written by
Bernardo Alves

Winnipeg’s Underdog: Speaking with Adam Small

Interviews Fashion 2 min read
The craziest feeling in the world to me is creating something literally out of nothing. That process of going from ground zero, like just an idea to something tangible, something you can touch and feel and immerse yourself in.

Winnipeg, Manitoba, do you know where that is? It’s a city about the size of Seattle – is that easier to find? – in the middle of Canada’s Southern border. It takes over twenty hours to drive to Vancouver or Toronto. With an average temperature of just 3ºC over the course of the year, the city freezes over in the winter and covers itself in fog. And yet, in this isolated and somewhat desolate place, designer Adam Small sees a creative oasis.

Winnipeg Skyline across the river in winter
Winnipeg Skyline across the river in winter | Photo: JacobTwo; Source: Wiki

Small, who’s semi-eponymous brand, By Adam Small, just released their newest collection, has been making clothes for longer than you might imagine. The Manitoba native’s brand has been active for five years at this point, but has evolved drastically from its origins. Originally the project was based heavily on upcycling old denim – even having been featured on the Archived Dreams Instagram in 2021 for a reworked denim jacket – but he’s progressively leaned into cut-and-sew ready-to-wear pieces, experimenting with different materials along the way.

This development has allowed him to explore different themes and concepts too. Though the first few collections were titled “Lost and Found,” a reference in part to the reuse of materials, more recent collections have used more abstract titles, such as his recent collaboration with 1+1=1 which was titled “Stairs to Where?”.

Small often cites his hometown as one a central source of inspiration. “It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gritty,” he says in a video posted to his Instagram. It’s easy to see how these inspirations translate onto the clothes: the color palettes are muted, the constructions are brutalist. Many of the pieces in his newest collection, titled “Sticks and Stones”, seem like they belong in the closet of a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I mean this entirely as a compliment – for the record.

There’s an energy that permeates the clothing, art direction, and communications of Small’s studio that exude this maverick eeriness which makes the project so appealing. This, Small says, is due to largely to the fact that Winnipeg isnt a creative hub. In her book, Why Fashion Matters, scholar Frances Corner talks about the importance of cities to the fashion system, saying that “At the heart of every successful fashion economy lies a group of enthusiasts who are both performers and audience to one another”. However, this lack of immediate audience, is exactly what allows Adam Small to create its own universe; there’s time for ideas to marinate and come to fruition in a more cohesive form because of the lack of pressure to perform.

This is evident in the approach the brand takes to social media as well, as they often take over a month off from posting while things are in the works. But when they do post, it always feels deliberate and well thought out.

We sat down for a brief conversation with Adam about his creative process and his approach to this work. Watch it below!

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