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Talent Emerging: Victate

Recently, a lot of people have been throwing around the expression, ‘You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé,’ and even I jumped on the #trend. However, after speaking to creative director Edd Li, the man behind London-based label Victate, I started to think, ‘I have as many hours in the day as Edd.’ Sorry Bey.

Victate, a word that Li came up with after merging ‘victorious dictation’,  has been on my radar for about a year now, and it’s only recently that I’ve really come to understand just what the label stands for: To lead and pursue one’s aspirations. You see, when Li is not studying to pursue a career in dentistry, he is pouring his love for design and the desire to want things into his contemporary menswear label, where street-inspired designed meets conceptual-led pieces that all focus on expert craftsmanship.

Knowing myself, it’s often too easy to spot another fellow perfectionist, and I feel Li brings that to Victate, which began in 2009 and is headed up today by Li and a co-creative. You can see this kind of perfection in the way that the label carefully selects the Liberty print fabrics that they incorporate into their perfectly constructed T-shirts (which, by the way, are revised until they are just right – can’t argue with that kind of dedication). It’s the high level of quality that you could only hope to come across when buying clothes, especially in today’s mass market where most things don’t survive the first wash.

If you haven’t heard of Victate, it’s about the time you did. It’s about time you checked out their striking range that includes impeccably crafted apparel wear and one-off accessories; a kind of cult label worthy of investment.

Planet Notion: Hi Edd, tell us a bit about the man behind Victate?
Edd: North London is where I have spent most of my life. A better part of my teenage years were spent skateboarding, listening to metalcore and shunning those who liked 50 Cent. Behind closed doors, I spent a lot of time drawing and learning digital illustration on Photoshop and later, Illustrator. Before this, my childhood was spent in Los Angeles, Taipei and then I arrived in London where I began nurturing all my OCD traits and eye for detail.

My family is from Taiwan and I was raised in a traditionally oriental household. How great of an influence it has had on me has only become more apparent, something I am very fortunate to have.

PN: What is your earliest memory that links back to your love of fashion and design?
E: My mum is very creative and currently a costume jewellery designer. She studied fashion design when we lived in LA and has since got her qualifications from the GIA (Gemstone Institute of America), become quite the expert of leather sculpting and uses both of these backgrounds in the impressionistic necklaces she hand crafts.

So, I guess it was always part of my life, something I grew up seeing. I never really thought I would step into fashion, as it was always product design or illustration. Fashion encompasses a facet of these interests of mine, fulfilling my thirst for it as I pursue my other career choice in Dentistry.

PN: Victate began when…
E: I was asked to help a few old friends of mine and I was pitching brand names and logos to them in view of their new venture. Victate was one of them, something I was prepared to give them to work with! Quite fortunately, they had other thoughts and left the name Victate. A week later I thought, “I can do this myself” and here we are four years later.
DSCF2479 1920pxPN: Describe the label’s aesthetic?
E: It’s really quite hard to put my finger on it; I find that other people seem to describe it better. My view on our products probably differs from how our customers see it. The designs have to make sense, be justified in their own right and fill their own niche within the lifestyle I want. This probably explains our minimal colour palette and crisp presentation. We have experimented a lot with the range of products we produce, learning the ropes of it all, which also why it is hard for me to define our aesthetic.

PN: Without a typical design background, what have been some of the challenges in setting up your own label so far?
E: There have been so many! At the root of it all, it is the lack of guidance. There have been many episodes of us running down a particular direction only to stop and re-evaluate what we are doing. Being adaptive and flexible has really been crucial for me, something that may not be available to everyone though. VICTATE started up as a hobby and to this day it is very much an extended hobby of mine. The freedom works very well for us to see what is best for the brand and how it slots into my life.

