Volecoeur is a brand with storytelling at its core. The heart of the brand, if you will. Volecoeur, literally translated from French – where the brand is based in Quebec, Canada – means “stolen heart” ; a comment on the lack of narrative in streetwear as high fashion and fast fashion embrace it in droves to churn out hype products with little substance. Volecoeur’s debut release, the “Spicy Tuna” Collection is an ode to the art of creating nigiri sushi. You can read more about that collection from Volecoeur themselves.
Volecoeur’s subsequent “Railway” Collection is inspired by Stop Asian Hate to (re)tell the story of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian labourers who unified each respective country, coast to coast – literally. As the pandemic brought out the worst in people and fueled Asian-targeted racism, Volecoeur witnessed vandalism at a nearby Chinese buddhist temple – a drive-by smashing of two traditional foo dog statues. The broken hearts of the temple’s tenants hit close to home, and while insurance would cover the losses, that trust and unity with the community was much more severely damaged.
The “Railway” Collection serves as a reminder of the back-breaking, dangerous, and impoverished labour that brought us together to flourish socially. The message is, now, we need to keep laying tracks towards social unity.
Inspired by railroad workwear of the late 1800s, the “Railway” 002 sneaker utilizes materials found in various garments and tools of the workers, including: corduroy, denim, suede, leather, nylon, rubber and synthetic cashmere (to simulate wool). Here is a full breakdown of the inspiration and design decisions behind the sneaker.
The sweater uses a garment dye and decolour process to create a vintage effect on both the blue and beige variants. Thick and oversized, they sport a Volecoeur logo on the chest and the Volcoeur heart logo on the back. The chest logo features a number below it. This number is also found on the front of the tuque (beanie) and on the medial side of the sneaker. Decoded, the number reads “Volecoeur”, each letter transposed to a number based on its place in the English alphabet. This design decision was made to commemorate the workers who were treated like numbers; made to step aside when there were photo opportunities for the rich railroad investors and white workers to show off construction progress and major achievements. In reality, Asian workers made up the large majority of the work force on these railroads. To recognize that, Volecoeur focused on promoting Asian subjects at the center of the collection.
The tuque itself is acrylic, made to emulate wool caps, a valuable insulative material for winter workwear on the railroads. A sewn Volecoeur logo on the front calls inspiration from workwear name tags. On the back, an embroidered railway spike and the reminder “Not Just a Number.” Inside the hat, a special silk tag designed as a postage stamp that is removable to be cut and pasted onto the postcard inside the “Railway” 002 box. The stamp design features a red and white mist on the left (Canada) and a mist on the right in red, white, and blue (U.S.A.) floating over the mountains and the railway tracks blazing a trail down the center. In the top left corner, there is a price indicator of $1 to represent the wages a Chinese worker would earn per day for their labour – out of which they had to pay for their living and work expenses.
The collection is now available to order on Volecoeur’s website. Clothing items will ship in 2-3 business days, while sneakers are on preorder and will be shipped in 6-8 weeks after preorders close. Sneakers come with a hand painted, weathered and finished railway spike hang tag and special packaging including a postcard inspired blueprint insert with a design breakdown of the sneaker, inside a toolbox designed shoe box. All prices are in Canadian dollars.
If you are interested in buying something from the collection, you can grab it with an Undiscovered-exclusive coupon code: UNDSCVRD-Railway for 10% off any order!