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Monday, August 3, 2009
I Live for Toques: Vivo Headwear

By Colin Whyte

The new Vivo headwear line uses premium materials like merino wool and angora, aiming for "quality over quantity."
It wasn't so many years ago that snowboarders had very little choice in warm headwear. You pretty much had two choices for your look: 1980s ski racer or Huntington Beach gangster. Luckily those days are long gone, and Vivo Headwear is the newest reason you don't have to lose 80-percent of your style through your head. Vivo, which means "I live" in Spanish, is the brainchild of brain-cover entrepreneur Anthony Leffelaar, 25. We caught up with the New Zealand-born Anthony in Vancouver, BC where Vivo is based to see what's up with Vivo.

Vivo Vitals

Vivo CEO-Founder: Anthony Leffelaar
Age: 25
Previous Job(s): Professional snowboarder-dishwasher-snowboard coach-handyman
Born In: Christchurch, New Zealand
Resides In:: Vancouver/Whistler, B.C., Canada since 2000
Favorite Resort: Mt. Baker

ESPN: You've lived in BC for over a decade now (or so I read somewhere), so let's call you an "expert" on the whole Beanie Vs. Toque debate. Which is it? And what do they call 'em back home in NZ?

Anthony Leffelaar: That's so funny you say that because I still can't figure out which one to market it as... Maybe I should do a hat called Not a Toque in the USA and a hat in Canada called Not A Beanie. In New Zealand they call them Beanies or, if you're a farmer, they call them "woolly hats" [laughs]. I always wondered why there was some rivalry between the USA and Canada and I am pretty sure it's because of all this confusion. Someone has it backwards, but who is it?

What is Vivo going to bring to the market that is truly different?

Vivo headwear offers unique products with quality, color, and flare. A product that fits your head and a product that you have never seen before. We work with attention to detail. Our fabrics not only have great quality but also are very functional. Merino wool is one of our favorite fabrics because it helps reduce sweat when being active. For example, if you are hiking in minus 10 weather on a sunny day in the backcountry, you sweat; but once you stop hiking and start cooling down, the beanie absorbs the moisture and moves it away from your body. So it's not just a good looking hat but also one that works perfectly with an active lifestyle.

Pro skater Corey Sheppard designed this fitted cap, which features an Atami Japanese weave.

Are these materials, like the merino wool and angora, etc, harder to source or work with?

Working with premium fabrics is a little tougher to source. Fortunately, we have a great network with our manufacturers and product managers to source these fabrics. The cost is a lot higher working with merino, angora, cashmere etc. but this is something Vivo would like to offer more and more [of] as we move forward. We believe in quality not quantity.

Tell me a bit more about this Japanese premium weave. That sounds high-tech.

Pro skater Corey Sheppard and Vivo got together and decided what we thought the riders would want. The Atami Japanese weave is a fine black wood weave which holds the shape of the fitted cap really well. This Corey Sheppard collective item has his own personal touch of artwork printed on the inside silk lining and under the bill; in a Spanish italic-style writing the words (I LIVE), Vivo's translation. We hooked up with the infamous Pharaoh Fitted to work on this collaboration. You will see a lot more Atami weave caps in our 2010/2011 spring/summer line.

Detailing on the underside of the Corey Sheppard hat: artwork printed on a silk lining and the Spanish italic-style words "I LIVE", Vivo's translation.

Looks like you're off to a good start with your snowboard team...

Yeah, we teamed up with a great bunch of individuals who really believed in the brand and will help out with design and direction of the company as we grow. Marie-France Roy is our latest addition to the team and she is one of the top female snowboarders killing it...very well respected from her fellow riders. Andrew Geeves is the hot new kid on the block riding for DC and has a full part coming out with Standard Films this fall. He has the most unique style I have ever seen to date... We are planning to add a couple more skaters and snowboarders to our global marketing structure, but the overall goal is to have a core tight team.

Is Vivo a one-man-band type deal?

No, I have great crew helping me out. I employed a friend from New Zealand who is now living here permanently: Cam Beedell, he takes care of all the web and graphics. Sara Lanyon is our head fashion designer and Vaughn Anthony Whynot looks after our social networking department. I oversee all areas of the company and we are always bouncing ideas back and forth. To me it's really important to have staff that believe in the brand and can see the same direction as you.

So what relevant training or experience you bring to the design/hat game?

I have been a pro snowboarder for the past eight years and very fortunate to have traveled the globe riding and meeting the coolest people on earth. My relevant training and experience is based on my travels and life skills I have picked up along the way. I left home when I was 15 to take on the world on my own. I jumped on a plane to Japan and spent a season there working with a Japanese family friend at a restaurant cleaning dishes to ride, eat, and stay at the resort for free. I remember taking $800 and having a $4 a day budget. I wasn't stressed, just stoked that I made it there and was riding knee-deep powder everyday! After returning from Japan, I soon had the itch to keep traveling and here I am in Vancouver, Canada 10 years later, living here full time. Through my years as a pro rider I was always interested in the business side of things and kept a close eye on how the industry rolled. Being a pro rider you're always wearing hats; it's a huge part of the culture. Most snowboarders carry at least 10 hats in their kit to match out their gear. Starting an exclusive headwear line just fell into place because I think I know what the riders want...

Team rider Andrew Geeves. Vivo also recently signed Marie-France Roy to the team.

What is Vivo's general approach to design or, as the kids say, "aesthetic"? Any companies or individuals who specifically inspire Vivo?

Our general approach to design is boutique and core to the industry offering all walks of life a taste of Vivo. Endeavour Snowboards CEO Max Jenke is someone that inspires me in terms of the way he has kept his company core over the years and now is having the strongest year yet even with the economic downturn. He has been a great mentor with pointing me in the right direction. Rick Alden, the CEO and founder of Skull Candy, is also a great inspiration with his recent success story and growth in business over a three-year period. Companies that are springing up and growing through the tough times really inspire me.

How would you describe the first run's palette?

Colorful, alive and highly forecasted.

Where do you see Vivo in five years?

I see myself and Vivo staff "product testing" in knee-deep powder at least two days a week, still core and in touch with the industry. Developing unheard technology and products and expanding in to other areas with our tight team and marketing. There is also a new project in hand that will spring up alongside Vivo in three to four years from now and together we will grow a empire.

To see more photos of the Vivo hats in action, check the Vivo Team Blog.