In addition to hosting a VKTRE Moto Company pop-up shop at Filipacchi from Nov. 21 to 25, the Nolita store will also be staging a kick-off launch party Nov. 21, featuring an NYC Motorcyclist interview with VKTRE owner/designer Estefan Duarte, whiskey tastings with MÔTÔ Spirits and food. It's a chance to check out the company's collection, meet the brains behind the brand, and take advantage of a 15-per-cent discount on some very stylish jackets. We sat down with Duarte recently to catch up on what's new with VKTRE.
1) Apart from a slight name change to VKTRE Moto Company, what is new for the company this season in terms of the clothing line?
We are focusing on our leather line, really expanding it because we started with wool and want to give customers the option depending on their climate and location.
2) Going back to the beginnings, tell us a bit about the company philosophy ... in particular this idea of creating protective moto gear that is styled such that you could wear the clothing on the bike and straight into a business meeting.
I started riding at 17. I got tired of showing up to classes looking like a storm trooper in a bulky leather jacket, which I have nothing against. But there are times that a sleeker presentation is better without sacrificing performance. A lot of companies are doing casual riding gear. We are stepping it up to luxury motorcycle wear with an eye for high fashion. I’ve also slid out while riding the canyons and I did so while wearing a fashion motorcycle jacket. So, I though why buy the heavy leathers if I’m not going to actually wear them. There’s got to be a way to get the best of both worlds, and that’s where VKTRE Moto Co. came from.
3) In a sense you are running a bespoke line as well in that customers can have exact measurements taken and a jacket constructed to fit the individual. You also produce clothing in small batches to ensure a quality product. Is this move to integrate yourself into other large cities, outside of your home base in California, going to change the way you do things ... or is this personal customer outlook going to remain a priority for you?
We are being careful not to expand too rapidly to avoid the problem of starting to skimp on customer experience. We are going to maintain our current high standard, so we only work with select stores who we really feel can uphold those standards and even enhance the experience, like Filipacchi.
4) Do you have a favorite piece in the line and what makes it stand out for you? Do you wear your own product while riding?
I personally love the Aviator MKII in Italian steerhide. We source the leather from a small shop in San Francisco, but the leather finish, and dyeing itself, was designed in Italy. It has really unique properties that allow it to create a visible pattern of wear over time that is particular to the wearer. Yes, I exclusively wear my own line. It’s comforting to be familiar with every detail of its manufacture, so I know that if I ever end up on the asphalt the key ingredients that make a strong jacket are all there -- the thread, leather, and zippers -- because I was present when it was being created.
The Vktre Aviator jacket MK. II in Italian steerhide | The Pilot Racer jacket — VKTRE
We use time-tested materials in our jackets. A lot of thought went into it, but at the end of the day, it came down to what I would want protecting me in case I ever went down in a crash or slide. Most of all, research was our biggest influence and tool in choosing what materials to use.
5) The jackets are a combination of protection, breathability and fashionable looks. Tell us a bit about the technology behind some of the abrasion resistant materials you use for the jackets and what sort of testing the clothing goes through.
We use time-tested materials in our jackets. A lot of thought went into it, but at the end of the day, it came down to what I would want protecting me in case I ever went down in a crash or slide. Most of all, research was our biggest influence and tool in choosing what materials to use. You can pull up tons of experiences and studies online showing the results of leather, cordura, and kevlar blends efficacy.
6) Is your line exclusively for men currently, and if so, do you have plans for a women's line?
We currently have one women’s style, the ladies’ aviator jacket. But we are working to convert some of our men’s styles, like the pilot racer and the V.3 Pea Coat, to appeal to our female audience.
7) In terms of design inspirations there is definitely an airborne moto theme to many of the jackets ... how did this come about?
When designing, I really love this idea of how things were made in the old days. I think it boils down to how the jackets were used back then and trying to replicate that in a manner that has relevance in our day. So back then, in the early 1900s, they used these aviation jackets to fly planes and also ride motorcycles with. So it had to be tough, insulated, and ergonomically adapted to fly, ride, or drive. Plus, they look totally wicked.
8) My favorite jacket in the line is definitely the V.3 Motorcycle Pea Coat in black. Tell us a bit about the design process that went into this piece, what some of the inspirations were, and how you integrated body armor into a piece that you could see walking down any street in Manhattan in the winter?
That’s one of my favorites of the wool collection too. I got a lot of influence from New York fashion while designing it. It’s meant to have that sophisticated NYC look, while also having some motorcycle inspired flair. Hence the asymmetrical zipper and zippered pockets. We integrate pockets in the back, shoulder, and elbow areas to allow for motorcycle armor being inserted for riding, and taken out when you want it to be a regular jacket. The whole jacket is lined with 1000D Cordura. It’s not just reinforced in some spots … the whole jacket has it. So, it’s basically two jackets in one.
VKTRE v.3 motorcycle pea coat — VKTRE
I chose to abbreviate the name to VKTRE (pronounced like 'vector') because in physics a vector can be used to measure magnitude, force, and velocity. That sort of idea fits with the brand of motorcycling. No matter what style of bike you ride we are all connected by the notion of controlling velocity and inertia at flick of your wrist or turn of the throttle.
9) Tell as a little about the origins of the name VKTARE, a shortened form of the Swedish väktare, meaning guard.
Yes, so the original name was Vaktare, which in the Swedish language is a guard or watchmen. This came about because my Swedish friend, Cody, who has helped a lot since the inception of the brand in the film and photography field, was visiting from Stockholm. I was previously in the security field before I started up the brand, so it kind of fit in that moment. I chose to abbreviate the name to VKTRE (pronounced like 'vector') because in physics a vector can be used to measure magnitude, force, and velocity. That sort of idea fits with the brand of motorcycling. No matter what style of bike you ride we are all connected by the notion of controlling velocity and inertia at flick of your wrist or turn of the throttle. You can still find Vaktare labeling used in some of our items because we like paying homage to our roots.
10) Finally, your line is American-designed and produced in the US in Los Angeles. How different are the West and East Coast markets and what do you see your most popular items being here in NYC?
East and West coasts have some subtle differences. I know for a fact wool does better here in the East. I personally love wool because it’s a great insulator. It’ll actually keep you cooler in the warmer months and warmer in the cold season. This is due to the unique hollow make-up of the wool fibers. LA hasn’t really adopted wool as much NY, but I’m working on changing that. Leather is a big part of LA culture, so that does well there.
You can find out more about the VKTRE Moto Company online at vktremotoco.com ... or follow the brand's Instagram: . You can see and purchase VKTRE Moto Company jackets exclusively in NYC at: Filipacchi | 23 Prince St, New York, NY 10012.