PN: I know that earlier on you worked with Liberty prints, what was the reason for this and how did you incorporate traditional floral prints with your brand identity?
E: Liberty has always been close to me – lots of childhood memories climbing the narrow wooden staircases or standing beside the cutting tables looking at the eclectic combinations my mother would pick out. Liberty fabrics work great for us, a great way for me to bring a dash of vibrancy and colour to our stern, clean aesthetics. Of course supporting and affiliating with a well-established London brand gives the right impression to our customers; the brand alignment gives people a familiarity that helps them picture us when they are new to VICTATE.
DSCF2741 1920pxPN: What is your opinion on street wear today?
E: A crowded assembly hall with some real gems amongst all the noise. What I have really enjoyed witnessing is the influence street wear has had on the high-end market. There are really some great young designers smashing up aesthetics that you kick yourself for not doing first or finish that same idea first. I just hope the young bloods that have broken into the market are able to live past the trends that got them attention in the first place.

PN: I see you are passionate about creating the best possible products, do you find that today fashion has become less about quality and more about quantity?
E: In short: Yes. It is something we can’t avoid as the world is driven by money. Fast fashion that copies high-end trends every half season makes money. But this all comes down to where you look, what you choose to consume and what sort of lifestyle you create for yourself. A huge upside of the endless stream of content now available means we can find the niche we want and surround ourselves by it without too much difficulty. Having the choice to get a sweatshirt from £5 to £200 is our freedom and each to their own taste and financial ability.

PN: Describe your design process?
E: Most ideas stem from a series of lines and proportions that peak my interest. The idea filters through a lot of thought and criticism before I try to sketch it down. How the fit and function are sits at the forefront of my mind, followed closely by how I can simplify the construction to make production easier for my manufacturers or tailors. I won’t lie, a lot of time is spent procrastinating by the idea, scrutinising every detail I could think of until I am happy to lay some chalk down to sample something up.

PN: What was the inspiration behind your most recent collection?
E: The new Raglan Floral Lace T-shirt is another one of our explorative pieces. Developing on from the pattern used in our well-received Liberty Floral Sleeved T-shirts, the floral lace tackles the aesthetic of men wearing lace. The pair follows our minimal colour palette of white, black and gold, emphasising the fabrics, lines and varying textures of garment when worn and seen in real life. I feel it is a very masculine piece when the right sort of guy wears it with their self-confidence on their face!
DSCF2990 1920pxPN: Currently you are seen as an apparel brand, with your passion for design, do you plan on branching out, say into tailoring or along that line?
E: This we always keep quite quiet about. We are always dabbing in different fields that’s for certain. As long as I have a thirst to learn more, there is always a chance we will create something in a direction our loyal customers have not yet seen before.

PN: Do you find that fashion industry in general provides enough support for emerging designers?
E: Hmm. No. It is difficult for me to say, as, like you mentioned above, I am not a typical designer. I have never attended an institutionalised design or fashion school. Thus, I am sure I am missing out on a lot of what is actually available! The world can’t be that ruthless…

PN: How important is social media to your work?
E: Very much so! It is a great way for our customers to be present with us at any point in time. We don’t take it too seriously; posting behind the scenes work of us messing around, updating them about new releases and probably most importantly too many…when a sale is on! I think it’s one of the best places for good customer service too where customers approach us directly regarding a product in a photo for instance. Be sure to catch us on most services under @VICTATECLOTHING.

PN: Who or what inspires you?
E: The life I will live in the future inspires me the most. By surrounding myself with great supportive family and friends reminds me there is always more ahead to achieve, for myself and for them. The current state of design bares more than enough talent, which always inspires me too. I log it all in on my Pinterest where my boards are formed according to what features of the design I like the most.

To pick one person as an inspiration would be VERBAL. One of my idols, one half of m-flo, one half of AMBUSH jewelry, creative director for Reebok Asia and a member of Teriyaki Boy – a great example of a smart businessman in the world of street fashion.

PN: Last but not least, what’s next for Victate?
E: It’s going to be a tough year for us next year; my schedule with commitments outside of VICTATE is getting very busy. But even so, our road map is set and well underway! Many more explorative pieces will continue to peak interests whilst glimpses of signature pieces will begin to be seen. We’re in for the long run and there is no rush. Fast fashion is not what we are.

Be sure to catch VICTATE on social media under @VICTATECLOTHING.

- Hardeep Gill

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