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The Founding: Leap of faith

Creating a brand in the highly competitive space that is menswear is not an easy task. Sustaining and evolving a brand over the span of 15+ years is incrementally more difficult. Two brothers, Arthur and Daniel Chmielewski have done just that with the highly curated technical apparel brand Haven. Curation is an art form that is often seen as simple when viewing the final product, similar to design. In practice, very few are able to replicate the act which takes a strong vision and unwavering restraint. Daniel and Arthur are undoubtedly masters of the craft. 

The first Haven store opened in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada in 2006, setting in motion what would become the first of many. Shelves were stocked with hard to find brands from Japan, Canadian staples like Reigning Champ, and select footwear from companies like Alife, Vans Syndicate and Nike. The ecommerce store was an asset from the beginning, allowing for customers to access the coveted inventory all throughout North America. The site slowly grew into a high performing revenue driving channel, largely by way of the frequent style editorials, viral lookbooks, and in-depth interviews that Haven would create on a near weekly basis. In 2015, Haven formalized their influence by launching Intelligence, a properly produced magazine highlighting style and culture.

Never settling on good enough, the two brothers continued to grow the brand from its humble beginnings by opening various new brick and mortar locations, collaborating with complementary companies, and successfully executing the launch of a premium in house brand. More on all of this in a moment. 

The Philosophy: Innovative functional design

Haven was founded on the idea of providing and producing products geared towards enriching everyday life through functional design, craftsmanship, and innovation. By ensuring everything they do revolves around the idea of “equipment for living”, the brand can methodically execute upon a single vision. From footwear to outerwear and everything in between, you’re sure to notice the common thread of overengineered utility in all the products they carry as well as develop.

Haven jacket equipment for living
courtesy of © Haven

Much of this philosophy was born out of necessity. It should come as no surprise that the Canadian winters can be brutal and unforgiving, yet there is still the need to either commute throughout the week or explore on the weekends. Haven has made it their mission to outfit the urban traverser with stylish garments intended to perform. Whether shopping GORE-TEX jackets from their in-house label or some of the premium brands such as _J.L-A.L_, Arc’teryx System_A, ROA or Mountain Research, the constant is function.

The Brands: Top tier technical apparel

When a brand successfully specializes in a specific segment of the market, they have effectively defined their niche. There is no doubt that the corner of the market that Haven has captured consists of unique, carefully curated, often sought out yet very hard to find functional goods hailing from countries around the world. No other retailer then or now has been able to so clearly and concisely serve this market.

Initially, much of the Haven lineup consisted of the top brands from Japan including WTAPS, Original Fake, Headporter, Neighborhood, Bedwin and the Heartbreakers, Undercover, and Uniform Experiment to name a few. If you were located in North America, it was incredibly difficult to track down these items, short of taking a trip to the land of the rising sun. Haven kept a fresh rotation of clothing and accessories from these loved brands which naturally helped build a passionate following.

Over time, Haven set their sights on the more top tier technical and functional apparel brands like ACRONYM, Arc’teryx Veilance, Salomon Advanced, ROA, Hoka, and Tilak (more recently) which greatly aligned with their overall mission. Being based in Vancouver, often cloaked in dreary rainy weather, proper attire is the difference between a good and a bad day. Serving this rain soaked market in a stylish way only makes sense. The emphasis on utilitarian garments with premium synthetic materials eventually led to the framework for their in-house label created in 2017. More on that later.

Outside of apparel and footwear, Haven also specializes in stocking niche lifestyle accessories that enhance the everyday. This often includes brands that are first introduced to the consumer by way of the Haven teams curation. Kuumba incense from Japan is always a favorite. Bagjack daypacks and accessory pouches from Berlin are the perfect commuter companions. A full range of retaW products and Comme des Garcons parfums are generally available both in store and online. 

