Turning onto Cordova Street in Gastown on a very hot morning in August 2017, I am stunned at the sight in front of me: a mammoth lineup taking over the sidewalk. Those battling the queue exuberate a certain coolness, wearing fresh kicks and the latest must-have brands of the street style world. Slowly squeezing my way through the crowd, I notice their destination is the same as mine: Haven.
Unlike the folks in the lineup, who I soon find out are patiently waiting to get their hands on the notorious Adidas NMD R1 sneaker, I am here to meet Daniel Chmielewski, co-founder of Haven. I’m welcomed into the store, which displays a different scene than the one outside: here it’s quiet and calm, with only three shoppers invited in at a time. It all feels very exclusive, just like the crisp white and slate-black shoes being sold.
“We get crazy lineups in Vancouver,” Chmielewski says, dodging sneakerheads as we leave the store to escape the crowd. “We didn’t expect this many people. But Adidas is trending right now, especially since they signed Yeezy.” Of course, he is referring to Kanye West’s highly coveted collaboration with the German sportswear brand. But Chmieleswski, through the chaos of it all, says he’s more of a “Nike guy.”
Peace and quiet is found at a small table inside East Van Roasters, just a short walk from Haven. Owned and operated by Chmieleswski and his brother Arthur, Haven has become a key member of Vancouver’s menswear scene since it set up shop in the city in 2009. Originally from Edmonton, the siblings discovered that the world of finance wasn’t one they wished to pursue after graduating from the University of Alberta. Instead, with Daniel being a product guy, and Arthur more a fashion one, the Chmieleskis opened the doors to Haven in Edmonton in 2006.
Although they received support from the community, they eventually outgrew Edmonton and packed up shop, en route to Blood Alley—Haven’s first Vancouver location. And although the company now operates brick-and-mortar stores in Vancouver and Toronto, Haven’s international success has thrived thanks to its online presence. Committed to presenting high-quality fashion to its customers, Haven became a virtual and physical destination, known for carrying coveted menswear brands from around the globe. “I like really well-made stuff, and stuff that has a good story and craftsmanship to it,” Chmielewski notes, listing off names including Comme des Garçons, Stone Island, and Vancouver’s own Wings + Horns as notable favourites among Haven’s clientele. “Canada is a tough market in general. We’ve always been pretty globally-focused.”
That international scope turned into a desire to share more information with the Haven costumer. So, the brothers’ next venture was editorial, launching Intelligence Magazine, a bi-annual publication exploring the icons and emerging talent behind creative industries. “I wanted to control media, in a way,” Chmieleski says. “That sounds very ominous, but I wanted to have some say in the market direction. I wanted to have our voice out there.”
The shopping environment at Haven is intimate, making it an exquisite home to exquisite clothes. Relocating to Cordova Street in 2014, Haven occupies the ground floor of an historic building. Featuring timber flooring, exposed brick, and steel clothing racks suspended from the ceiling, the shop truly embodies all that is special about Gastown and its polished ruggedness. In 2012, the brand expanded to Toronto, and in October 2017 opened a new, bright location on Richmond Street East.
Still, a new home in Toronto isn’t the only excitement for the brand this year. The inaugural Haven clothing collection debuted with a Fall/Winter 2017 line of basics that feature contemporary styling and premium textiles. “It’s stuff that we just want to wear,” Chimieleswki says in between sips of his Americano. “We just wanted to create that.” Haven demands the highest quality, both in clothing and in operation. Since day one, innovative design and craftsmanship have been at the heart of the store’s identity. The Chimieleswki siblings are committed to aligning themselves with those who work hard and hustle, just as they did to get to where they are. Haven is one to be trusted when it comes to menswear in Vancouver, and the crowd of people outside its doors proves it.
Get your fashion fix.