CASUAL ELEGANCE FOR THE MODERN MAN
Story by Amanda Thomas
Photos provided by Chaos Theory
Stemming from the idea that small changes can make a big difference, Chaos Theory takes street wear to the next level. The recently launched brand, created by Alyssa Alikpala and Kevin Chao, provides a contemporary aesthetic that matures as the wearer does.
Both Ryerson graduates – Alikpala in fashion design and Chao in urban planning – they each bring a unique perspective to Chaos Theory. From graphics to designing to sewing prototypes, the young designers do as much as they can themselves.
Emphasizing little details, like a shawl collar on a vest or an embroidered line on a t-shirt, their line updates wardrobe staples.
Not only does the socially conscious team want to make their mark on Toronto’s menswear scene, but also in the local community. They volunteer at Yonge Street Mission and plan to use Chaos Theory as a platform to bring together and help out similar local organizations and artists.
Alikpala and Chao tell us about their brand and how they intend to cause change.
What is Chaos Theory?
Chao: In simple terms, it’s just like the butterfly effect, small changes can cause very big differences at the end.
Alikpala: In terms of the clothing, it’s where the little details make the piece. Outside of clothing we want to be involved in the community and cause change in whatever way we can. It’s our brand philosophy.
What drew you to designing menswear?
Chao: I’ve always been interested in fashion, more street wear, but as I grew older I phased out of it but I still want something that’s me. I wanted to design something that matures as I grow.
Alikpala: I have always had the passion to design. I really enjoy doing menswear. I can look at it without bias because when I design womenswear, instead of designing for a particular customer I feel like I’m designing for myself almost. But for this I really have to think about what our customer is like, what is suitable for his lifestyle. That’s why it’s interesting, because it’s kind of outside the box for me.
You mention that community involvement is a big part of your brand, what are your plans for that?
Alikpala: We definitely want to find a way, whether it’s donating a portion of our sales to a cause that is in line with what we believe or collaborating with an artist to get them to do graphics we could feature on a t-shirt
Chao: If people like us, and come to us with ideas, we would be down to work with them.
What are some obstacles that you have faced or are currently dealing with as a new brand?
Chao: The biggest thing has got to be manufacturing. We are not their [factory] priority and if you’re not, you take a backseat to a lot of things…the communication gets a little lost, it just adds up.
Alikpala: I think one of the major issues with it is that we’re just starting out and we’re still small. Factories are used to big orders and we have minimal ones. The other thing is just little personal issues. In a creative field you don’t always agree, we kind of butt heads sometimes with ideas, but we try to find a middle ground and find something we both agree on.
Chao: It’s good because I’m the guy and I’m thinking about what I’d like to wear but she’s objective and thinking about what the customer would want.
So who do you envision as your customer?
Chao: Somebody who’s stylish but not overly out there. Someone who’s comfortable with himself. It’s the person transitioning from college or university into the professional world and is getting established, he can’t wear a loud graphic tee and jeans anymore, he has to be more clean cut.
Alikpala: It’s that guy who was really into street wear but now he’s growing up and his wardrobe is maturing with him. It still has inspiration from street wear but it has a cleaner take and isn’t so in-your-face.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
Chao: We’ll throw ideas around, like let’s do a take on varsity…what can we do with it? And then just go from there.
Alikpala: Basically in terms of process what we’ll do is usually draw inspiration from something – online, books, magazines, or even what we see on the street. Then we’ll sketch it out and go back and forth to see what we agree on. After that we’ll do technical drawings and write down all the details. Then we’ll think about what kind of fabrics we want to use, the colour palette and all that stuff. That’s the beginning stages of our process.
Are there any fabrics you favour in your designs?
Chao: I think leather plays a big part.
Alikpala: Well we’ve just done our first collection which is quite small, and it has leather, some cotton blends, and fleece. I think we just really like jackets…it’s the piece you see first, so I think it makes a statement when you have that really good one.
What can you tell me about your next collection?
Chao: In our next collection, one of the biggest things is leather. We’re skipping Spring/Summer 2013 because we really want to be able to hit some trade shows for next fall. It’s going to be a full collection; we’ve got at least 15 or 16 pieces going on right now with tops, jackets, bottoms, cargos and a pair of shorts.
What are your goals for this brand?
Chao: Definitely to be sustainable. We want to be able to create stuff, design it, produce it and have people wear it. And the second part is…
Alikpala: to be involved in the community, make collaborations a big part of our brand, and have Chaos Theory be a platform for positive messages. We want it to be more than just clothing, we want to have a relationship with our customers, not just be behind the scenes.