Interview by Lorenzo Molina

For those working in the denim industry, Brandon Svarc needs little presentation. In 2008, he launched the Naked & Famous (N&F) brand “in order to be the opposite of all the silly and overpriced Hollywood denim brands that were so prevalent at the time,” he explains. N&F employs only Japanese fabrics and all jeans are made in Canada. Meanwhile, his brainchild is available at over 250 stores in over 20 countries worldwide.

Three years later, Svarc kicked off Tate + Yoko, both a physical and online menswear shop from the beginning. “I’ve always wanted to have a multibrand store and a place that can be a sort of museum to display N&F amongst other brands that we love and find fascinating,” he explains.

Not only the outside, but also the store’s inside has a marked industrial feel, with grey walls, cracked metal racks, wooden pallets to display jeans, various vintage furniture pieces and several posters featuring Japanese motifs, hinting at the product soul. Svarc owns the entire building: Tate + Yoko is located on the ground level; offices and warehouse on the second; the N&F factory on the third and denim rolls on the fifth. The denim entrepreneur answers all our questions about this temple for denimheads. 

What brands are your bestsellers and why do you think these brands are successful?
Our top 3 brands are Naked & Famous Denim, The Flat Head and ONI Denim. N&F is our baby and we have the entire collection available which essentially no other store can have as we have hundreds of different styles each season. TFH is a well-known cult brand that we love and that is well respected in the denimhead world. ONI has such incredible fabrics and a great elusive founder.

What features are interesting for you when adding a new denim label to your assortment?
We try to only carry products that are made in Canada or Japan, but we are open to some great Made in USA products too. I prefer to carry Japanese brands that are hard to find; that is rare and that exists with a cult style following.

Did you recently add any new labels? Why?
We recently added a brand called Burgus Plus, which is the house brand of a great store in Ueno Tokyo called Hinoya. I love that there are only a handful of stores outside of their own shop in Japan that carry the brand. We recently did a collaboration with them as well that was well received by our fans.

Apart from Naked & Famous, which are your personal favorite brands out there?
Well I don’t think I can say that I have a favorite brand that is not my own, but recently ONI Denim has got me the most excited with what they have been releasing. A lot of the Japanese brands focus on vintage style construction which is very cool and I love seeing them obsess. But ONI starts from the fabric (as we do with N&F) and develops these great slubby and textured pieces which are wonderfully unique. They make slubby green denim jeans for goodness sakes! How many small cult brands take a risk like that? The owner is also what some might refer to as OG. (Original gangster in case that wasn’t clear to everyone). He’s been in the denim industry for over 40 years. He will never do an interview with any media. Nor does he care about growing his brand. The man just wants to make amazing product and do whatever he wants to do. I completely approve his unorthodox methods.

What attributes do you think a new denim label must have in order to succeed in today’s market?
Product value in my opinion is the most important attribute for success. Hollywood denim brands often compete based on glamour and on who can make the sexiest advertisement or who can pay for the most famous celebrity to wear their jeans. But the end consumer has thankfully gotten wiser over the last few years and now searches for brands that offer value in their actual product offerings rather than their perceived glamour.

In your opinion, what are the most relevant denim trends for men & women right now?
I don’t know if this counts as a trend but for men anything with a small leg opening seems to be popular these days.

What do you prefer for ordering: trade shows or showrooms?
Neither. We don’t order any products from trade shows or showrooms. We go to Japan twice a year and visit each brand in their head office and factory directly.

What advice would you give to someone willing to start their own fashion store?
Owner-operators are the best. I’ve seen this time and time again, when the shop owner has passion and hits the floor and sinks his/her teeth into the store they always have a greater chance of success. Often an independent store owner will think that they can find a solid manager to run the show, and sometimes they do, but most often if the proprietor turns their back to focus on another venture at the same time, the shop struggles.

What do you like about your location, Montreal?
I love Montreal. My roots and family business are here. Aside from New York, Montreal has the richest history in the garment industry of any other place in North America. We are proud to have old school roots and to make 100% of our products in and around the Montreal area. Customers here are forward-thinking and modern, and the market is a good size too… Montreal is the second biggest city in Canada and the ninth biggest city in North America.

Tate + Yoko
9096 Boul St-Laurent
Montréal QC H2N 1M9