Vancouver is home to a thriving fashion industry made up of individuals committed to its growth and success. Get to know these personalities in The Inseam and discover what makes the Vancouver Fashion scene so awesome.

Photo: Valerie Tiu

Rob Geary is not your typical businessman. Nor does he partake in your typical interview. When I first meet him, he flashes his shiny grill and he kindly proposes that we take it outside – around East Van, that is. After making the coffee shop my second home and office, I am more than happy to oblige.

Rob is the mastermind behind Welcome to Eastvan, which is best known for those list t-shirts that you’ve seen on the streets. A community-based lifestyle brand, WTEV offers up cool tees, aprons, mugs, rubbers and everything in between. What started out as a side project has now become a full-fledged label with its own flagship store, Sharks + Hammers, countless collaborations and now a transportation venture.

Rob developed the concept for WTEV from the gear that he used rock from other neighbourhoods and cities. “I had this one Brooklyn hat, and I got it when I was in New York. I remember the experience of buying it – I was really excited. I had great memories from growing up in East Van, and I wanted to represent that with a t-shirt and bring that feeling back. I’ve got these experiences and I know that other people have them as well and I want them to be able to represent that. That’s where the whole idea for WTEV came about. It may be just a t-shirt, but behind it, there’s stories and feelings that represent its meaning.”

We discuss how WTEV has become an intensely collaborative project, with its mandate on shedding light on the local community. Rob says, “I think that the name sums it up. Everything that I try to do with the brand involves the community. I have yet to produce a lookbook or any real advertisements. I pretty much just take any user-submitted photos or information and use that to promote the brand and the lifestyle. What better way to do it than to get the community involved?”

The label also demonstrates this sense of community through The Re[NEW]al Projekt, which works with the Union Gospel Mission to donate old tees to those in need. It’s projects like this that take WTEV beyond the typical lifestyle brand. In fact, Rob recently introduced a new transportation venture that offers moving and delivery services. It seems random, but I quickly learn that this initiative complements the brand perfectly.

“One of the reasons why I got into the transportation business was to interact. I want to be able to see the people who may or may not know my brand, to see the people that make up the community. That’s another way I can draw influence. I’m showing my side of the story, so I want to see how others are living. It may sound like I am glorifying moving, but I just want to create the best experience possible. I want to make people feel welcome in the community. That’s why the brand ties into the transportation [business],” says Rob.

Rob’s method of moving involves a true housewarming. “Say someone is moving from outside of town and they’re moving out to East Van. We help them get settled in and while doing that, I am able to present them with a gift, maybe a t-shirt or a mug. I have an idea of presenting them with seeds or plants that represent growth in their new location in the community. The seeds would be native to the neighbourhood, so it doesn’t interfere with the other plant life. So by moving them in, it’s saying, ‘Welcome to East Van, here’s a gift, hope your experiences will be as great as mine have been.’”

The transportation business, or “mobile office,” as Rob likes to call it, takes place in a big black truck called The East Van. As we cruise around in this charming ride, Rob takes me on the ultimate East Van tour. There’s the Dairy Queen on Kingsway, the 7-11 that he used to haunt, Kingsgate Mall, that old spot where El Dorado used to be, and Oppenheimer Park to name a few. We make a pit stop at Lucy’s Eastside Diner, where Rob donates a few WTEV mugs. “I was drinking coffee there last night and there was a crack in the cup, so I offered to hook them up with some mugs. It’s just another way to welcome them into the neighbourhood,” says Rob.

It’s clear that Rob is passionate about his work. He speaks intently when we discuss his other projects and collaborations within WTEV. It appears that is constantly thinking of the next idea, a creative process that he freely expresses through a mix of artistic outlets. He lists off art shows, book releases and new designs as just a few of the things he has in the works.

Now that WTEV has become a local favourite, I ask Rob how it feels to see people wearing his brand. He responds humbly, saying, “It’s rewarding and inspiring to keep doing what I do. It just shows me that people care the way the way that I do about the neighbourhood. That they are more than willing to wear a t-shirt that represents their way of life, and it happens to be my design, is really cool.”

We discuss Vancouver culture and the way that it has shaped Rob’s vision. “I remember why I started the brand in the first place, because it is a beautiful community. We have a lot to be grateful for. It’s small and there may not be as much exposure for fashion and artistic cultures in other cities, but hey, we’re doing what we can. What do you expect if you don’t help nourish it, help it grow? You have to be here to do that. If you want that experience to be here, make it happen. We’re fortunate enough to be one of the few that have the ability to show people that we have style. I think I’ve been able to help inspire other local brands as well, to see what their ideas and their visions are. That’s what makes Vancouver awesome – the idea of planting seeds. Having the shirts, they have been the seeds. It’s planting the idea that this hood is awesome. Representing with pride, whether it’s on your mug or on your chest. There’s my metaphor right there. My shirts are seeds.”

So what makes East Van so awesome? “It’s the people, the landscape, the experiences. The development and growth that’s going on right now in the community – that’s huge. People from all types of backgrounds and all different areas all over the world – they’re coming and experiencing what East Van is like. The fact that there’s change and growth, but the foundation and traditional values are still here. Certain ways of life out here – it doesn’t look like they’re going to change anytime soon. The fact that I am able to be a part of this growth and transition, for me that’s what makes East Van awesome.”