“Two things that I love since I was born: skateboarding and clothes,” says the immigrant entrepreneur.
Vancouver’s fashion designers represent a multicultural community and often bring to market a mix of Western and non-Western trends.
One brand that has added to the city’s eclectic fashion industry is The Pool Riders, a local clothing brand that offers styles inspired by Japanese craftsmanship and vintage French workwear.
Ted Nakayama, chief designer and founder of The Pool Riders, has come a long way to become one of the city’s most beloved designers. The award-winning 54-year-old stylist and skateboarder is making a name for himself as an adventure-loving fashion designer.
“The brand name is inspired by Ted’s involvement in skateboarding,” said Nakayama’s daughter-in-law Mio, who translated her responses from Japanese.
Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Nakayama immigrated to Vancouver at the age of 35 after running a restaurant for several years. At 18, his parents died, which led him to drop out of design school. Nakayama “ended up running a restaurant,” which he later realized was not his passion, but simply a way to financially support the family.
After his parents died, Nakayama never considered working in design until two years ago, when he started The Pool Riders.
Nakayama landed in Vancouver with a plan to start a Japanese barbecue restaurant. Three years after successfully running Richmond’s first Japanese barbecue restaurant, he realized that he still missed the sense of accomplishment. It took him another five years to finally take a step.
With the support of his wife, things became possible, said Nakayama, who recalled this key moment: “My wife and I have achieved [the restaurant was] not something I wanted to do or keep doing, so she encouraged me to take that leap. “
Nakayama struggles with English which is why Mio helps with translation and marketing materials for the company. Even though there was a bit of a language barrier, his passion for skateboarding led him to build a community and meet people.
“My words weren’t so clear, but everyone was super nice. It made me grateful and happy to come to Canada,” said the founder of the family business.
The Pool Riders supports several other local shops. The brand works with a Vancouver-based seamstress and other companies like Goodlad Clothing and Greyhearts Denim. The company takes pride in its Vancouver-made products and wants to preserve the city’s production. In addition, the brand is donating shorts made from scraps of fabric to young skaters in Vancouver.
“When I was younger a lot of people supported my passion for skateboarding and I want to do the same,” added the former competitive skateboarder.
“As an immigrant entrepreneur, everything was a first for me. I had to create my own ways of doing things.
Nakayama also said he is always learning and looking for people to advise him on fabrics, fashion trends and patterns.
Launched in 2019, the brand sold around 100 jackets in the first year of activity. They have seen their sales increase since the launch year and hope to sell more this year.
“Two things that I love since I was born: skateboarding and clothes. Those two things represent The Pool Riders,” Nakayama noted.
Nakayama’s workday begins with a cup of coffee before moving on to research and design from his Richmond studio. Research also involves walking around the city to research fabrics and understand fashion trends. Even at 54, Nakayama skates two to three days a week and enjoys doing tricks in a 10-foot bowl near his studio.
His passion for adventure is still alive. Later this year, Nakayama will travel to the United States to compete in the senior division of a snowboard tournament.
The family have high hopes for The Pool Riders’ future and plan to expand across Canada in the years to come.