They say design is a gift and success is the fruition of that gift, Canada definitely is a breeding ground for talent. It is a very diverse country that inspiration can come from every corner. Within those corners, a duo has been taking the Canadian Fashion Scene by storm. They’ve first swam the waters through a steamy fashion show at Toronto Mens Fashion Week and has been a regular afterwards. Combination of talent and actual knowledge of business they are both set to success. I have been lucky enough to sit down with the masterminds of the brands Swam and Buckson: Will Poho and Joseph Tassoni.
As I was greeted with a great smile from Joseph while he met us at the entrance of the building to their studio, I immediately felt at home. Joseph had that calm warm feeling that just screams I’m excited to meet you. Then as we entered their studio I met Will who was as enthusiastic and warm as Joseph can be, definitely the right pair in first impression. As we all sat down and started chatting I realized that these guy are not just fashion designers, they’re not just businessmen, but dare I say they are innovators. Read below for the entire interview.
Jhake: Run me through on how this partnership came to fruition?
Will: Joseph and I actually met here in Toronto, many years ago and I worked in the same office as where Moose Knuckles was in Montreal. And we both started at Montreal at the same time, where I recognized Joseph’s talents specially in design and marketing. And so, we partnered up to start a bunch of lines together. So, we started with a swimsuit line and eventually expanded to a mans pant line. With the intention of building the brand in Canada and entering the market with high quality Canadian made clothing.
Jhake: What inspired you guys to get into Fashion Design?
Joseph: It actually came really Naturally, I just really enjoyed making clothes. And I just fell into it through working with different companies throughout the years. Working retail, production, marketing, almost everything that involves fashion.Then I started working with Will.
Will: I came in more for fashion marketing, cause I really wanted to get in the marketing side, and I thought that’s where my strengths was. I did took fashion marketing in FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in NYC. So when I came back, I wanted to start my own brand, but handle the marketing perspective. So for my thesis (in FIT) I studied Canada Goose, Canada Goose started in 2004 and I saw their success as a small company to having success internationally. So I figured maybe because Canada is a cold country it just makes sense to have make coats. So, I started my own coat brand, and instead of marketing it the regular way, we marketed the coat with humour… and thats how we launched the brand.
Jhake: When designing for your lines, where do you get your inspirations from?
Will: Everything starts with a Canadian perspective, the world finds Canada to be a interesting but serious place because of a huge land mass but small number of people. So everything starts with a Canadian perspective. Canada is a very vast and rural country, theres a lot of images of working land, forest, fishing industry, Mining industry… so traditionally we reach to the heritage of working the land, commodity, and as a result of that everything I so starts with work related; tough, durable, and can stand the Canadian environment.
Joseph: Also, we have to have comfort and quality, wether it be the swimwear, or the pants. If I was doing something or creating something I would like it to look professional and comfortable.
Will: And quality is very important to us, we don’t just design something that is going to be reproduced fast that people will wear now and throw after. we design based on chosen ingredients like fabric that are superior and high quality, because if you try to sell it as a premium product then you need to have premium fabrics, then you can justify the price point. So overall, Canadian elements, quality of the garments, and longevity. We both have solid beliefs against fast fashion. If you buy something, you should have it in your wardrobe for years to come not the landfill. You can’t be Canadian and make fast fashion, you can’t do it at that price point. You have to be slow fashion, my guy would be a guy who has three pieces on his wardrobe, which is jeans, a white t-shit and a leather jacket. He isn’t dragged by the latest looks, he is a guy who values quality and longevity over style and quantity.
Jhake: Both of you guys have different styles, when you’re designing, does your style show on the collection? Specially for the jeans?
Will: We both have the foundation of prep and rock n roll, we make these collection that we incorporate in our own wardrobe. we pretty much see things eye to eye. And out main goal is to create brands. Like our bathing suit, the point of the bathing suit is that it is lined with a speedo, instead of a mesh lining. When I’m wearing a bathing suit and it has a mesh lining it as soon as I get out of the water, it sucks to your skin and you need to shake it out and you know you get shrinkage. So I started wearing speedos underneath my bathing suit… and I found that it was better. I got out of water and because there are so many fabrics, you don’t see the outline of it, then I wore two pair of speedos, and it look bigger, and warmer because as you know in Canada the water tends to be cold even if it’s hot outside. Unlike Hawaii where there’s hot water and hot air. And going back to our main vision, we used humour with the design of our swimwear. like the prints we use for example are men wearing speedos.
So we attract attention through the humour, so in our company, we aren’t creating a thousand things. We just have some main basic styles and that’s it. Like for our fashion show, we make the models wear speedos to actually show what’s inside the swimwear. When we create a brand, we see ourselves as marketers and brand owners aside from designers. It’s more about building a brand and brand story.
(Dress designed and made with Cashmere tissue rolls)
Jhake: Where do you guys see all your brands in the future? How big do you want to go?
Will: As big as it can get, but the whole main goal is to incubate it in Canada because we are Canadians. Once we build the brand and we feel like it is ready to move to the international stage then we sill launch it for the Global audience. Because a global audience wants to buy and pay premium for something that is made in Canada and if you see the product it comes with a really great story. So we see ourselves exporting Canadian Fashion.
Jhake: When did your pants line started?
Joseph and Will: Last Fall (Fall 2015) Buckson Slacks.
(Buckson Slacks is a pant line that Will and Joseph started. Made in Canada and sports 3 main designs: Skinny Buck which is the skinnier version but not too skinny, just fits right without the sucking feeling, then comes the Hockey Buck which is designed for more athletic built men, the ones who sports more athletic legs. and then you have the Classic Buck which is the classic straight cut design.)
(Left pocket conceals a cheeky squirrel)
Jhake: If you were to choose just one type of fabric to work with, what would it be?
Joseph: You got this…
Will: Cotton, main reason is because it is a natural Fabric. Unlike other fabrics that are made out of petroleum. I’d like to put more cotton on my body than petroleum. Everything in our line is made out of cotton from our pants to our bathing suits.
Joseph: I agree with Will and I would go as far as too say it is a versatile fabric that you can play with.
Will: Luxury is natural, for me Luxury fabric is going to always be more luxurious that synthetic Fabric.
Talking to both of them was a peak to how we should look at independent brands and how we should try to invest on better quality than how many clothes and shoes we need to have. Both have the desire to push Canadian Fashion to the global stage by staying true to what being Canadian means. Attention to detail that produces impeccable products is just the perfect ingredient for success.