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MITMUNK: Not Your Average Legging

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The local print clothing company Mitmunk first came to my attention when I was invited to participate in a fun photoshoot to promote their leggings.  I had never seen leggings like this before – covered in brightly coloured prints of chainmail and armour, transforming the wearer into a modern day medieval action figure.  In other words, these leggings were super rad.

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At the recent VALT Fashion Week in November 2013, I had the opportunity to meet the faces behind Mitmunk, Wayne Elliott and Heather Joan Tam.  Since I was unfortunately unable to attend their fashion show at the event, they invited me to visit their studio and check out the stock up close.

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Their homey studio, situated in the industrial area of East Van, consisted of a small showroom out front with a large storage space in the back.  My friend Jenn and I were treated to a teacup of hot toddy, again a first for me.  Over this cozy bit of whiskey goodness, Wayne told us the story of Mitmunk.

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After many years in the video gaming industry as an artist and 3-D renderer in both the UK and Vancouver, Wayne decided to change direction and spent some time assisting a local designer who used a colour dye sublimation printer to create her fashion garments.  It was this printing technique that sparked the idea to create his own pieces inspired by his background in video gaming.

The sublimation process first starts with the pattern being designed on the computer, after which it is printed life-size onto thick stock paper.  This paper and the fabric are then both run through a sublimation printer, the heat of which converts the dye on the paper to a gas which diffuses onto the fabric and solidifies.  Traditionally this method had been used to produce banners and cycling wear, but Wayne brought it into the fashion arena with the production of his first pair of ‘anatomical’ leggings (see photo) which highlighted the musculature of the human leg.  After this first prototype, he expanded his designs to include chainmail armour and eventually bionic leggings.

It was at this time that his life partner, Heather, herself a multidisciplinary artist, became his business partner as well.  Together they showcased their creations at the local Blim Market, but it was their debut fashion show at the inaugural VALT Fashion Week in 2012 which catapulted their presence and attracted a fan base.  Over the past year, they have expanded their product line to include tank tops, tank dresses, tube tops, boy shorts, and have plans to branch out into outerwear.  They first started producing about twelve pieces at a time, and have had to keep increasing their batch sizes multi-fold to meet the increasing demand.  For the foreseeable future, they intend to keep sales solely online, but do have select pieces available at Ayden Gallery in downtown Vancouver.

I tried on a few of their pieces, including one of the bionic tank dresses.  This was done with great apprehension – a bodycon dress made of 100% stretchy material with zero forgiveness?  I had fearful visions of looking like a sausage squeezed into a slightly too small encasing.  Once I had it on however, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Although form fitting, the material was just the right degree of elasticity that it held everything in without squeezing the excess bits out the armholes, while also being incredibly comfortable and lightweight.  Not only that, the bionic pattern was both very cool and cleverly slimming – using strategic colour blocking and lines, the dress literally drew a flattering silhouette, including a shapely butt.  What more do you want in a dress??

Mitmunk’s sense of aesthetic is an obvious favourite amongst the cosplay and nerd/alternative demographic, but it is clear that there is also a much broader potential into everyday street wear, workout and athletic attire, etc.  Wear one of these leggings to a yoga class and you’re sure to be the coolest kid in the room.  I only see a bright future for this burgeoning company and will enjoy watching Mitmunk’s rise to the top of the fashion heap.  And if you’re wondering where the name Mitmunk comes from, as a little boy, Wayne would call a monkey “mitmunk”.  How adorable is that?

Photos of the 3 models in leggings by Jeff Kew Photography

Individual model photos by GrindDown Photography

Style by Fire photos + words by Aurora Chan

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