The "ULTRA" Future of Men's Wear
by Marilyn Wilson
High-end menswear designer Christopher Bates is a homegrown talent destined for international success. From sketching hip hop and skateboard clothing as a teenager to launching his Spring 2009 debut collection last October, he has always been drawn to fashion.
Business was his original career path. With degrees in Economic Geography from UBC and Marketing from BCIT, he spent 5 successful years in the industry. "3 years ago I was an account executive in advertising and marketing and I asked myself, 'What do I want to do with the rest of my life?' The answer looked like a lightening bolt - I want to be a fashion designer. There's a million other things I could do but this was the only one I knew I had to do." After extensive research Bates decided to apply to the Instituto Marangoni in Milan. With determination he entered the intensive program (3 years rolled into 1). The person on each side of him that first day had already graduated from 3 year programs while he did not know how to sew and only had basic drawing skills. "It was overwhelming at first but I was prepared for anything and was willing to work really hard. I went to every lab and never missed a class." On graduation he had an amazing job offer from Armani but had to return to Canada and renew his visa. Once here he realized what he wanted most at that moment was to launch his own label.
All those years in business proved a great asset. Bates started his company under the ULTRA label, raised funds and began work on his Spring 2009 collection. "I already had a collection, a brand and everything in my mind before I went to school. I went there to flush it out. It was a definite evolution and I gained a much more international fashion sense." The hardest part for any designer is the investment. It is a year from the time you design your line until the garments are in the store. Travelling is also a necessary expense. There are also many great experiences. To date the top one for Bates was when he walked out on the catwalk at the global launch of his label in October 2008.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. "Some people might see a building and be inspired to build another building or paint or draw it. I sort of re-imagine things and want to make clothes out of them. It might give me an idea for a texture, a seam or a pocket." Spring 2009 was inspired by a "Euro trash jet set summer to music by Depeche Mode." I leave that to your imagination! The diverse collection includes tanks, tees, jeans, dress pants, dress shirts and even a white metallic linen suit. In addition to the basic palette you will find accents of Electric Blue, Pale Blue and Pale Pink. Each season comes with a standout piece and this season it is black-on-black Italian leather jacket with embroidered scorpion detail. Accessories include belts and shoes (yes he designs his own) and there is always 1 pair of "destroyed" pants. This season it is a pair of jeans. Fall 2009 will see a larger collection that includes 3 suits and additional accessories (ties and gloves). I've seen the stand-out piece and it's a total departure from the Spring collection, but you'll just have to wait to check it out.
Where to next for Christopher Bates? The plan for fall is to relocate back to Europe - possibly Copenhagen - but no matter how far he roams, he will always be one of our own. ULTRA is available locally at the Yaletown showroom by appointment only (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 604-809-1271) and in Toronto at Gotstyle Menswear www.gsmen.com. For more information go to www.ultramenswear.com.