Interview by Jenkin Au
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au

Panorama is brand new label. Originating from the classroom, Alvin Kwan, owner/creator, explains to us how Panorama began. Panorama combines his designs with his goal of having many flavours from different designers combined into his label. He wishes to bring together designers from across the world to present a unified brand, deliver unique designs from ordinary items.


Please tell us a little more about yourself.

I’ve been in Vancouver for more than 10 years and I’ve always been interested in art and design, even when I was in grade three. I was drawing a lot and whenever I drew something, I remember, people will all be around me. In high school, I did the typical Chinese way and I studied science and math. Afterwards, I went to UBC for two years and then I discovered that it’s not the thing for me. Then, I moved to Emily Carr and now, I have one more year until I graduate.

What were some of the things that you used to draw as a child?

They were really typical drawings. Most of them were story boards and some things in the creative side. One thing that makes me more into art and design, maybe, is that I’m left-handed, being more the created man.

Why did you become more typical in high school in terms of education choice?

Well, I didn’t even think about studying design. In high school, everyone just aims for high marks and I decided to do the same thing. I did get the high marks necessary to get into UBC and of course I went. Then I found out about Emily Carr by searching online and then I looked up the comments, and just transferred.

In what year did you start Panorama?

Last year, (2008-2009), I took a silk screening course and I started painting on paper. Afterwards, I started to paint on t-shirts and it didn’t look very good. What made me really start it was when my friend in Hong Kong just opened a store and he asked me to provide him with some lines to sell, and that was the beginning of this year (2010). I designed more and more and then just last month, I released it with two designs and one collaborative design with Vince Lo from Takeflight.

That’s the same store that you told me about where you’re releasing to, right?

Yeap. It’s called Spot Light in Hong Kong.

Where do some of the designs come from?

The one with the balloons and package is completely for charity. The Panorama ones are the bear and glasses. They really come from anything that I see, but what I’m really focusing on is to convert something ordinary to something original. It could be anything. It could be glasses, or just a teddy bear. If you think differently, then you can invent something truly creative.

Would you say your designs are more conceptual?

Yeah, they are. There was this girl who wrote about my clothing and she wrote about its minimalistic qualities. With the glasses, it’s really minimal and that’s what makes it stand out.

What is the message you want to send out through your clothing?

The message? Honestly, there isn’t a message… But I guess for why it’s called Panorama and the brand as a whole, the definition comes from photography, obviously. In photography, a panoramic photo is this wide angle photo where you can see almost everything. When I apply it to my label, it’s like a wide spectrum where we collaborate with people and anything, such as photography and anything else.

With Panorama being so young, how do you perceive the scene so far?

I think there is a lot of potential in Vancouver design. You know how all the popular designs are from around the world? Vancouver hasn’t started yet, which is why I want I want to focus on the aspect that this brand’s clothing is done locally – everything from the design to the screen printing will be done locally.

Would Panorama want to venture into cut and sew?

Yes. I really do want to go there and it would be amazing. Finding blank t-shirts is difficult because they almost never have the right fit. I do want to customize my own cut and sew.

Let’s talk about the production of the shirt. Can you tell us your methods?

My shirts are limited production, but they are all hand screen printed in a shop in North Vancouver. The people that do it are professionals so it maintains the quality throughout.

And do you make the screens yourself?

Nope. All I do is send in the designs.

And do you find the community has been really supportive of local designs?

I do think so. I think that a good thing of the Vancouver scene is that it’s not big here yet. Everyone is still supportive for small local designers.

Panorama is more focused on simplicity, minimalism, and grand involvement, involving many people. What would be the goal for Panorama?

It goes back to the definition of the label – it’s this wide spectrum of people making shirts. In the future, I hope the label would be produced and designed by a lot of different designers from around the world, not just by myself. It’s like some labels in Japan, they hire many freelancers. I am always looking for collaborations and just last month, I was talking to a local photographer.

Speaking of that, your first collaboration was with Takeflight, producing the charity shirt for Haiti. Can you tell us more about that collaboration?

The shirt costs $30 and $23 dollars of that goes towards Unicef. This came about after I was sitting down with Vince, discussing a collaboration. We didn’t think we would do a shirt for donation so we designed a whole bunch of shirts, just focusing on typography. After we concluded on a design, the day before production, Vince had a suggestion to restart with a donation in mind. Although we spent so many hours on it, it was a great idea, so we changed all the plans and restarted.

What is the concept of this design?

Vince was looking into my designs and the meaning of having originality in something ordinary. The twist of this came from the move UP, where the balloons are carrying the house. The meaning of all the balloons is that it represents all the donors. If you look at it, every balloon counts. That’s the meaning of it.

Moving onto the bear shirt…

A couple of years ago, the full zip hoddies were pretty hip. This whole twist is on a full zip teddy bear. This thing on its head is just a shape with no meaning. I wanted an object with the bear so I included this.

Alright. Lastly, there is the design with the glasses.

Yes, the glasses. With this, it has been inspired by these monsters and so I began to think about what kind of accessories monsters would have, and then I arrived at this. The good thing is that it’s pretty even between both designs. Some people say they like the glasses, some people say they like the bear. The glasses is my first design, the one that I made while I was in class. It is my favourite so far.

What do you look for when you try to find someone to work with?

I really look for their style and whether or not it matches my style and t-shirts. Just the way that my brand is supposed to be.

What are some brands you look up to?

Perks and Mini (PAM).

What is HYPE?

I think HYPE, in a bad way, could be all business talk. In a good way, it is what drives all the industries. I think that no single person or company can create the HYPE – everyone in the industry drives the HYPE and no one can control it.