Brian Vu | Preserving Indigo

Brian Vu is a self-taught artisan who designs, produces and sells garments alongside vintage acquired textiles through his recently opened retail and studio space in Toronto. Situated in the West end neighbourhood now known as the Junction, the curated space reflects his eclectic tastes in military surplus, Native American art and vintage African textiles.

A major element in Brian’s work is his use of natural indigo dye, which he applies in a unique and painstaking manner to reworked and modified military garments and other items that he designs and constructs in-house under the label- Latre.

I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Brian at his studio to discuss his love affair with Indigo and his thoughts on the resurgence of handmade product.

You aren't formally trained in textile production or apparel design, how did this fascination with clothing begin for you? 

I studied fine art at York University, but I learned pattern design and sewing on my own. I think I've always been drawn towards clothing and fashion, but it was the Military aesthetic that really got me hooked. My dad fought for the South Vietnamese army, so I grew up around that era of Military apparel. To this day I find Vietnam to be the most appealing era for Military uniforms: they're comfortable, have a lot of functionality and the look is just timeless. This aesthetic is still a big part of what inspires my current designs.

Indigo is a predominate element in your work now, how does your process differ in comparison to more traditional methods?

Indigo dyeing is also something I taught myself. I did a lot of research on traditional methods and through a series of trial and error I devised a system or process that really worked for me. I spent a lot of time honing my method, and I think it really shows in the end product. First I measure out my ingredients based off the size and weight of the garment or textile I'm working with and let the dye cure. In more traditional Japanese methods, the foam or "flowering" that accumulates on the surface of the dye is skimmed and removed, but I like to keep it in there and just move it to the side as I submerge and hand massage the cloth until it's nicely saturated. I then hand wring the cloth to remove as much of the excess dye as possible and let it hang for a period of time before I repeat the process until I achieve the desired tone of indigo.

What are the benefits of your way of dyeing?

I like a very dark tone of Indigo, almost a jet black colour to the eye and by leaving the flowering in the vat of dye, I think this helps to achieve that. The darker the Indigo on the finished product, more of a contrast is achieved when the garment starts to patina and I believe it tells a truer story about the wearer this way. For this new Kimono I've been developing, I hand massaged each of the panels separately; from the collar piping, seam taping and yarn accents and repeated that process maybe 8 or 9 times for each piece. People think that it's unnecessary to do it this way, but I'm very particular and meticulous and It's the only way that I've found that achieves the results I'm aiming for. 

Is the use and preservation of Indigo more important to you now than your interest in Military aesthetics? 

That's a tough question.. I can't say really. They are both very important to me, but I am really enjoying my exploration of Indigo and the whole hand dyeing process. As an artist I like to concentrate on one medium at a time, so my mind isn't scattered, and Indigo is probably my medium of choice currently. It's also the most taxing and is quite hard on my body, but the whole process really brings me joy. It's always exciting to anticipate the outcome, since every product will differ from the never know how it will turn out.

In a technology driven society where mass production is the norm, do you still feel handmade product has appeal?

I think people are becoming more educated as a result of technology, and all the information is out there if you want to look for it. There is something alluring about a product that is made by hand. It keeps it on a human level you know? When someone puts their passion and energy into creating something with authenticity, a person can pick it up and feel that. Of course these kinds of products will always be more expensive than their mass produced counterparts, but they'll last longer, wear better and at the end of the day handmade works will always be more special.

Follow: Latre art & style
2988 Dundas Street West
Toronto . ON | Canada




Weegee: Murder Is My Business, at Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto

Toronto's Ryerson Image Centre is currently hosting an expansive exhibition from legendary New York City photographer - Weegee. Working throughout the 1930's and 40's, Weegee (born Ascher Fellig) was a pioneer in the field of tabloid journalism and street photography, documenting the city with a raw, gruesome and sensationalist style that had never been seen before. 

Working almost exclusively at night, Weegee captured the turbulent side of post-prohibition New York City characterized by mob shootings, fires and car accidents. His moniker - rumoured to be inspired by the Ouija board, describes his seemingly mythical ability to arrive before the police and capture both the brutal scenes and the shocked faces of onlookers. 

