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Meet Ostrya, the next Arc'teryx
A conversation with the Montréal-based outdoor brand about owning Canadian heritage, merging function with fashion, and doing what you love.
There’s something in the Canadian waters
One of the hardest things to do in apparel is to hold space for competing ideas. Like merging fashion and function. Or connecting technique with color and playfulness. There are few brands that I can think of that blur those lines tastefully.
Then there’s Ostrya.
There’s truly something different about these guys. They’re not just making average shit and logo-slapping with an upcharge. They offer an independent way of thinking about what an outdoor brand can be, rooted in a love for being in nature, all while encouraging everyone to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors too.
They’re building something for the long haul, and I want you to hear it here first: Ostrya is the next Arc’teryx.
Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m overhyping, and they don’t need that pressure, ha. But I don’t care. There’s something in the Canadian waters, and I want to bring it to light.
There’s a new wave of independent (and outdoor) brands up north.
And Ostrya is leading the way.
I hope you enjoy this brief conversation I had with the Ostrya team. Photography complements to the homie Aidan Matthews, who shot this editorial for Sprezza.
So who are you guys?
I'm François-Xavier Tétreault, and my co-founder is Simon-David Fortin. We’re both from families that encouraged us to be in nature. Being local to Quebec, we grew up skiing, hiking, and camping; that's where we fell in love with gear and technical garments.
Doing stuff outdoors is in our DNA.
Simon-David and I met at a fashion program at university. At the time, we were both super into menswear and Japanese design. And after working separately in the industry, we joined forces to launch Ostrya a few years back. Our goal with the brand was to create an outdoor brand that mixes our love for technical garments, great design, and classic menswear into one.
Ostrya is a technical-first brand with a clear creative point of view. You inject so much fun into your brand. What’s driving this?
We just want to create products that both work and are beautiful to look at. Playing outside is about having fun, so merging outdoors and fashion feels natural; we don't take ourselves too seriously.
It’s easy to see the rise of gorpcore as a trend right now and think we’re riding that (in that it’s helped us, for sure), but we don't care about the trends. We want to create stuff you can wear in and out of the city, in a workshop, or on a cliff.
And still look great.
The key is to stay authentic and create quality clothes that can last a long time.
Many of the products you make are good for skiing, hiking, rock climbing, etc. Was this always the goal?
At its core, Ostrya is a climbing and mountaineering brand. We started with climbing-specific clothes because they are often the most technical pieces you can find. This was our way to show our savoir-faire as a Canadian outdoor brand.
We have so much great territory to play with—mountains, forests, rivers. Many people use our clothes for skiing, running, or even kayaking, and we love that.
Whatever you’re doing, we want our products to reflect the rich climbing history in Québec, honoring how some people have pushed incredible boundaries in this sport, sometimes risking their lives doing what they loved.
Ostrya has a strong connection to Montreal as a city and culture. Can you share more about that connection?
Being from Montréal, we want to share our love for this city through the brand. Montréal is very close to nature in every way. You have the Laurentides up North, the Eastern Townships close to the USA border—it's easy to drive 45 minutes and find great nature.
We also have a mountain in the middle of the city—the Mont-Royal—which is where trail runners, skiers, and hikers meet. Climbing culture is also very strong in Montréal. With gyms popping up everywhere, there is something for everyone.
Montréal is also a cultural hub, which resonates with the brand's creative side. Fashion, design, food, music, and art, in general, are core to the Montréal experience in a unique way. We see brands and other businesses collaborate to develop projects using the outdoors and art as the foundation, just like we do.
You put a lot of love into your products, and it's rare to see brands like Ostrya making things by hand. Why did you go that route?
Initially, we didn’t have a choice. So, we made everything ourselves, from the down jackets to hard shells and work pants. But local production brings some limitations in terms of technical garments. So, as the brand grows, we decided to relocate some of the production internationally, which we’re excited about!
We think it will increase the quality of our garments. We only work with highly specialized factories that will help achieve the level of technicality we’re looking for.
We still want to produce some products in Canada, like more classic menswear pieces and unique collaborations. But our goal is to choose the best location for each piece, so we deal with different factories depending on their specialty.
Producing high-quality outdoor gear is way different than making t-shirts and hoodies. What's your process like for discovering technology and fabrics, and how do you know when something is right?
When we create garments, we make stuff we want to use on the mountain, so we start by making samples in-house and using them to test fabric, fit, and durability before launching production. We put our fabrics to the test with the athletes we work with, bringing our clothes on expeditions.
Last Fall, our friend Vincent Landry hiked for 850 km on the Nordkalottleden in Norway, testing our hiking pants and lightweight down jacket. We also make products better every season using clients' feedback.
What's next for the brand?
We just returned from Paris Fashion Week, where we showed our FW23 collection. The buyers and friends gave us great feedback, and it was fantastic to finally meet the people we have been doing business with for the last four years.
As the brand grows, we're getting a lot of interest from Asia, specifically Korea, and there will be good opportunities for Ostrya. We also want to keep highlighting the talent and passion of local and international athletes who want to stand out on the mountain.
Finally, we are working hard to use more recycled and organic fabrics in our collections.