You Can Now Shop Raf Simons’s and Helmut Lang’s Archives in Vancouver

The menswear visionaries' vintage works are available for a limited time at Nordstrom.

The menswear visionaries’ vintage works are available for a limited time at Nordstrom.

If you were a kid who grew up around books (which, um, hopefully you were!), you’ve likely dreamed of stepping into the worlds so vividly illustrated by your favourite authors: Diagon Alley, Narnia, maybe even the weird primary-hued town where that one uppity-looking dude just refuses to eat green eggs and ham for a full 60 pages (what, just me?). But when Sam Lobban, Nordstrom’s vice president of men’s fashion, had the chance to bring a tome to life for Concept 003—the latest in a series of menswear pop-ups he curates for Nordstrom—he turned to something a bit more feasible: 1996-2001 / 2001-2006 and 1986-2005, a pair of two-volume books detailing the works of celebrated menswear designers Raf Simons and Helmut Lang, respectively.

Sure, these glossy, image-heavy hardcovers—produced by indie Japanese publishing house—present a world that’s slightly less whimsical than those from the likes of Dr. Seuss. But for fashion historians and menswear fanatics, seeing the books’ contents in real life—iconic vintage apparel designed by Simons and Lang during their formative years on the men’s fashion circuit—is a revelation, a rare opportunity to take in hard-to-find works by two of menswear’s most influential figures. “The thing that’s most special to me is this sense of accessibility,” says Lobban. “There’s this sort of discovery element to it, giving people the ability to see stuff that maybe they haven’t seen elsewhere.”

At Concept 003, which takes place at Vancouver’s Nordstrom until May 30, shoppers will be able to browse—and buy—some 125 sought-after pieces by Simons and Lang, many of which were sourced from the visionaries’ archives and other sources, and photographed for 1996-2001 / 2001-2006 and 1986-2005, before making their way to the pop-up floor.

Fans of the designers will recognize their aesthetics here: the punk and youth subcultures that Simons encountered while growing up in Belgium are evident in creations like the FW2005 Poltergeist Parka and a red patchwork sleeveless shirt from 2002, while Lang’s utilitarian leanings—and penchant for denim—can be seen in minimalist garb like a painted denim jacket from 1996.

The garments, really, are works of art, and they’re presented (and priced) as such at Concept 003 in a clean, gallery-like space. Unlike at a museum, however, shoppers can actually touch, feel and try on the clothes here: an experience that diehard menswear fans and curious fashion folks alike will certainly appreciate, especially in Vancouver, where Lobban says that, contrary to popular belief, shoppers are “highly engaged” when it comes to this sort of stuff. (Concept 003 is the third edition in a series of menswear pop-ups at Nordstrom called New Concepts @ NordstromMen. The Vancouver pop-up marks the first time the series has come to Canada.) “There’s a strong fashion consumer in Vancouver, for sure,” notes Lobban.

Concept 003 Pop-Up

Until May 30 at Nordstrom Pacific Centre (799 Robson St.)