A FRESH TRAIN OF THOUGHT
Brothers Guillaume and Alex Viau are on track to take the Toronto streetwear scene by storm—one fitted snapback at a time.
Photography by Cory Vanderploeg
It was only three years ago when 22-year-old Guillaume Viau embarked on a journey to Africa with humanitarian organization Free the Children —a decision that inspired him to create a blog that would help him track his experiences abroad. Upon his return to Toronto, he decided he wanted to continue making a positive impact on the communities he visited. He called on his brother, 26-year-old Alex Viau, to assist him designing clothing they would eventually sell, with proceeds going to charity.
“Alex designed a few t-shirts for the blog, and we started selling them online, at school and pretty much everywhere we could in Toronto,” Guillaume explained. “One thing lead to the next—we continued designing more clothing and eventually, two years later, launched Fresh Train’s first full collection in July 2012.”
Since the original launch, the Viau brothers’ Fresh Train Co. has evolved into a well-established Canadian brand while still managing to maintain its humanitarian roots. According to Guillaume, Fresh Train launched a giving program that ensures funds from every item purchased goes toward a monthly initiative—anything from paying for ten trees to be planted, to buying bricks to build a school in Africa. At the end of each month, customers are notified about what they helped the brand achieve with their purchase.
But that obviously isn’t the only reason why customers from all over Canada are drawn to the designs the Viau brothers have created.
Built up of five collections All Lust x No Love, Nord Sud Est Ouest, Sheltered From the North, Watch Le Fuck Out, and, the original, Gare Centrale, Fresh Train focuses on simplicity—they want to make timeless fashion that can surpass the trends that merely come and go.
“Our products are very simple,” Guillaume said, adding Fresh Train’s pieces are mostly made up of black and white, excluding a few limited edition pieces. “Basically what we want to do is create that staple shirt or hat or tank in someone’s wardrobe that they can go to, whether it’s today or two years from now, and it will never be out of style.”
Alex added while they label their creation as a street chic fashion brand, they are ultimately trying to create clothing and accessories they would want to wear themselves.
“We’ve been influenced by clothing and fashion for quite some time now, but we never found that one piece we were absolutely head-over-heels for, for lack of a better term,” he said. Coming from a graphic design background, Alex has always been fascinated with typography and how the placement of letters create a special design in itself, which is something he had rarely seen done in a way he liked before.
“Instead of just looking for that perfect fitted t-shirt or tank top that is understated yet noticeable, we just went out and decided to make it ourselves.”
And they’ve made many of them—all of which have received incredibly positive feedback.
By focusing on what they love to do and ensuring they are always releasing well-developed, quality products, the boys of Fresh Train have garnered a large following of supporters.
“I think people have sort of noticed the quality and time we have put into this. It’s kind of nice that our customers aren’t only buying one of our shirts or our hats—they’re buying into what we have created, which started from basically nothing,” Alex said.
“There’s a bit of a story behind it though, and I think people like that as well,” Guillaume added. “You’re not just buying a t-shirt—you’re buying into a community.”
And that may be one of the most interesting aspects of the Fresh Train brand—It doesn’t only cater to men in their early-to-mid twenties like Guillaume and Alex. They noticed from the beginning several people of different backgrounds and genders were drawn to the clothing, and would pull it off it in different ways.
They’ve even featured both men and women in their photo and video shoots—a marketing tactic that features their designs shown in a variety of ways.
“When we first released our first collection, I didn’t really have the means to get t-shirts for both men and women, so I just ordered small, medium and large in a bit more of a slim-fit style. My smalls were selling just as fast as the other sizes though, and we noticed we were starting to get a big fan base from the girls,” Guillaume said.
“They didn’t mind that we just had t-shirts, because they thought it was really cool they could wear an oversized, baggy tee and it would still look good at a club or whatever.”
These tees, as well as the hats, toques, tanks and other accessories they sell, go through a lengthy design process consisting of back-and-forth collaboration between the Viau brothers. Guillaume—who usually takes care of the day-to-day business aspects of the company—might come up with a design concept that he will present to Alex, who will then take it to another level. Once they’ve created mockups they’re happy with, they put the draft out there to a few of their close friends for feedback.
“We feed off our friends’ opinions a lot—we will sense the feedback and tweak a few things if we feel it is necessary,” Alex explained. “I think it’s a great way to involved the people around us who have been supporting us for a while, because then they can feel like they are a part of the process. It also helps us decide on what designs will be a hit or miss, which is important for the business.”
But what the Viau brothers haven’t asked for feedback on is their plans for the future something they aren’t even entirely sure about at this point.
“The blog turned to a clothing line which will turn into something else in the future and we don’t really know what that is, but it’s nice to leave it open-ended and go with the flow and see where it takes us,” Alex said. Guillaume added that the nice thing about Fresh Train is it allows them to surprise themselves with what they are capable of accomplishing.
“We continue to surprise ourselves all the time, so I don’t really see us doing anything else other than growing the brand with ourselves. It’s always going to be there.”