Back Issue__ Reid Stewart and Lifetime

June 01, 2009 | By

Reid Stewart by Kale Friesen.

Even though Reid Stewart, co-founder and creative director of Lifetime, had no formal training when he launched the brand in 2002, he chose to make his life all about art and design. As the name of the brand indicates, Lifetime offers clothing for a life well-lived—as defined by the wearer. Though, in a sense, Lifetime was also birthed from the extreme alienation of the '90s. After all, it was the sentiment that skateboarding was starting to become boring and corporate that pushed Reid and co-founder Trevor Fleming to start Lifetime. Like most street wear brands, Lifetime began as a DIY t-shirt line; however, it has seen enormous growth in goods and distribution, and now offers full high-quality collections selling internationally in over 300 stores. And even though making women’s clothing might not seem like it would be on the priorities list, it was important to them to appeal to both sexes. For that reason, Lifetime has always had clothes for women too.

Reid gave hearty the rundown on designing the women’s side of the brand, his various inspirations and the exclusive first look at Lifetime’s women’s line for Fall ’09. However you choose to live your life, with Lifetime it’s all about nice things meant for living in.

What aspects are more difficult about designing women’s clothes in comparison to designing men’s clothes?

I think you have to be more critical of fit and the fabric you use, obviously. The styles change quicker from season to season.

Favorite women’s brands?

Not that these are specifically women’s collections, but I really like Rittenhouse, Anzevino and Florence, Acne, Mono (from Vancouver), Sunshine & Shadow, Manoush, Rachel Commey, and the list goes on and on.

Any females or women’s brands you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

We collaborated with our friend Heather Martin of Mono. I really love her work and would love to work with her again.

Do you consult with any specific women on the pieces?

I tend to consult a lot with my girlfriend and our friends all the time. We also work with our friend Theola Wong, who does pieces for us every season, along with our Production Manager, Angela Tan. My partner Trevor’s wife owns a really nice boutique here in Vancouver called One Of A Few. I’d imagine Trevor probably does the same.

What women have influenced you throughout your life?

I’d have to say my mom, my grandmother for living through the war and her stories about growing up in Ireland, the work of Nancy Spero, Gloria Steinem and Patti Smith. Too many, really.

Your pieces have the ability to look very different on different personalities. Is this something you intended to do and why?

We’ve devised this magical mountain powder that is methodically sprinkled onto all of our clothing and really makes people look amazing. No kidding. I think we want our line to be available to people. Maybe it was a subconscious decision in our design that many types of people could wear it.

What are some of the projects you’re working in with The Collective?

The Collective was formed so we could be involved with our friends on all fronts. We’re currently working on two band tee shirts for our Spring 2010 collection. It’s an initiative we’ve been doing for a few years now. It’s a way for us and The Collective to reach out into the community together. We’re working with Handsome Furs and My Morning Jacket. Proceeds from the sales of the tee shirts go to a non-profit of their choice. This time around Handsome Furs chose The Portland Hotel Society. They are an organization based here in Vancouver who help shelter homeless folks in the lower eastside of Vancouver. My Morning Jacket is working with the San Francisco-based 826 Valencia. A community based tutoring service that offers a variety of free programs and services throughout the school year and summer months, including drop-in tutoring, field trips, specialized workshops, in-school assistance, and extensive student publishing.

In Vancouver you have all terrains and the corresponding activities during different seasons at your fingertips—like skating, surfing, snowboarding, biking. Do you think you could have created a brand that is influenced from all these genres without having been based in Vancouver? And how did where you grew up influence the brand?

I’m not sure. I grew up in a bunch of different places. Some of them had an influence on my work and some didn’t. I think if you really wanted to make a line that was geared for a different area in the world you could probably do it. That said, this city has had an effect on me for sure. With one of the worst drug and homelessness problems in North America, it has opened my eyes to that side of life and the politics that does or doesn’t affect the problem. The surfing, snowboarding and biking has been really influential on me as well. In a sense, it was those activities in my early youth that maybe got me into thinking about more social issues. Probably the skateboarding.

Aspects of the lifestyle, including music and art, play a large role in Lifetime. You’re a fan of Joe Strummer and punk. How has this influenced Lifetime?

Punk music, along with Joe Strummer’s work, had a huge influence on me and for sure had a big influence on Lifetime. I think the biggest influence it had on us was the fact it made you feel like you could do anything. People who didn’t know how to play music were playing music. Learning on the fly and being involved in a band. No one really cared what people thought of them.

What other music or musicians influence the brand?

For me, personally, all the bands we work with, for sure. I’ve been listening to a lot of West African music these days, older jazz and lots of rock and roll. I’ve been listening the drumming of Tony Allen quite a bit and the Fela Kuti stuff he was involved with.

Who are some emerging musicians or bands you’re into?

Lightning Dust, Ladyhawk, Tomahawk Lodge, Teen Anger, Timber Timbre, Moonrats, Sic Alps.

With all the side projects, collaborations and The Collective, you;re always working with art. Is this something you ever thought you’d be doing?

Never. I thought I was going to be an astronaut when I was a kid. That said, I’m really happy to be where I’m at with Lifetime.

Who are some of your favorite emerging artists?

Niall McClelland, Jeremy R. Jansen, my son Fin, Shawn Kuruneru, Anna Emilia Laitinen, Michael Swaney, Simon Redekop, Lukas Geronimas, Julie Morstad and Jody Rogac.

Your look books in the past have almost been like magazines, including editorial like Q&As with musicians. You’ve just launched Selector, a bi-yearly arts and culture publication. Is journalism and publishing something you’ve always wanted to do?

Absolutely. Especially when you get to do it with a good friend. Selector is Michael Carter and I. It’s been a great experience meeting new people and getting to talk with folks we otherwise wouldn’t have. We just got back from Tokyo, curating our first show with a gallery over there. The show was based of our first issue. I would hope we could expand into other realms after we get this off the ground.

You sometimes invite fans to design for the brand through competitions, which brings in new creativity and keeps things fresh. How has the experience been for you?

It’s been great and another byproduct of listening to punk rock. We like to include people in what we do. We don’t want to be that brand that is way too cool it can’t work with its fans or people that are into the brand. The last one we had was amazing, and thanks to Oli Van Roost for setting it up. It was called Cut & Sew and was based in Montreal. The contestants designed for a sewing challenge with twenty teams. They were given thirty days to design and assemble a garment out of old Lifetime garments and make something new. We were so impressed with the results that we have included five pieces for this year’s Fall 2010 collection.

There always seems to be special or added features to each piece clothing. Why is this something that’s important to you?

It was something we just had always done or wanted to do. It separates us from other brands and gives the piece uniqueness.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, you would be…

Never had a plan b.

Where's your heart at?

120 beats per minute.

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