PHOTOGRAPHY BY LINDSAY ANNE DELANEY
Christopher Bates draws your attention like a magnet. Whether walking into a photoshoot or from behind the scenes at a runway show, time seems to stop when he makes himself visible.
He’s the hero the world of menswear needs, and he’s determined to redefine fashion codes, and what it means to be a gentleman. His presence is a brand, and he’s on a mission to share it with the world.
“The Christopher Bates Man places no limitations on himself,” Bates says. A man of action emanating a contagious passion, he’s a shining example of what it looks like for someone to stand for what they believe in. As a brilliant designer and entrepreneur, he embodies his brand with every ounce of his being, and he’s making a promise to save the world of men’s fashion.
“The industry is sick, and I want to be the cure.” It’s a bold claim that he’s been ready to back up since childhood. “I was an energetic kid, and realized that outfits I liked gave me energy.”
This early realization was the genesis of a goal that would come to fully inspire him, helping men look good to ultimately make them feel good. Inspired by fashion magazines before he knew it could be a career, he was constantly sketching logos and clothing designs. “One of my high-school teachers suggested I should be a graphic designer and I found that very appealing at the time.
“Growing up in Vancouver, I was somewhat secluded from the fashion world.” This seclusion bred curiosity, which later was satiated by trips to Europe where he would encounter fashion as he’d never seen it before. “It hit me like a thunderbolt, the individualism and unique style so different from here.” When the time came for him to pursue his calling, there was no better place to start than at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. “I wanted to learn to make beautiful clothes that people wanted to buy. Italy was always on my radar. It’s the Mecca of design.”
Being immersed in a world of brilliant craftsmanship sent his active imagination into hyperdrive. In design school, his gifted eye and fierce passion were refined to the attainable goal of bridging the gap between Italian style and the North American consumer. “For example, in Europe men were wearing cropped, fitted pants a decade before people in Canada were. They looked good aesthetically, and with the style came a different type of confidence.”
Bates lives and breathes these values daily, knowing that his designs serve as a metaphor for the impact he’s leaving on the world. His outfits have become the uniform of the gentleman in the modern age.
Looking at men’s fashion in a new light, he focused his attention on creating both casual and formal wear that would make men feel comfortable, yet elegant. Going against fashion norms, like putting a mock knit sweater under a blazer instead of a dress shirt, is an example of the strong, modern look that would begin to shape his brand. “I found myself asking,” he remarks about the state of fashion in North America, “is elegance not cool anymore?” Stimulated and validated by the daring fashionistas he encountered on the streets of Europe, he set his sights on the goal of finding the people who would appreciate his designs, and of building a business around his craft.
Like all creative geniuses, his journey has not been without challenges. Committing wholeheartedly to his goal, he uprooted what could have been a successful career in marketing to make the move to Italy. Selling his Vancouver apartment and living off the proceeds until he could barely afford rent and groceries would put his faith to the test, but he knew what he’d signed up for by deciding to forge his own path. “I wasn’t afraid to be an entrepreneur, even though I didn’t expect all that it entailed. I wanted to be a designer, not just because I love fashion, but also because I love the design process.” He wasn’t bothered by questions and doubt from others about who would purchase his products and how he was going to produce them, knowing that dedication and persistent action would get him where he wanted to go.
Thankfully, Christopher’s time in the business world had provided a professional foundation to support his creativity. He knew it wasn’t just about designing clothes, but also about selling them. Loyalty to his ever-expanding team of supporters would eventually become the key to his success. Models, photographers, stylists, and investors, when asked about working with him, all mention the loyalty and respect upon which he builds his relationships. He understands the value of a team mentality, and that the lasting connections he forms with the people around him offer much more than an avenue to showcase his clothing. Everyone he works with willingly becomes a brand ambassador because of a strong belief in the brand and the man behind it.
He has treated customers like family since the very beginning, not because their purchases could have made the difference between affording rent and not, but because he truly sees them that way. Echoed across the models he works with, the clothes he designs, and the men who wear them is a passion for style, taste, and the good things in life. This is the commonality he embraces and propagates in everyone that falls in love with his brand.
Through economic downturns, when businesses were failing across the entire industry, his commitment to selling more than just clothes is what’s kept the engine running. His stoic vision continued to drive the brand forward, even when money wasn’t coming through the door. The reason Christopher has achieved success at such a young age is that he’s never been afraid to struggle, and now the success has begun to snowball.
Getting into more boutique shops and department stores attracted new sources of investment, and that organic growth eventually grew into significant business with legendary retailers like Nordstrom and Harry Rosen, partnerships with MTV and winning the contracts to design uniforms for Air Canada and Holt Renfrew. These game-changing opportunities contributed to him winning the 2019 Canadian Menswear Designer of the Year award from the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, yet the contracts and accolades haven’t caused him to slow down.
If anything, they’re pushing him to work even harder towards loftier goals. “The expectations of the gentleman need to be updated. It’s about respecting yourself and others, being true to yourself, working towards your goals and contributing positively to society. How you dress communicates a lot of these things.”
Bates lives and breathes these values daily, knowing that his designs serve as a metaphor for the impact he’s leaving on the world. His outfits have become the uniform of the gentleman in the modern age. The success he’s accomplished so far is just the beginning. He lives a created life, extending a guiding hand to a difficult industry, helping men look their best to be their best. The Christopher Bates man stands for what he believes in, and Bates himself is the perfect example. He truly is redefining the world of men’s fashion, and what it means to be a gentleman today.