Exclusive Interview: Canadian Designer Dan Torjman of 18 Waits
I love my country, but fashion is not generally the first thing that comes to mind when proudly declaring my Canadianism (more so maple syrup and hockey). That all changed when 18 Waits came to be, creating truly inspiring Men’s collections that are as fashion-forward as they are designed for everyday life.
Moreover, “it is a lifestyle as opposed to simply a brand or fashion label. 18 Waits has an old European mentality which, at the same time, takes inspiration in nature and the natural flow of the earth. The clothes are built well from the finest fabrics appropriate for each item within the collection. There is virtually no detail overlooked and thoughtfully addressed. These items are meant to be worn well, enjoyed, loved, and destroyed.”
Translated into collections of button down shirts in twill and chambray, super soft tee’s with contrast stitching, one of a kind, truly cool jewellery like a shark-tooth filled leather hobo pouch necklace and unique basics like skewed v-necks plus amazing leather pieces and accessories, 18 Waits is one Canadian brand that is a cut above. With champion textile and detail choice used when creating the all-designed and made in Canada collections, designer Dan Torjman lives the brand and makes it easy to see why 18 Waits is such a well-loved lifestyle. Oozing easy-going style that hits the mark right on the head, his uniquely curated good taste is sewn into every piece, making them redefine Canadian style and putting us on the map for great fashion. Humble and kind as he is stylish, Dan graciously answered some questions below.
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
I’m from Ottawa, Ontario. I haven’t lived there in many years but it was a really nice environment to be in growing up as a child. Lots of nature and easily accessible to Montreal and the east coast gems of Canada, Vermont & Maine. I attended Queen’s University for my undergrad in Film Studies and Sociology. I also have a fashion degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC. I have so many interests and pastimes. There are so many things that interest me and inspire me and which constantly keep me looking in every direction at once. Music has always been my biggest passion in life – seeing live concerts and collecting vinyl. But photography, film, art, nature, literature, people, road trips, traveling – everything! I find that all of these things are interconnected for me and they are all important facets of my life – in terms of the brand, designing and otherwise.
How would you define your city’s fashion?
I’m not sure that Toronto has a “fashion” per se. We do have a big “hipster” element to our city – but I think that’s more the product of us simply being a large metropolitan city – as opposed to a “Toronto style.” What I do know is that this city has become increasingly better and more fashion forward with it’s brand and retail offerings within the past decade. We’re still a little ways off but we have a number of smaller specialty boutiques for both men and women which can certainly hold their own globally. I think it’s the big department store retailers in Canada who need to pick up their game – which is precisely what’s happening right now. By 2018 Toronto will have a much better variety and quality of high end department stores – and that’s pretty exciting.
When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
I think it hit me when I was in grade 9. How old is that – 14? I was a “skateboarder” and “snowboarder” and the only snowboard clothing available at the time was Westbeach – and really only available out west in BC. So I would stock up on it when I would visit my cousins in Vancouver and I’d sell my Westbeach t-shirts and sweatshirts to friends back home in Ottawa. It was then I realized I really loved clothing – and selling it. It never really stopped from there. I’d find other great old skate brands like Freshjive and Stussy when vacationing down in Florida with my family and, again, this stuff wasn’t available in Ottawa at the time. So I really took a liking to clothing around that time and it all kind of progressed from there.
What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
I think that would have been a skewed seam t-shirt with graphics – or a henley. I started 18 Waits with plain and graphic t-shirts for both Men and Women, as well as sterling silver Jewelry, scarves and bandanas (all unisex). The following season I expanded to Men’s Shirting – while continuing to offer the previous styles (updated versions of course). The brand and collections grew from there.
How does designing accessories differ from designing clothes?
The creative process is the same. It’s just a different outlet. But coming up with the inspiration and ideas for jewelry is essentially the same process as for the apparel. It needs to jive with the season and tie into the “theme” of the collection.
What are some of your accomplishments as a designer? Who are some of your favourite designers?
There are a lot of people doing a lot of different things that I admire in the fashion industry. Sometimes it’s not the brand I like but some of their design elements or products. Other times I’m not always fond of the actual pieces but I love the branding and how they’ve hashed out a season or their overall image. There are so many examples – I like how Marc Jacobs turned LV into one of the hippest brands – from what was typically a more stuffy, traditional sort of image. Ralph Lauren is a branding genius. John Varvatos has a great rock & roll spirit to his brand – which I really relate to with 18w. I love Dries Van Noten. Tsumori Chisado does crazy things with her patterns, I love 45RPM, LHN is a new jewelry company out of Brooklyn I absolutely love, Coast-wide shirts are super cool casual chambray shirts with embroidery, Black Crane is women’s only but I love her silhouettes, fabrics and colors…I could really go on & on. I think there are elements that I really like from hundreds of designers, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and generally creative people. It’s hard to just think of a few that really stand out.
Where can readers buy your clothes and jewelry?
We are carried in better specialty boutiques worldwide – all of which are listed on our website 18waits.com. In Toronto you can find us at Uncle Otis in Yorkville, Gerhard Supply in The Junction and The Future of Frances Watson in Parkdale. We have a web store on our website and we ship worldwide – so that’s an option too.
Also be sure to check out 18w’s Instagram & Twitter: @18waits.