Ken Chow’s Krane collection of military style bags and menswear has taken off
In fashion, it is customary for high-end labels to pad their collections with accessories; it’s good for the bottom line. Few begin by stitching bags and then designing clothes – putting the Hermès cart before the horse, as it were. Yet that’s how Ken Chow, of Krane menswear, is making a name for himself.
From the outset, Chow’s look has been modern with a nod to military detailing. He drafts patterns in his home studio and has them sewn in Toronto. Constructed of waxed cotton and leather, his backpacks, duffles and satchels are finished with patch pockets, identity tags, hand-rolled leather handles and gun metal hardware.
Chow’s distinctive army style has been a long time in the making. He says that it all began when he was a kid, entering Remembrance Day poster design contests with the Royal Canadian Legion – feeding his visual vocabulary with World War II uniforms. But it was his internships at Marc Jacobs and Cloak in New York, sourcing materials and perfecting pattern drawing, that impacted him most. “Marc’s love of vintage had a big impact on me,” says Chow. “It encouraged me to search inside for – and use – what I experienced as a kid.” And at Cloak, he learned how to cultivate a niche audience.
Shortly after Chow launched Krane in 2004, Klaus Nienkämper Jr. added the products to his King East showroom, where they complemented Tom Dixon’s industrial aesthetic. The clean lines, metal frames, sombre tones and fine details (taped leather seams for durability, padded foam bases and suede linings for a touch luxury) share many similarities with Nienkämper’s high-end furniture.
The bags have since led to a second, more affordable leisure line and a biannual menswear collection that includes tapered trousers in waxed cotton, chino shirts with epaulets and double-breasted denim jackets. The ensembles are carried by local, as well as international, stockists. Clearly, it pays to work in reverse.