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Adam Small
The Young Designer That's Putting Canada On The Map

Adam Small is a Canadian designer that's been making a name for himself this year with his unique cut and sew style. We spoke with Adam about his experience starting his first brand 6 years ago to now dropping his first collection under a new name and traveling to Chicago to work with some of the biggest names in the underground scene. In addition, we also spoke about the creative process behind some of Adam's more elaborate pieces, what it's like being a designer in Canada, and his plan to continue building a legacy for himself in the fashion scene.

Where are you from?

Adam: I’m from Winnipeg, Canada.

When did you start designing clothes?

Adam: The brand that I run now is a new one that I just started. My first drop was July 6th but I started around the time of the Hybrid and Friends event. I was 13 or 14 when I started my first brand and I was 15 when I started my previous brand that was called Atomik Studios which I did up until last year when I retired the brand. So I’ve been running a brand consistently for the past 6 years. Adam Small is the first one that I’m really taking seriously.

What made you want to transition to designing under your own name?

Adam: It wasn’t really about designing under my own name it was just retiring that old brand since I felt like I had outgrown it. I was waiting on a name for my new brand and then the opportunity to do Hybrid and Friends came up. I never really set out to create a new brand, it was more so that I had an opportunity and didn’t have a brand to put it under so I just used my own name. I knew of other brands that had done that such as Georrge Olivier and all the big designers like Margiella, Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton. I felt like that was a comfortable thing for me so I stuck with it.

What initially inspired you to start a clothing brand?

Adam: I started out designing classic T-shirts, hoodies, caps, and stuff like that. I’m not sure exactly where that came from I just remember always being artistic and being a creative kid. The earliest memory around anything designing is customizing characters in video games. I was a really shitty gamer but Skyrim was sick because it had a really cool character customization that I would do over and over instead of actually playing the story. Other than that it really just came organically. I was an artist and was into clothes from a young age so I decided to merge the two eventually.

Let’s talk about your recent Summer Collection. What was the inspiration behind the pieces on that collection?

Adam: I just wanted to put out some products to test the market since that was my first collection. Some of those designs I’d done a while back and some were new. But I wanted to get an overall feel and look for what I was doing before getting into more cohesive and conceptual collections. It was kind of an overview of what the brand will be in the future. The Degas sweater was actually a piece that I made for Atomik in a different colorway in the last collection I dropped. I brought that one back out of curiosity and people really ended up liking it.

Where did the concept for the Adam Small side bags come from?

Adam: The bags came naturally since I really wanted to make something that was super light and tight to the body so you could wear it underneath clothes almost like a vest. A lot of the other side bags I saw were super bulky so I wanted one that was sleek. Originally it was just meant to be a holster to put your wallet or cash in. But people ended up putting all kinds of stuff in it. One dude from Chicago even asked me if he could fit his gun in it. The whole idea happened really organically and was sort of my solution to my own problem since I wanted a bag that would fit tight to my body.

What was the inspiration behind the “Degas Sweatshirt” on the collection?

Adam: That piece is technically a second version of a piece I did earlier since I used the same silhouette with the Mona Lisa for Atomik. When I was like 8 I went to France and got the chance to go to the Louvre where I saw all the classic painters. One of the most famous things there is the Mona Lisa and I was lucky enough to see that up close. So I was looking for another piece to do in that same silhouette and my old dance studio had a printed copy of that Degas painting hung up. I’m actually a hip hop dancer as well which a lot of people don’t know about me and I’ve been dancing my whole life. So when I was breaking down color pallets it seemed natural for me to use. In general those low saturation teals and blues are what I’m modeling the brand after so it felt like a good fit for that piece.

What made you want to exaggerate the sleeves?

Adam: Three or four years ago I made a piece with stupid long arms which I loved since it was super comfortable having the sleeves hang over your hand. When I was trying to find a silhouette for those painting pieces I decided to use that one because it has this delicate feel but it’s also still raw and you can rock it with a super hard outfit.

How long have you been doing cut and sew?

Adam: I started doing cut and sew stuff in 2016. Making a hoodie was daunting to me at the time since I was only making shirts. My friend asked me to make a hoodie and I thought there was no way I could do that. But I made it anyway and was able to progress from there. I made my first proper jacket last year and which fit really well with the lining and everything. That’s when I realized I could learn to make anything. I’m still learning every single day with new patterns and I mess up a bunch of shit but it’s all about trial and error. That first hoodie I made sucked but I made a bunch more and they got progressively better over time.

What was the inspiration behind the black convertible hoodie concept?

Adam: I’m hyped you bring that up because that’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever made. But a lot of people didn't like it. For me I was just experimenting with taking simple products such as a T-shirt or hoodie that I was really well versed at and adding little twists that completely change them. That whole apparatus with convertible stuff is all based off of the hoodie pockets. It’s originally a hoodie pocket but in the end it shoots out to both sides. It’s almost like architecture in that I'm using shapes to play off of other ones and working with symmetry. Making that one was a lot of fun. It was really just an experiment where I was playing around with shapes but I really love the way it turned out.

What does your creative process look like when you’re experimenting with different shapes and materials?

Adam: For me it varies and changes for each piece. It’s never the same. If I have a very specific set vision on something I'll sketch it first. Sometimes even if I don't have a set vision I’ll still sketch it out first and make technical copies and tweak the sketch. If I’m trying to tweak a hoodie I’ll play with fabrics and lay fabrics out and play with different colors and cut out shapes to see how it fits by pinning things on. It’s really expressive. For me I like it to be free and open so that happy accidents can happy and I can discover things rather than being set on one specific thing. Sometimes I go in with a set vision but other times it's better to play around and experiment.

