There’s a new kid on the block of busy West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, and while it is perfectly attuned to its beach neighbourhood, it also starkly stands out, cool and crisp. With the flair of an artist and the intensity of a fighter, the flagship of Vancouver menswear brand Reigning Champ certainly delivers a one-two punch.
The brainchild of Craig Atkinson, Reigning Champ was born in 2007. The collection of sport-luxe basics is the brother to menswear line Wings + Horns, Atkinson’s first brand of men’s tailored goods. Reigning Champ pieces are made in Vancouver, and quality is at the forefront—fabrics are thick and plush, while seams feel almost indestructible. These standards explain why Club Monaco chose to work with Reigning Champ when reissuing their iconic logo sweatshirts; the Ace Hotel also collaborated with the brand to produce a series of custom hoodies and sweatshirts for their gift shops.
While the seasonal pieces and permanent selection of basic T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and sweatpants are carried by Wings + Horns, as well as independent boutiques around the world, the company has only just recently opened an independent Reigning Champ flagship—but the shop was well worth the wait.
The expansive space, designed by Peter Cardew of Peter Cardew Architects, has been constructed to evoke the atmosphere of a gym or boxing ring. All of the details blend in so seamlessly that they are almost unnoticeable—but that is likely just fine with Cardew, who states that a space “has to be beautifully detailed and functional, but not flashy. There is too much flashy architecture around these days.”
The most prominent design feature is the walls, which are covered with square white tiles reminiscent of a locker room. Cardew suggests that the lights hanging above the long table wouldn’t look out of place in a boxing ring, either—and fittingly, Reigning Champ sells a terrycloth robe perfect for pre- or post-match. Tall mirrors resting against one of the walls, partnered with custom-made black mats for seating, underscore the sporty atmosphere.
The fitting rooms, typically the most neglected part of any shop, are packed with well-planned details, including door handles that are textured like the shaft of a barbell. “They’re almost sort of like something you would feel in a gym if you were lifting weights,” says Cardew. The changing room doors are home to another detail: a shelf that allows items to be passed from a sales associate right into the room when a new size or style is requested. Something else that sets the store apart is its lack of mannequins. “They don’t look like you anyway,” Cardew explains. “You’re more likely to buy something that you imagine yourself wearing than if you see some plastic lump that supposed to look like you.” Instead, the on-brand shop boys exemplify how the clothes look unfolded and worn.
The Reigning Champ flagship has captured the label’s athletic practicality with a sense of refinement. “Detail on its own is not enough,” Cardew says. “Detail has to express a concept.” And this tiled beacon of casual wear is both loud and clear.
Reigning Champ, 2119 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6K 1N7, 604-428-3886.