Tate + Yoko: Brandon Svarc’s Favourite Things in Montreal

Montreal’s denim virtuoso talks about subverting the industry and carrying on three generations in the garment business.

Rachel Cheng

Rachel Cheng

April 4, 2024- Read time: 6 min
Tate + Yoko: Brandon Svarc’s Favourite Things in MontrealBrandon Svarc, owner and creator of the brand Naked and Famous Denim, and the store Tate + Yoko. | Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng

“Denim and Coca Cola have one thing in common—both have been around forever,” explains Brandon Svarc, owner and creator of the brand Naked and Famous Denim, and the store Tate + Yoko

“And dark blue jeans are forever.”

Brandon Svarc, a third generation jean-maker and owner of the brand, Naked & Famous Denim. | Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng

It is a fitting comparison for Brandon, who never drinks coffee but has a sweet tooth and would prefer to grab a Coke. He continues, “I like candy. If I never made a brand of jeans, I’d probably make candy. We’d have the spiciest thing, or change the colour of your tongue.”

Superlatives and a colourful imagination have translated to the jeans that Naked & Famous Denim makes. In the past, some wilder examples have included glow in the dark denim, jeans that you could scratch and sniff, and pairs that are dyed with wine.

Currently, Brandon is working on making the heaviest jeans in the world. A typical pair of jeans weighs around 12 ounces per square yard, and in the past, Naked & Famous Denim has released a pair that were 32 ounces. To push it even farther, they are now working on 40 ounces.

A pair of the 32 ounce jeans. | Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng
Brandon has never paid for an endorsement or a Google ad, has never launched a runway show, or worked with influencers.

Subverting the rules of the jeans game

He started the brand Naked & Famous Denim in 2008, with the goal of making high quality jeans at an affordable price. At the time, raw denim was not widely popular, and Brandon’s company partly exists to disrupt an industry where prices are high and celebrity endorsements common.

Sourcing all their fabric from Japan but stitching every pair of jeans in Quebec, Naked & Famous Denim quickly caught the attention of those in the fashion industry, including being picked up by the luxury store Barneys in NYC in the first year of operation. 

Sixteen years later, Brandon has never paid for an endorsement or a Google ad, has never launched a runway show, or worked with influencers. Yet the brand has built a loyal following of people who appreciate quality denim, and ironically, among the fans are celebrities like A$AP Rocky, who dedicated a line in his song Goldie to Naked & Famous Denim.

Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng

Three generations in Montreal’s garment industry

Brandon is the third generation in his family to work in the denim industry in Montreal. His grandfather used to make and sell jeans in the erstwhile garment industry around St. Laurent and Ste. Catherine. 

As downtown Montreal changed and garment manufacturers moved north, so did his grandfather’s store. His dad continued the tradition of making jeans, and Brandon eventually launched his brand. Today, Brandon and his dad both work together at Naked & Famous Denim, alongside a team of dedicated jean enthusiasts.

Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng
It’s proof that we go back to the artisanal way, before mass manufacturing.

Made in Quebec

As a nod to his grandfather’s store on St. Laurent, Brandon opened Tate + Yoko in 2011 on St. Laurent, in Montreal’s current garment district. Tate + Yoko are the Japanese words referring to the blue vertical yarns, also known as warp or tate, as well as the white horizontal yarns known as weft or yoko. These are the two ingredients of selvedge denim, still woven on traditional shuttle looms in Japan.

"Brandon brings out a piece of shuttle loom and explains that this is what those who love jeans are drawn to." | Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng

Brandon brings out a piece of shuttle loom and explains that this is what those who love jeans are drawn to. “It’s proof that we go back to the artisanal way, before mass manufacturing,” he says. Indeed, using this method means working with smaller quantities at a time, but it produces a denim with the feel and quality that is unparalleled.

On the third floor of the same building as Tate + Yoko, this specialty denim imported from Japan is made into jeans. Naked & Famous Denim also has another factory in Stornoway, Quebec, meaning that every pair of jeans is made in the province. They now have a flagship store in New York City, and their jeans are carried by retailers across the world, but Tate + Yoko embodies the personality of the brand: A laid back and friendly staff, curios and vintage decorations from Japan, and tongue-in-cheek pop art inspired by Roy Lichenstein. 

Customers will also find shirts, overalls and other things on the shelves, but mostly it’s an ocean of blue, with wave after wave of raw denim. At the end of the day, Tate + Yoko, and Naked & Famous Denim, stay true to their raison d’être. 

Brandon says simply, “we just make pants, please.”

Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng


What is your favourite store in Montreal?

“One of my favourite stores is a bar supply store called Alambika, also on St. Laurent! That store is dangerous. I always want everything in there. They have bitters, cool glassware, and I get my Japanese knives sharpened there. What I want from there are these coupe glasses that are like shot glasses. They're like half an ounce but stemmed.”

Where do you go out to eat when you’re around Chabanel?

“Everyone knows Gentile, and that’s fantastic. But there’s this place called Pasta Bar and the tortellini is amazing. You walk along the counter and you can choose your pastas. And there’s a salad part where this lady will mix up a big pasta if you want to be healthy. It’s been there forever, since I was a little kid. It’s all schmata guys, old Italian and Jewish guys. Just to listen is amazing. Especially when you go there during lunch, it’s garmento lunch.”

Where do you go for a special meal in the city?

“Recently I went to Jun I and I liked it. When you go in you get that smell and it reminds me of Japan. The chu toro from there tastes like Japan.”

Where do you go for a family meal out with the kids?

“Sometimes we go to Tasty Food. It’s also an establishment that’s been there for so long, over on Decarie. It’s a nice little family pizza place, and all the pizzas are small and one size, not by slice. They do it the one way, but it’s nice and crispy. It’s an old school place. I think it’s been around since the 50s.”

Where do you go for coffee?

“I don’t drink coffee. For the same price, for the same colour, from the same establishments, you can get hot chocolate. And it’s so much more delicious! I’ll drink whatever junk food-y one, or a fancier one. Just give me the milk chocolate, like a chocolate bar in liquid format.”

What would be a perfect Montreal day?

“If it’s the weekend, I like to go to Marché aux puces St-Michel. With family sometimes I do stereotypical stuff like going to Beaver Lake. It’s a cute family thing to do, I mean it’s Montreal, there's no reason not to. If it’s a rainy day sometimes we go to Taz, the indoor skate park. My kids fucking love it. We’re there once a week now. When we don’t know what to do, we go to Taz. I will skateboard, my boy will do roller blades and scooter, and my daughter will [ride a] scooter.

Photograph: Rachel Cheng / @rachelhollycheng

Check out Tate + Yoko here, and the latest threads at Naked & Famous Denim here.

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