What inspired you to start using the white chain as a jewelry piece and part of your garments?

Adam: I never really wanted that to be a product or something that was gonna sell since that look isn’t necessarily a new idea. But I've lways loved that raw, industrial look and the makeup of the brand has always been based on that. I have the steel chain that I wear all the time which is from Home Depot. When I found that white chain it merged the brand perfectly because we have this blank canvas feel to all our visuals. Seeing that white chain was almost the blank canvas version of the industrial heavy chain. I'm always looking to find new stuff and think about how I can use it in a style or look.

Are you planning on designing other jewelry pieces in the future?

Adam: Definitely. For this next season I have some glasses that I'll be releasing. I’ve gotten into wearing more and more glasses recently whether it’s sunglasses or frames in general since I feel like it adds so much more to an outfit. I have this specific frame that I’ve always wanted to make which will be dropping around the middle of August. As far as other jewelry goes I’m talking to Sam from Half Evil about getting some pieces made for fall. I have a crazy collection coming up. I won’t say too much about it but it’s inspired by teeth. I have a big explanation behind that but I won’t release it yet. I’ll have some accessories based off of that which include necklaces, earrings and rings. I don't think all of those will be released but maybe one or two for the collection this fall.

Are there any other garments, accessories, or mediums that you want to experiment with in the future?

Adam: Womenswear for sure. I make mostly men’s or unisex clothing since I'm usually designing for myself, but eventually I'd like to do a collection that’s strictly womenswear. Obviously if you’re a dude you can wear it but I want it based off of women.

How was it attending the Hybrid & Friends clothing event earlier this year?

Adam: It was dope man. I’ve known Champ through social media for about a year but I met him in person about 6 months ago. He flew up most of the people that attended, Sam from Half Evil, Connor from Violence, and Aaron from Brigade but he still wanted some local people so he reached out to me. I didn’t really know what to expect and I almost didn't even gonna go. But I’m so glad I did because it led me to make those connections with Sam from Half Evil and his manager Anthony and Parker from Absent. Making those connections was super important for me because it’s really given me the confidence to go forward with this brand since they pump me up like crazy. All of them have been super dope mentors for me even in the past four months so I’m super grateful that we did that event. It was a lot of fun to see all those other brands come out and learn how they operate. Meeting a dude like Parker who just turned 19 was crazy since he's my same age running one of the biggest underground streetwear brands right now. And then meeting a dude like Sam who’s started this whole underground streetwear empire was amazing. I had known about him prior to the event so it was cool to meet him in person. I’m super glad I did that. It was a dope event and Champ pulled through with some crazy brands so I’m really fortunate that happened.

What event were you in Chicago for?

Adam: When Sam came for the Hybrid event he was telling me I needed to come out to Chicago to stay with him for the Half Evil store opening in April. So I went out to Chicago for the event and met Jaden, Sam, Parker, Georrge Olivier, Alex Ryder from Ryder Studios, Champ, Sukamii, and Aaron from Brigade. It was crazy to see all those brands out there. It was dope too because not all of them were from Chicago. Ryder is from Atlanta, Brigade is from New York, Champ and I are from Canada, and Jaden’s from Seattle. All of us were out there for that store opening.

What other brands or designers in Canada should we be paying attention to?

Adam: In my city it’s basically me, Champ, and I have a close friend of mine who’s launching a brand soon that I have faith will be big. His name’s Galada and he’s gonna be releasing a brand called Fumbled Files probably by the end of this year. I’ve worked with on a couple projects and runways and he's a really talented designer. The only other person I can think of is Spencer Badu who's a super sick designer out of Toronto. His stuff is more toward higher fashion since it’s a little more expensive and all fully cut and sew. Their silhouettes are insane and he comes up with the craziest designs so go check him out. Other than that, I mostly focus on things that are happening in the states now. But any time I see a design coming out of Canada I want to support it.

Are there any other brands or designers that you want to work with in the future?

Adam: There's so many. Spencer Badu is sick since he’s in a similar lane that I want to get into. But he’s a little further along so I need to establish my brand first before I can collab with him. I was in talks with Georrge Olivier about doing a collab. I’m sure it’ll happen at some point I just don't know exactly when. Maxwell Bresler from Chicago is another one. I know he doesn't do collaborations but he comes up with the most insane designs. He’s dope.

What should we expect to see from Adam Small next?

Adam: Expect the new collection that's inspired by teeth in the fall with a better explanation. It’s more conceptual and fully cohesive with motifs that repeat throughout the collection rather than just being individual pieces. That’ll be out in September or October. In the meantime I’m gonna be releasing a collection of 1 of 1 rework denims similar to the last piece I posted on my Instagram as well as those glasses I talked about. I’m not sure whether it’ll be released with the denim but both of those will definitely be coming this summer.

What do you want to be known for?

Adam: That’s a tough question because I’m so young so I don't even really know what I want. I’m just making things because I love making them. For me I just want to have some legacy in the fashion or art scene with an impact that progresses it in some way. I don’t just want to be the designer that sells clothes but has zero impact on the culture. I want something to get left behind whether it’s being known for my work ethic or my personal attitude and being positive. I don’t care if it’s necessarily being known for the clothes but I just want to leave something for the culture that’s positive.

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