The Fifth Element: Life

Elefifth Apparel
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Adam Luk

Elefifth Apparel is a brand new line to Vancouver, introducing many humourous and interesting designs. Most notably, their Sado line features cartoon characters involved in funny scenarios. When it comes down to it, creators Anthony Chan, Edward Tan, Alex Cheung and Eugene Lam. We sat down at Cactus Club Cafe in Richmond and had a conversation about their different lines, the creation and future goals over some good food and drinks.

Please tell us about the personality of the group as a whole.

Anthony: We’re pretty fun loving people and we try to have a good time; just a couple guys from Van City.

Ed: We’re like a dysfunctional family.

How did this team come together?

Anthony: It originated with me and [Ed] starting it off and just wanting to start a clothing line. It all worked out to finding someone to design. Alex was one of the guys from the Nuevo team and I talked to him because I knew he went to art school. I asked him about designing for us and he was into it. After that, Ed talked to Eugene –

Eugene: They came to me and I was like, “If you need help anytime, just let me know.”

Anthony: That’s how it all started out.

When you guys first started, what was your original vision?

Ed: First off, it was just the whole name of it. We went through so many names trying to figure out who we were. There were a lot of different concepts to what we wanted. At first, we wanted to go for an anime slash cartoon style. Then, Anthony came up with the name Elefifth and that just kind of made sense with what we’re going to do. And with Elefifth, the fifth element being life, it was what we saw through our eyes and what we wanted to draw. It’s whatever makes us laugh and whatever makes us happy and whatever made sense for us.

Can you expand a bit more on the name? Like how do you guys define Elefifth, personally?

Anthony: It is pretty much the fifth element: life. There are the four elements: wind, water, fire, and earth, and then there is life. Being the fifth element, it’s really what makes you happy; it is part of your life. What is your life? For some people it is music, art, whatever. For us, we make some funny stuff and it’s what we like.

Ed: Yeah, with the Sado line, we have the funny characters. I watch cartoons and I’ll be straight up – everyone watches cartoons still. You watch cartoons and you smile because it brings back the childhood and it’s all cool. That’s what I want to bring to people with the cartoons and what not, being back in the good days as a kid with no worries. That’s pretty much how the Sado line came to life.

Yeah man, I just bought a Gameboy Pocket the other day and I’m playing Pokemon on it. I definitely feel you.

(Everyone laughs)

Anthony: It’s pretty random right? In a way, it’s pretty random because people have different things in their lives that make them happy – like how you have your Gameboy.

Ed: Yeah, after hearing about that I probably want to make a design about that now. That’s how it is – I just see something and then I’ll get an idea and I will want to make something out of that.

Anthony: Some of our designs will be totally random. An idea will pop into our minds and it’ll be like, “This is cool. If we can do a design out of this, then it’ll be awesome.”

Ed: With our Sado line, it’s pretty much themed all the time, like S&M and war, but it’s always random. One day, I was just like, “Let’s put a missile on a dolphin’s head.” It was the whackiest stuff and once I finished it, all four of us liked it. With the cow and rope around the udder, it was the sickest thing a cow could do.

Eugene: I couldn’t stop laughing for 10 minutes when I saw that design.

What are the five critical elements of life?

Ed: It’s different for all of us. Like, Anthony has his five and we all have our own five.

Anthony: My five elements came out of the five elements of hip hop – bboy, DJ, beatbox, graffiti and emcee.

Eugene: To add to that, it’s also our collective experience with what we see and what we’ve all gone through.

The Sado line is clearly a playful and teasing line of clothing. Where did the idea come from? I looked it up and Google linked me to tea, so I’m hoping you can clear it up a bit.

Ed: It’s short for something that we don’t want to say out loud right now… it’s about the random stuff. Each character has it’s own name, like Jack and Jill, the two rabbits and the Dolphin named Ahi, etc. It’s all about reminiscing about the past. We wanted it to be able to work and be timeless in that aspect.

What’s next for the Sado line?

Ed: Next? We’re going with the war theme. We’re going to put out a hamster riding a bomb, the dolphin with the missile and a few others.

About the House line, what are you hoping to accomplish?

Alex: We’re just trying to establish our image, mostly in the marketing avenue. We want people to recognize our stuff.

Something that appeals to the masses right?

Everyone: Exactly.

Eugene: The House line is for brand awareness and just getting people to recognize and remember us.

Right now, the eminence line hasn’t been released online yet. Can you tell us what to expect?

Ed: It’s pretty much going to be our top quality stuff. It’s going to be something where we put a lot of our effort into the designs. It’s not going to be like the Ed Hardy stuff because we’re going to make it really simple.

Alex: A lot of detail oriented and intricate stuff.

Ed: It will be different and it’ll be out there. We have a lot of friends in the industry and they help us out a lot. They tell us not to do too much and just keep it simple and stick to what you do best. We appreciate all the help that we’ve gotten.

What kind of stores are you targeting?

Eugene: Right now, we’re concentrating on our online store, and getting our brand out there…but, we definitely have some stores in mind.

Ed: We have the limited and non-limited stuff. The limited is the stuff we only sell online, whereas the non-limited will be available in the stores.

What is clothing to you?

Ed: It keeps me warm.

Alex: It’s a representation of who you are.

Eugene: I wore this shirt last week (referring to the cow shirt) and this girl was literally just staring at it for 10 minutes.

Ed: Yeah, with our Sado line, we’re also marketing it as one of those conversation starter pieces. A lot of girls come up to us and say, “Hey, that’s a dope shirt,” and that’s why I love it.

How has Vancouver influenced each of you and how has that contributed to your designs?

Ed: It’s made us work harder.

Anthony: It’s such a huge market here and it’s so diverse.

Eugene: With me, I don’t like how everyone is just following a trend here. There’s not a lot of “who they are” so to say. There’s a bit of east coast, New York and Toronto even, so I want to make something for here.

Ed: Yeah, we want to make something that people would feel comfortable in. With Vancouver, everyone is so worried about what other people are thinking but you really shouldn’t be. We say we aren’t but we actually are and it’s hard because you want your friends to like it too.

Yeah for sure, a lot of people are very judgmental.

Eugene: Definitely. But at the same time, your friends are a good example of what your consumers are like. They buy your stuff and you have to ask their opinion.

What are some established brands that you guys think are done right?

Everyone: Kid Robot.

Eugene: Alife, and for myself, personally, Wrongwroks – it’s very smart.

What’s in store for the future?

Everyone: MORE RANDOM STUFF.

Anthony: We’re pretty random guys so whatever we see and if it’s good, then it’s in.

What is HYPE?

Ed: There’s a party in my pants and you gotta come in.

Alex: HYPE is HYPE.

Anthony: HYPE is me.