When browsing the Haven range of products, one thing is for certain. You’re highly unlikely to come across many of the items on their shelves anywhere else in North America, let alone all under one roof. From your average Keen or New Balances all the way up to Moncler Genius and Visvim, if a product stands up to the Haven rigor and aesthetic, it’s likely to be offered.

The Growth: Canadian brick and mortar expansion

From the humble beginnings in Edmonton to the multi coast powerhouse of today, the growth of the Haven brand is tangible. After realizing success with their homebase which opened its doors in 2006, Haven made the jump to open up shop in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC in late 2009. The quaint store on the edge of Blood Alley operated for roughly 4 years before shutting down for a nine month period to develop the next iteration. In 2014, the doors to the new 2,500 square foot store reopened with an aesthetic that really began to shape the Haven style. The worn brick clad walls, light wood floors, clean lines, low lighting, and dangling metal racks created an atmosphere that complemented the attire. This beautiful store was in operation up until just recently, shutting down to make the move to a fresh space in Railtown where the grand opening took place in mid December 2023.

Haven Toronto store
courtesy of © Haven

With Vancouver becoming the established homebase of Haven, it only made sense to take the leap and open a brand new nearly 6,800 square foot office and studio space in 2020. In true Haven fashion, this timeless and utilitarian office space features shades of concrete, clean square lines, contrasting white and black elements, varying textures, linear lighting, and carefully crafted garden spaces. It’s safe to say that this single piece of architecture encapsulates everything about the brand into one functional form. The Heia Studio designed headquarters serves as Havens corporate office, their in house design and photography studio, and their wholesale distribution operations.

Haven Vancouver HQ
courtesy of © Haven

On the other coast, Haven marked the opening of their third store in March of 2012, this time in Toronto. With the success seen in Vancouver, it’s no surprise that the Toronto location had a similar fate. After just five years, the team made the decision to close the doors and open a larger footprint on Richmond Street East in 2017. The 5,500 square foot white oak post and beam building is bright and airy with high ceilings, an abundance of canned lights, and plenty of black framed windows. Just one more beautifully executed on-brand example of Havens mastery, and I imagine it won’t be the last.

The Collaborations: Anyone who is anyone

Over the years, Haven has successfully collaborated with some of the biggest and best brands spanning industries and geographies. Personally, one of the favorites that immediately comes to mind is the Adidas uncaged triple black ultraboost from 2017. While this evaded me upon launch, selling out in seconds, it is one of my top 10 shoes that I’d like to one day track down. 

haven adidas ultraboost collaboration
courtesy of © Haven

In addition to Haven’s collaboration with Adidas, the brand has lent their services to a fair share of other footwear suppliers. Canadian based company Viberg has on many occasions been the boot maker of choice. The all black service boot and officer derby made from horween leather were beautiful options for more refined styles. Dr Marten, Timberland, Diemme Roccia, and Mark Mcnairy all partnered with Haven over the years to put a utilitarian take on each of their iconic boot silhouettes.

On the sneaker front, the New Balance created M990RG5 and M990RB5 featuring reflective bits were an instant hit. The Converse chuck 70 high and Vans sk-8 high (as well as many other Vans styles) received the signature Haven aesthetic. In more recent months, Clarks Originals and norda™ both absolutely knocked it out of the park with the GORE-TEX lined Weaver GTX and the debut of the laceless norda™ 003.

haven clarks weaver gtx collaboration
courtesy of © Haven

In a show of force, Haven made it a point to release 10 different compelling collaborations on their 10th anniversary milestone in what they called the ‘decade of permanence’. This consisted of working with exclusive brands like Bedwin and the Heartbreakers, Undercover, Porter, Wacko Maria, Sasquatchfabrix, Nonnative, Human Made, and many more. The resulting output included jackets, shirts, boots, and bags, many of which were finished in a dark shade of black.

