One evening when we were young and still partying at Cologne’s Sixpack, Max said: “Let me turn it up,” and disappeared behind the DJ booth with his collection of CDs under one arm and DJed at our first, somewhat sluggish, party himself. But at some point these kinds of evenings came to an end, Max went to New York for J.Lindeberg, launched Blk Dnm and then was recruited by Saint Laurent. A steep path to the top. Regardless, when we saw each other again it was as though we had just spoken yesterday, as though all of these exciting things in between hadn’t even happened.
Eventually, he brought Tom to a lunch with him in New York. Tom had previously worked at Acne Studios, among others, however, Max and Tom had actually met at the Business School in London as teenagers. Since they founded their firm, District Projects, they seem to be inseparable. My heart beats faster everytime I discover the many parallels to Veronika and I (and not only in their divided passions for yoga and running, which the two have strictly divided between them).
This summer in Berlin I talked to the two independently from each other about their current plans: With District Vision (and the associated online community portal) they’re bringing new eyewear onto the market – which seeks to inspire a more attentive and conscious life. Tom and Max told me exactly what this means during our interview.
How did the idea for your recent eyewear project come up?
Max: We were both working for different fashion brands and going through some significant personal changes. We decided to go on a trip from San Francisco to LA with a stopover in Big Sur when something clicked. We’ve known each other for more than ten years but we both had to go on our own little journeys before getting to a point where we knew it would make sense to team up.
Tom: District Vision is about the here and now. We research, design and develop tools for sports and wellbeing. There are two components to the concept: an online forum connecting runners, yogis and beginners; and the tools we make to empower this group of people. The first tool is performance eyewear. We took nearly two years to develop a proprietary system with engineers in Japan based on feedback we received from runners in New York.
Max: District Vision is a really personal project for us. We started it because our lives have changed so much in the last few years. When we arrived in New York six years ago we were out every night. Over time, life evolved, Tom discovered running and I started practicing yoga.
When we began thinking about our own project, we wanted to do something that would actually help people to live more active and conscious lives.
Tom: District Vision is about sports and wellbeing. It’s not about working out like a maniac to lose weight quickly. And it’s not about living like a monk either. It’s about getting to know yourself mentally and physically. Knowing when to push yourself and knowing when to take it easy. Everything we do is a dialogue between ourselves and the people around us. That’s why districtvision.com was launched a few weeks ago with technical studies, running and yoga teachers you can sign up with to train and questions about exercise routines so we can develop product that meet your needs.
How did you found your other company District Projects?
Max: We both worked with a variety of fashion houses in either launch or repositioning periods, Acne Studios, Burberry, Byredo, BLK DNM, Saint Laurent, and so on, and realized that those experiences might be useful for other brands.
How did you two meet?
Tom: We probably met because we were the only guys with long hair and big glasses at a pretty conservative business school in London. We were both 17 and interested in the idea of bringing business and creativity together. We didn’t see much of that in London at the time and there is still a huge, awkward discrepancy between the creative East and the conservative West today. We went to rock ‘n’ roll parties at night and put all our effort into designing the most beautiful power point presentations for school during the day.
How do you work together as a team, for example, who is in charge of which tasks/departments and why?
We have an unconventional way of working together now. It’s not that one is the CEO and the other is the Creative Director. We agree on creative projects and areas of the business that we each take ownership of and then regularly review our progress. Our creative process is normally quite structured; we like to study before we design so we understand how to make the best product. We have the luxury of making all critical decisions together and, as often as possible, go on all important trips together. I suppose that’s the beauty of being friends before working together.
What are your plans over the next few months? Where would you like to see your company in five years?
Max: Our priority right now is to launch District Vision. The time is right because we feel like we’re in the middle of a general evolution in people’s consciousness, which touches everything from nutrition to the way we work and travel. Physical exercise is no longer something you force yourself to do for an hour a week, it’s deeply ingrained in our lives, it’s a holistic process, and we want to make innovative products that cater to this shift.
Which role does New York play as a basis? What other cities are relevant to your business?
Tom: New York is really the foundation of the project in many ways. It’s our home. We feel like it might be the most highly concentrated manifestation of what’s going on in the world culturally and socially. But we are definitely biased.
Max Vallot was born in Cologne and, like Tom, completed a Bachelor of Arts in London. Tom Daly is originally from Oxford and is now a marathon runner and member of the Black Roses, a New York running club. Max was trained by Rodney Yee at Yoga Shanti. They established District Projects several years ago and work as a creative agency with customers like Balenciaga, Byredo perfumes, ZEIT Magazine, Camper and Simon Miller.
Behind the scenes of District Vision – A little Best-Of from the Instagram-Channels of Tom and Max
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