’re not part of the collective, but we’ll do interviews with people and feature photographers like Glen E. Friedman. He’s obviously not in the collective but he was a huge part of us growing up. He’s an amazing photographer so we did an interview with him and featured his photography. It’s a way for us to work with new people.
The Men’s and Women’s collections are very cohesive together. When you come up with designs, do you focus more on how they will look for a particular gender?
I feel that the Men’s and Women’s collections look so cohesive because we will work on the same colour storyboard for the collections and then we design our fabrics with some crossover in mind. That tends to make it look very cohesive. You need to use a certain number of yards for a fabric and use it across so many styles within the Men’s and Women’s collections. So we do design them to work well together. But there are also some fabrics in the Women’s collection that are women-specific.
You guys are based in Vancouver but a lot of your photos and videos are shot on location in different places all around the world (Thailand and Iceland to name a few). Do your travels influence the designs for your collections?
Oh, 100-percent. Maybe it’s not always noticeable, but our whole company philosophy is influenced by the people we meet and the places we go. When we get out of the office or Vancouver and Canada in general, we can’t help but be influenced creatively by these things. It always flows into your work, no matter if you realize it or not. We did a shoot in Iceland one winter, filmed with Salazar, and I have a dobby-woven shirt in the following collection that actually has the pattern print from the Icelandic currency on it. There are always things you can incorporate, and whether they’re super “in your face” and noticeable or not, you can pull ideas and inspirations from all that.
Also, with storyboarding up to a collection and deciding how that can influence where we’re going to shoot or what’s going to influence colour, we can all of a sudden just be like, “Oh, where is that?” And then we decide, “Let’s just go there and shoot it.” We did this shoot at Lake Powell – which borders Utah, Arizona, and Colorado – and a lot of our colour storyboarding included shades of clay and turquoise. A few of the shots on the colour storyboard were actually at this epic place so we thought, “Awesome! Let’s just get a van full of people and shoot it there.” So we did. We camped there for a week and we shot it there. But that made it merchandise perfectly with the whole collection we developed. All the colours work together and everything just fits.
Lifetime Collective includes a very diverse group of artists from filmmakers to photographers to snowboarders. How does the collective inspire you and who you’re designing clothes for?
I think for us, we do such different things between Uniform Standard and the main Lifetime Collection. On a creative level, you are aspiring to do things that are worthy of the creative community that you are apart of. But on the other side of that, you have to understand your customer and really dissect what is selling versus what you’ve been selling. This includes trends, right from colour to fabrics to silhouettes. It’s not just about what you’re into because as a designer, what you’re into is always a season or two ahead of what your customer is going to be buying. So it’s always a little bit of that and a little bit of what you really love.
Lifetime describes the Uniform Standard as “a call back to the skate and snow roots of Lifetime.” How do you differentiate the designs for the Uniform Standard collections and the Men’s collections.
The reason that whole thing happened was because we grew up selling in an industry of skate and action sports. When the company started to grow, boutiques started buying garments from our collections and we tried to service this other customer. The more we did that and explored this other direction, the more it took away from the original group that supported us in the beginning. Not just by design, but also by price point because now we’re using fabrics that are getting more expensive and it’s taking away from what that customer base can afford. So in order for us to not completely lose where we started and these shops that we’ve been servicing, we decided to split the design of the company and to be able to service both industries.
What’s on your iPod right now?
Nothing [laughs], because I just took my iPhone hot tubbing with me the other day. But I do have podcasts. So my number one favourite podcast right now is Reverberation Radio.