Often it is the case that one brand must sacrifice to some degree when partnering with another. This never seems to be the reality with what Haven touches. The sense of functional utility and overall aesthetic is palpable in each and every item, bringing about a feeling of uniqueness and scarcity. The brand design elements are subtly integrated making each product truly an extension of Haven.

The Evolution: Development of a brand

After just over 10 years as a multi brand retailer, Haven successfully launched their in house brand appropriately labeled Haven. This comes after an initial attempt back in late 2014 under the name Cypress where the brand produced a 20 piece initial lineup consisting of knitwear, wool button downs, and other various military inspired garments. Cypress continued on through 2016 before going dormant and relaunching as the Haven namesake in October of 2017. It was at this time that the brand really began to find its stride and create a foothold in the industry.

Haven goretex jacket review
courtesy of © Haven

The Haven brand label is 100% synonymous with form and function. This is clear in their material selection for the garments that they produce, often calling upon some of the most niche technical fabric and fiber makers. The Stotz® ETAproof™, Polartec® 100 fleece range and PrimaLoft® used in the 2021 collection was what really caught my attention. Beginning in 2022, the brand pulled no punches. It was at this time that things started to become even more elevated through the use of Loro Piana® Storm System®, Duca Visconti corduroy, Schoeller® Dryskin, CoolMax® ripstop, and of course the incredible partnership with GORE-TEX.

haven gore-tex jacket review
courtesy of © Haven

The hurdle, or rather the massive mountain of becoming a certified GORE-TEX partner is no easy feat. Two years in the making and I’m sure plenty of ups and downs ultimately led to the introduction of the GORE-TEX Infinium range. This nine piece collection consisted of the notable Zephyr and Recon jackets built from GORE-TEX Infinium windstopper fabric. Two jackets that greatly amplified the Haven brand and set into motion some unstoppable momentum.

In 2023, Haven accelerated their GORE-TEX jacket production with the release of the Chamber, Logan, Bellum, Interval, Turbine and my personal favorite piece, the Condor jacket. Utilizing modern production methods including laser cut and laminated pockets, fully taped seams, and articulated patterns puts this range on par with some of the highest end outerwear pieces. Each of these jackets are available in a narrow range of colors ranging from white to bruise. From my perspective, the risk and restraint to settle on these select hues is applauded. In addition to the functional outerwear pieces, Haven has also been busy producing bottoms, base layers, pullover sweaters, caps, crewnecks, vests, and accessories. All of which follow the earth tone color palette and are intended to enhance your everyday life.

The Future: Positive momentum

Looking at what Haven has accomplished just over the past five years, there is no doubt in my mind that the brand is on a hockey stick trajectory (no Canadian pun intended). With the jump into functional outerwear and the utilization of some of the most premium materials and manufacturing processes, I’m certain Arthur and Daniel are only interested in creating the most technical and aesthetically pleasing products aligned with their ethos. Seeing the brand continue to iterate and refine its approach at a rapid clip, it’s clear Haven will soon become a brand first followed by retailer second. While I feel that they are one of the more underrated or best kept secrets at the moment, I predict this will change in a drastic way by 2025. 

The feverish pace at which Haven methodically collaborates with some of the most complementary companies from around the world will only continue to reinforce the brand. The path they’re on at the moment almost feels undefeated with each new release being incrementally more impressive than the last, something easier said than done. If I were to guess, I’d say the best is still yet to come if the past is to be indicative of the future.

Mentioned in this article:

Moccasins with Sole: Haven x Clarks Originals Weaver GTX
The solid momentum continues for Haven to finish out 2023 strong. Fresh off of their collaboration with norda™ launching the 003 just weeks ago, the team has now partnered with English brand Clarks to interpret the Weaver GTX in a way that only Haven can.
Functional Fleece: Haven Polartec® Jacket Review
I’ll start by saying, I believe Haven’s original garments produced over the past 2 years are some of the more underrated technical apparel pieces on the market today. Their utilization and curation of functional materials leaves me in anticipation for each season’s release.
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