In the midst of another torrential rainfall in Vancouver, Canada, Colin Meredith welcomes me into his apartment. Even from inside, the rain is almost louder than the Young Thug track coming from his speakers. His living space––which he describes as his “all-in-one bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and work studio”––is packed with enough handmade Gore-Tex outerwear and Arc’teryx jackets to keep an entire sports team dry.
At just 27 years old, Meredith has racked up an impressive résumé. Before joining the Arc’teryx team as a men’s apparel designer in early 2021, he worked as an assistant for Justin Saunders, an apparel designer for CYC, completed internships at Noah NYC and WANT Les Essentiels, designed for Dime and Louis Vuitton, and created a variety of one-off pieces, often working with upcycled and repurposed materials.
“It’s important to me that things always have that side of practicality. I think it’s for sure how I grew up. My dad is a maker,” he explains, citing his father as a major influence in his work, and perhaps the inspiration behind items like backpacks made from warranty-returned Arc’teryx jackets, and a jacket made from a Canadian military sleeping bag. “He really instilled this mindset of like, ‘it doesn’t have to go in the garbage,’ and ‘we can probably figure out something to do with it.’ I think lots of my stuff comes from that mindset. I’d drag shit home that was super bizarre and otherwise was at the end of its life cycle, and just be like, ‘OK, how can we make something fun with this?’”
Though Meredith admits he was picky about what he wore even as a kid, he credits much of his early style inspiration to being an avid skateboarder in his teen years. “I would go to the skatepark at every opportunity. I was a full-on park rat,” he says. “Having the influence of skateboarding and watching the dudes you admire, and noticing what they wear influences your style so much.”
Knowing at a young age that he had an interest in fashion, he got his first job in the stockroom at American Apparel. Later, Meredith was hired as a sales associate at Still Life, a boutique down the street when he was still 16 years old. “All of a sudden, I was selling other things, like Brixton, and all the jean brands we had and stuff. Being in contact with like, smaller-label, nicer fashion shit,” he says of the job. “I would spend my whole paycheck there. I was always gear-obsessed and wanted all the shit.” He mentions admiring clothing from brands such as Engineered Garments and Our Legacy at Victoria’s Four Horsemen Shop, but never being able to afford that sort of clothing as a teen.
Instead, he decided to create his own. This passion for making clothing would eventually find him moving to Montreal at age 17. “Of course, there was the draw of fashion school, but there was also the draw of like, you can drink at 18, and it was the skateboarding mecca; the Dime boys were there, and I was like…this is the coolest place in the world.” Though Meredith didn’t end up finishing fashion school, he remained in Montreal until 2019.
In an industry where it’s often difficult to stand out, Meredith stresses how important it was for him to get practical experience, no matter how many emails he might have had to send. “Eventually, they got back to me,” he says, explaining the story behind his internship at Noah. With what little money he had, he took the train to New York City, where he crashed on his uncle’s couch. “I think spending all that time in New York, I gained a lot of confidence, and figured a lot of shit out. I was the cool kid that everyone liked, but I was just packing boxes, sweeping floors, and doing random shit like setting up their warehouse sale, and whatever interns do. Learning valuable skills,” said Meredith. Without American citizenship or a work visa, Meredith was unable to move onto employment at Noah after his internship concluded. Back in Canada, he took a one year technical program at a College in Montreal in order to become more attractive to employers.
It’s Meredith’s do-it-yourself attitude and persistence that have helped get him to where he is today. “If you wanna do anything that’s interesting in the long run, you’re gonna have to be more willing than the people next to you,” he says, explaining that he often felt like he had no other choice and if he wanted to turn his passion into a career, he had to put everything into it. “I think that was a big realization for me. You don’t get much out of sitting around and wishing you were doing something else.” Rather than being discouraged after leaving fashion school, he caught the attention of Justin Saunders, and offered to work for him for free. Years later, this connection would eventually result in him flying to Paris to work with Saunders and Virgil Abloh, designing a piece for the Louis Vuitton Spring 2020 Precollection.
Meredith compares the impressive list of men’s brands he’s worked with to a “kind of personal school of clothing” that helped him gain valuable knowledge and skills through everything he’s done so far. “Learning from the old guys at Arc’teryx—hanging out with the dudes that have been there for 20 years—and picking their brains on why they made certain design decisions has been massive,” he explains. “I’ve learned so much, it’s crazy. I can’t wait to try and put this knowledge into product down the line.” Currently working on the new System_A line, Meredith is the youngest designer on the Arc’teryx team. “It was obviously a goal of mine when I was out here to work for Arc,” he admits. Things are clearly going well for him.
As for me, not so much. I’ll soon have to head back out into the Vancouver weather, still wearing my soaked pants, shoes, and windbreaker. “Get your Gorp up,” he says encouragingly, and laughs.
Here, Meredith talks more about his journey as a young designer, Arc’teryx’s current popularity, and how important it is to just make things.