One of the first to explore and expose the American underbelly, 'Weegee The Famous' inspired the likes of Andy Warhol, Robert Frank and Diane Arbus and continued to work in photography and film till his death in 1968. 

Weegee: Murder Is My Business
Exhibition Period: October 14, 2015 - Dec 13, 2015                                                                           Organizer: Ryerson Image Centre  

Ryerson Image Centre
33 Gould Street
Toronto, ON

Weegee: Murder Is My Business (installation view), 2015 © Riley Snelling, Ryerson Image Centre

Weegee Anthony Esposito, Accused "Cop Killer," January 16, 1941 © Weegee/Internation Center of Photography

Unidentified Photographer On the Spot, December 9 1939 International Center of Photography

Weegee (Body of Dominick Didato, Elizabeth Street, New York), August 7, 1936 © Weegee/International Center of Photography

Weegee (Police officer and lodge member looking at blanket-covered body of woman trampled to death in excursion-ship stampede, New York), August 18, 1941 © Weegee/International Center of Photography

Weegee Hold up man killed, November 24, 1941 © Weegee/International Center of Photography


Takashi Murakami: The 500 Arhats, at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo


Following several successful international exhibitions, Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, recently unveiled his latest solo exhibition 'Takashi Murakami: The 500 Arhats' at the Mori Art Museum in his home town of Tokyo. 

Created in 2012, in response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the 3 meter high, 100 meter long painting of the 500 Arhats, is one of the largest paintings ever produced in global art history. This exhibition originally started in Doha, as a gratitude to the nation of Qatar, one of the first nations to offer aid following the catastrophe and will also feature a number of new works. 

The four gigantic pieces  are named after the legendary Chinese guardians of the 4 celestial directions: North - Black Tortoise, South - Vermilion Bird, East - Blue Dragon, West White Tiger. Combining themes of 'otaku'(anime & manga) culture with traditional Japanese art, the latest works continues in the 'Superflat' art movement for which Murakami is credited with founding.  

'Through the showing of Murakami's magnum opus and other recent works, will offer an opportunity to examine the role of art and religion in facing social turmoil and human morality.'

Takashi Murakami: The 500 Arhats
Exhibition Period: Oct 31, 2015 - March 6, 2016
Organizer: Mori Art Museum

53F Roppongi Hills Mori Tower,
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku,
Tokyo, Japan

visvim® 7-Hole '73 Folk F.I.L Exclusive Veggie Black

One of the most coveted models in visvims's extensive archives, the 7-Hole '73 Folk Boot is a personal favorite. A classic jungle boot silhouette, subtly slimmed down and expertly detailed, they are far cry from their military issue ancestors. Over the years I've obsessively accumulated a number of pairs and regardless of how many I have, I find myself still wanting more. After missing a chance at the tonal black rendition released in collaboration with Black Sense Market a few years ago, I was quick to jump at the opportunity to grab these latest veggie tanned versions. This time around they feature brushed nickel eyelets, vent holes, and the signature RiRi zip side for subtle contrast. A welcome addition, visvim® opts for a lightweight Vibram wedge sole often reserved for the Virgil Boot, while the Horween black veggie tanned calf upper and Japanese kersey cloth ankle panels give them a premium feel reflected in the higher than usual price tag from previous seasons. These just released this past week, but unfortunately for those outside of Japan they are F.I.L exclusives, so you will have to do some hunting and make it down to one of their physical locations or head over to and hope they pop up on the webshop.

VIDEO | The Making of intelligence Magazine

Situated within the eastern border of the city of Vancouver, BC. Hemlock printers is renowned for its innovative digital press facility and strict use of sustainable materials. We were invited to tour Hemlock's state of the art space to document the meticulous process behind issue 01 of intelligence Magazine. 

Shot on RED camera by Ryan Lindow. Music by Hiroshi Fujiwara & K.U.D.O.