By: Rony Aleman, BRENMI Contributor
It’s a cool, clear day during Fall. You’re either on your way to school or work, and today you felt like dressing in one of your best outfits. You’re on your way out the door when you pass by your mirror and are completely taken aback by how incredible you look to the point where you nearly start flirting with your reflection. You compose yourself and remember that you’re forgetting your bag which, as fate would have it, completely throws off your outfit because the aesthetics don’t match, the colour coordination is off, etc. Your entire day is now officially over before it even began because your outfit went from a outstanding to pretty decent.
Okay, fine; it’s not actually that bad. I’m just a drama queen. It is, however, something you want to fix. Cue, VENQUE.
VENQUE, the Toronto-based accessory brand, has been producing bags that walk the fine line between functionality and being aesthetically pleasing since its inception in 2011. In other words, you can find yourself a backpack that will satisfy your habit of being a nomadic hoarder without making it seem like you’re going on a camping trip. Founded by brothers Simon and Viktor Cui, they made it their mission to create bags that would compliment every outfit, yet still remain durable and above all else, functional.
We reached out to Simon Cui in order to learn more about the brand’s ethos, how they set upon their mission, and what lies in store for VENQUE:
As a result of the lack of fashionable, yet functional, backpacks, VENQUE aimed to satisfy the need of the urban trendsetter and commuter. In doing so, the attention to detail and quality is high, as can be seen when taking a look at any of VENQUE’s products. During the design process, is the focus first on the aesthetic of the bag followed by functionality, or is the focus first on the functional properties followed by its aesthetic?
The reason why we started VENQUE can react to this question; 4 years ago when we first started our corporate jobs, we were looking for some stylish bags that we can carry to work. In our early 20’s, we didn’t have a few grand for a Louis Vuitton or even Filson bags, but we also didn’t want to settle for a boring bag either, we wanted something unique and stunning. I remember we shopped around at Eaton’s Centre and Queen Street, we found a few pieces that we liked but it cost too much. At that time we knew there are many folks just like us , looking for some stylish bags but couldn’t afford them, and at that moment we knew there was an area in this market we can improve.
So for that reason I think VENQUE’s DNA is its uniqueness and aesthetics, adding functionality is easy, but incorporating both functionality and style is quite difficult.
At the time of its inception in 2011, VENQUE’s aim was to create the perfect backpack, the likes of which would propel VENQUE to grow exponentially. Which backpack model was the result of this endeavour?
Flatsquare and Amsterdam Backpacks are the two most successful models. The market is very competitive, we have many great brands such as Herschel, Hex, and Incase. They are doing extremely well, but they all look the same. To differentiate our brand from the rest we needed something different. Our strategy was to produce something significantly different from other brands, so people on the street can easily identify , “oh that is VENQUE.”
Flatsquare backpack, created by VENQUE
Amsterdam backpack, created by VENQUE
The Quanta fabric has been shown to be one of the most substantial fabrics to be used on bags of any kind. Given that both of you, Viktor and Simon, have a background in fashion and textiles, when and how was the Quanta fabric created?
Viktor has been working in the textile industry for almost 10 years, he used to work for a major textile supplier in the USA. That background offered a lot of help when we created Quanta. We had connections overseas to produce this fabric exclusively. Quanta fabric is twill woven fabric blended with grey/black fibres. At that time, there was no such looking fabric in any bags. After the success of Quanta, many competitors started to duplicate that style, but none of them can produce the exact fabric, that look as premium as Quanta yet durable as Quanta.
Speaking of history, prior to officially beginning VENQUE, what were your previous occupations? Did these work experiences inspire the creation of VENQUE?
I worked for a design firm in Toronto that design and make watches. I used to interact with buyers from Sears, The Bay, and met many designers in the past. Viktor worked for a fabric manufacturer, although these experiences definitely helped a lot, the main reason we went this far was the passion for fashion. When we were young, we used to craft wallets and small bags at home, and at that time we never knew this would became our career.
In a day and age when everything seems to move at a rapid pace, what provides you the greatest inspiration and motivation to continue with VENQUE?
The biggest pay off is when I see people on the street carrying our bag, and great feedback we received from our customers. This is very encouraging; being entrepreneurs, there are many challenges we have to deal with, and many mistakes we had learned, but what keeps us going is all the appreciations we had from the customers. I don’t have a dream that can change the world, but I definitely enjoy seeing their smile when they own a VENQUE bag
VENQUE, despite being both fashionable and functional, continues to produce timeless accessories, while fashion always seems to be moving at an accelerated rate. That said, do you believe that the rapid pace of the fashion world will have an impact on the focus people have on accessories such as backpacks?
In this industry, things can happen overnight, the greatest brand can fail in 3–4 months. When the momentum is gone, the brand is dead. The backpacks became fashionable objects 5–6 years ago and I do see this is declining, the market is well established and very competitive. I do think soon people will be tired of this trend and look for more, but we have to adapt to the changes. For example, 10 years ago, the majority backpacks or briefcase don’t have a compartment for the laptops, right now that is the essential or minimal requirement, and now we see high tech backpacks such as chargeable backpacks, or with tracking devices. Although these are advanced and not yet matured in the market, but I do see one day these functions will be added to the backpacks, and we are working on it to incorporate these functionalities to our backpacks in the future designs.
Runway shows often showcase accessories as part of the outfits being presented. Does VENQUE have any plans to be featured on runways, whether they are a collaborative effort with a clothing brand or of VENQUE’s own production?
We go to the trade shows to show case our brand but not run ways, we are too small for the run ways ☺
Does VENQUE currently have any plans or interest in creating a collaborative collection with another brand/artists/person of influence/etc. in the near future?
We are always looking for collaborations, and we are more interested to work with local brands as well.
Lastly, anything new from VENQUE that we should be excited for? Whether it be a new style of bag, or anything involving VENQUE’s growth?
We are working with an appeal brand based in Toronto, to launch some clothing in Spring .
I believe we all learned a valuable lesson or two here today, don’t you think? The main lesson being we all need a VENQUE bag in our wardrobe, which luckily for you can be done so by checking out VENQUE’s website here.
Wait a minute, you want to know the meaning behind the name “VENQUE?”
Interestingly enough, the name “VENQUE” is an amalgamation of both the English and French language, the two most prominent languages in Canada.The more you know, am I right?