Nocturnal Workshop

True reflections.

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Tyler Froese and Zach Dabrowski make eye-catching bags. Not only noticed for their seamless marriage of sleek silhouettes and functionality, the packs are also easy to spot in a more literal sense, because they are genuinely reflective. Inspired after a friend was struck head-on by a car while biking at night (he broke his leg, but it could have been much worse), the pair set out to make technical bags and accessories with reflective materials for the fashion-first buyer.

If the idea of reflective gear brings to mind gaudy panelling and techy outerwear, a quick look through Nocturnal Workshop’s catalogue dispels that notion (despite being reflective, many of their items still come in dark shades of blue, grey, and black). Each bag is designed to check off a list of requirements, Froese says. “We’ll start with a raw idea of a shape, then we’ll bounce ideas around of what functionality we need.” Once those needs are determined, they find a way to meet them while also creating a beautiful piece, working through a series of drafts and prototypes developed in their East Vancouver studio.

Shaping the material presents challenges. Essentially, Dabrowski says, it’s the same as working with leather. The fabric is thick, so it’s hard to cut and sew; if a mistake is made, it can’t be hidden, and the entire piece is tossed. The material gets its reflective character from sheets of glass micro-beads heat-bonded to a backing material. Usually that’s cotton, but recently the guys worked with their supplier to swap in nylon, which is much stronger, more water resistant, and lasts longer.

Often they have a specific person in mind when perfecting a piece. “We can give them a name, it can get that specific,” Froese says. Are they a runner or a biker? Are they hopping on a motorcycle to get to work, or catching the train? Do they need to pack everything, or just the essentials? In a broad sense they call this person a “five-to-nine-er”, a name partially inspired by Froese, who does his best work in the deepest hours of the night. But it’s also a nod to their ideal customer, a person pursuing a creative endeavour after hours. “When they punch out of their day job at 5 p.m., then they punch into their passion project,” Dabrowski says.

Last year the duo created a collaboration capsule with Lululemon Lab, including an anorak, shirting, and pants. The next year will see more collaborations and they’ll further hone their niche and expand into pieces for children. In short, their future looks brighter than ever.

Photos by Grady Mitchell.

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August 31, 2015