- Jennifer Mason
There is something primal about feeling the beat of a breath. Whether it rushes in and out from exertion or steadily swells inside a resting form, it serves as a reminder that external matters are secondary to this one life-sustaining act. For those that can find the ability to focus on that, to return to center, a more peaceful mind is possible.
Two friends, Max Vallot and Tom Daly, sought that peace in similar ways. After meeting in London at university and moving to New York around the same time seven years ago, restlessness ensued. “It took us a while to get paying jobs, and while we were waiting, we found the perfect distraction in the Boom Boom Room,” Vallot remembers.
Being tall, slim, creative, and European (Vallot is German and Daly British), work inevitably came about for both in fashion at brands like Acne Studios, BLK DNM, and Saint Laurent. But the tumultuous nature of working in that field, compounded by a bad breakup for one, made the nightlife scene less attractive as a release. “All of a sudden, we were looking for ways to take better care of ourselves, but also to find an outlet to keep our minds steady,” Vallot says.
Daly turned to marathon running while Vallot found meditation and restorative yoga, a practice that, he explains, “was not actually about exercising, nothing to do with building muscle or strength or anything. It was just about helping to relax and to take my mind off of whatever was going on during the day.”
After a first foray of working together at their own creative agency with clients like Balenciaga, Nicole Farhi, and Byredo, they realized that there was greater opportunity in facilitating this active lifestyle for others while maintaining their creative values.
“We became interested in the relationship between running and yoga in terms of our two different backgrounds, and we wanted to understand the one thing that unifies these two practices,” Daly explains. “After talking about it for a long time, we figured out it’s obvious that both can be intrinsically meditative.”
“Exactly,” Vallot continues. “Rather then being about pushing harder or showing everyone around you that you can run more miles or go to more yoga classes, that’s not really what it’s about. It’s ultimately about sharpening your level of consciousness.”
With that as a philosophy, the two founded District Vision and worked to create tools for sports and well-being while looking to define a different, more downtown attitude around sports. For Daly, the difference is that “other brands are much more about organized sports and about idolizing someone who’s the best. That creates this idea that you’re always inferior, and we’re trying to tap into the idea that it’s more about being the best version of yourself.”
The first tool they launched last month is a digital forum. “When we started out in our respective areas, we found that we were lucky enough to have touchpoint people, people who literally took our hands into the yoga community, into the running community and showed us a variety of experiences within these different practices. This allowed us to make up our minds with what we found most interesting,” Daly describes. “We thought if that was the way it worked for us, wouldn’t it be amazing to offer other people the same experience? So we developed this website where we allow people to interact, to meet with running coaches that I had also run with and recommend, to connect them with yoga teachers that Max has been affiliated with. The whole experience is about having interaction with people, about getting their feedback on products and about connecting them with the right mentors to take their experiences forward.”
The second tool is a physical product—highly developed performance eyewear. Weighing less than an ounce, the frames have one unisex shape meant to fit and flatter all faces. The minimal weight is balanced in just the right way to avoid bouncing on the bridge of the nose. The hardware is integrated into each frame in a way that doesn’t diminish the clean æsthetic. The temple tips can be adjusted around each ear for a more secure fit with oleoresistant coating that repels sweat and sunscreen. The glasses, which launched on DistrictVision.com earlier this week, will be sold in three polycarbonate, shatter-proof lenses all developed in Japan: the G15 for intense light, the Sport Yellow for low light, and a polarized version.
By spending two years researching the development of this product, Vallot explains, “we tried to make it right for the here and now. Someone who is interested in going running, going hiking, doing yoga now is not interested in looking like a warrior or a cyborg. A lot of sportswear design has been influenced by the army and by this whole idea of heavy protection and shields. We just feel that’s a little outdated and people don’t really identify with that so much anymore.”
Once these tools hit their stride, Vallot and Daly plan to begin to test others’ ideas that would help to promote this lifestyle that they themselves look to maintain.
“New York is a good place to test,” Daly says. “So much here has traditionally been about, ‘I work so hard so I have to go to India for a week, or I have to go run a marathon God knows where.’ This is more about having an applicable, healthy solution that works within the environment where you live, and that, for us, is New York City. It’s too easy to take a Patagonia approach, at least for us, and say the answer is in the Himalayas. It’s much more interesting to try to give people in New York City and our friends tools that work within this environment.”
“The important thing is this is not a manifesto, this is a dialogue,” Vallot continues. “We’re trying to not even call it a brand yet. It’s a project and we’re putting something out there and we’re first and foremost just curious how people perceive it and how people start using it and bringing it to life.”
Vallot says he sees District Vision as indicative of a larger evolution in the culture. “You can be conscious, you can be active, looking after yourself, but still be part of downtown New York,” he says. “It doesn’t mean that you need to be wearing leather jackets, smoking, and going out every night. I think there is a general shift towards bringing that together. Being cool is no longer being fucked up, in our minds. There’s a whole different dialogue going on with yourself and with everything around you once you get into this. Once you stop getting fucked up, it doesn’t mean you’re getting boring.”
“You’ll have to ask our friends to see if they agree with that,” Daly laughs.
For more information, please visit DistrictVision.com. District Vision is now available at Dover Street Market.
- Jennifer Mason