The man behind one of our newest brands, Start With the Basis, sits down to talk about his new collection of denim and outerwear. Meet Sei Campbell.
Dutil: Tell us a little about yourself and your brand, Start with the Basis.
Sei: I’m a Japan-born, Lower Mainland raised, 26-year-old. My journey in design began after post-secondary. I graduated with a diploma in marketing and business and realized that I didn’t love the idea of working solely in the business sector of the fashion industry (though now that I’ve launched the business, I’m happy to have gotten some relatable schooling under my belt) and wanted to find some way to stay creative and make things.
I began interning for a local bag company where I picked up most of my crafting and sewing and eventually became their production assistant. Though I enjoy bag design and production, I’ve always loved clothing the most so I left the company a little over a year ago and began interning for a local knitwear company. There I learned to work more with softgoods and together we opened a retail/workspace in Gastown. In the back of that shop, I put together my first collection and launched Start With the Basis.
Dutil: What inspired you to start designing clothes?
Sei: Growing up I was always very left-brained (good at math, science, etc.) but I envied the people around me that would naturally do creative things. Thinking about it now, it makes sense why I began designing clothes because it’s a very practical way to be creative.
Dutil: You make all your clothing in Canada. It’s cheaper to manufacture overseas, what made you decide to do so in Vancouver?
Sei: There’s a variety of reasons but ethics for one, as well as some optimism that there is a shift happening in consumer habits. I know I’ll never be able to compete with the billion-dollar fast fashion companies, but there are a growing number of people that understand how pricing is affected when you produce something in a country where people are treated fairly. Efficiency also plays a role. I’ve dealt with overseas production in other scenarios and everything takes a lot longer when you’re dealing with people across the world, as opposed to just jumping in your car and driving five minutes down to the factory to deal with the issue then and there.
There’s a bit of pride too. I’ve been fortunate in my life to do a bit of traveling and there’s one thing I’ve realized: no matter where I go or what I end up going, Vancouver is home and there’s no better country than Canada.
Dutil: How has living and creating your collection in Vancouver inspired your designs?
Sei: Looking outside today, two words come to mind. Wet and Casual. I’m one of the countless labels preaching utilitarianism and tech-driven design but it’s the truth. I like to pull more from heritage ideas and include a little bit of tech but I think any quality garment, in this day and age, should reflect some aspect of functionality and there’s tons of really cool innovation that have come from Vancouver. Multi-purpose, lightweight/layerable, water-resistant, etc. are things I constantly think about when designing my garments.
I also have a small affinity for how casual fashion is here. I know Vancouver gets a lot of heat for dressing too comfortably or not caring enough but that’s the goal with SWB. I want people to dress comfortably and casually but do it in a way that shows that they do in fact care about their clothing and their style, without overthinking it.
Dutil: I see a lot of innovation in Start with the Basis. Such as the directional stretch in the elbows of your Kamekubi Shirt, and the Evan snaps of your Akiko Jeans. How did you come up with these designs?
Sei: The Kamekubi Shirt was my first lesson working with knit fabrics: it stretches one way but not the other. The elbows make sense because of the way your arm bends but the true triumph of the shirt is the cuff. As any person that works regularly with their hands, I’m constantly rolling up my sleeves. It drives me insane when you get to that part of the day when your sleeve is completely stretched out and it’s constantly falling down your arm no matter what you do. With the Kamekubi shirt, the cuff grain goes the opposite direction so it stays tight.
The Evan snap is something that I thought of while trying to determine a fit for my first pair of jeans. My personal favourite fit is slim straight, but I know every person is different and wanted to make a jean that could speak to a wider audience than just those in the slim-straight category. The name comes from my roommate who’s name is Evan. I initially had this very intricate idea of a buttonhole and a tack that would loop through the hole to taper etc. and when I was explaining this very elaborate idea to him he just looked at me and said, “Why don’t you just put a snap there instead?” That was a good life lesson for me: it’s always good to get an outside perspective, so I named it after him.
Dutil: The Evan snaps to remind me of the technique of pin-rolling pants that many sneakerheads do to show off their sneakers. Is this what inspired you?
Sei: You guessed it. I’m a huge sneakerhead and you won’t ever see me without my snaps done up. The hem is reversed too to help expedite the process. You’re spending more on selvedge jeans so you might as well show it off right? The snaps are great for boot guys too as it’s a clean and easy way to pull the top of your boot over your jeans.
Dutil: The Italian stretch selvedge denim you used for your Akiko Jeans is beautiful. How did you choose the fabric for your collection?
Sei: To be honest, the denim is the only thing I really searched for Collection I. I know the Italians make super soft denim so I wanted a pair for myself. The rest came generally by chance. For some of the styles, the ideas for the garments came after I got the fabric.
The stretch selvedge I’m especially fond of as I think the idea behind it is very synonymous with SWB values. Selvedge denim production is a very old method of producing denim, so I think it’s great that there are people experimenting with synthetic blends, etc. It’s no secret that stretch jeans are the way of the future, but finding stretch selvedge I’ve found to quite challenging. As long as I can find it, I’ll definitely continue working with it.
Dutil: What is your creative process? How do you start and what are your steps along the way?
Sei: It’s hard to explain my creative process because I find I get inspired by the most random things. Just today, for example, I was watching a Netflix series about food and got an idea for the yoke of a button-up. As I am just starting out, I find my ideas are endless so the challenge has been to organize said ideas into cohesive capsule collections as I like the idea of creating an outfit, not just a garment.
My design process is pretty standard – I’ll write down what garments I’m doing for the collection, draw them out and start drafting and prototyping one garment at a time. Once I’ve made a sample I’m happy with, I’ll move onto the next garment.