Pop quiz: which local punk-rock designer has launched a dozen seminal clothing labels (including Wings + Horns men’s sportswear), opened four renowned fashion stores (including Richard Kidd in Gastown), and spent the better part of the ’80s dressing celebs (including In Living Color’s Fly Girls, and still has street cred in the skateboarding world)?
Answer: Raif Adelberg, of course! Never heard of him? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. That’s because this serial collaborator has always been behind the scenes and ahead of his time. Also, he’s not interested in e-commerce and lives on Bowen Island, so he’s not exactly a marketing machine.
“As an artist, I don’t claim to be the best businessman in the world, but I love to create,” says Adelberg, who recently sat down with the Straight in an East Van café. “For me, it was always about moving on to the next thing.”
These days, however, the king of startups seems pretty content sticking with his first-ever eponymous label. It’s a luxury line of cashmere hand-knits and accessories for men and women ($750 to $7,000) that he launched in 2010. Many of the pieces point to his punk-rock lineage, but he also designs straight-up cozy classics like a slouchy button-up cardigan for guys.
“That’s like the sweater you want to steal from your grandfather,” Adelberg explains. “But then I do sweaters that say punk on the back and have black, white, and red mashed-up, chopped-up prints silk-screened on top.”
His collection is carried by Barneys New York all over the U.S.—not too shabby for a guy who started making clothes for himself in his grandma’s basement in Winnipeg. Back then, mind you, he didn’t have his sights set on becoming a critically acclaimed designer; he was simply adding some personalized steeze to his wardrobe.
“I was always flipping things inside out, chopping sleeves off, and adding zippers,” recalls Adelberg, who has no formal textiles training.
Despite his well-deserved acclaim south of the border, the Raif Adelberg line still isn’t available anywhere in Canada. However, that’s about to change come the first week of November, when Adelberg opens the doors of a two-month pop-up shop in North Van (139 Lonsdale Avenue). In addition to his luxury line, he’ll also be selling select pieces from Deadboys Clubhouse, his artistically driven, CBGB–inspired passion project. The fashion focus here is on one-of-a-kind premium denim vests ($350 to $1,800), motorcycle jackets ($800 to $2,850), sweatshirts ($75 to $275), and T-shirts ($50 to $175) that have been reworked using screen prints, patchwork, spray paint, hardware—you name it. But before these DBCH pieces hit the shelves at the North Van pop-up, they’ll be on sale, along with Adelberg’s artwork, at Fortune Projects Space (147 East Pender Street) on Friday (October 25) from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. For this event, Adelberg will be getting back to his DIY roots, and he encourages others to do the same. That’s why he’ll also be selling plain Ts for buyers to do as they please with whatever tools and materials they happen to have at home.
“It’s up to you to take it and make it your own,” says Adelberg, whose work has been featured in the pages of Vogue as well as the coveted window displays of New York’s iconic Bergdorf Goodman department store. “You can chop the sleeves off, chop the neck out, add safety pins, cut it in half, sew two together or sew three together—whatever.”