A Sports Brand for Spiritualists

A Sports Brand for Spiritualists
A Sports Brand for Spiritualists

All things considered, the pandemic worked out pretty well for Tom Daly and Max Vallot and their mindful athletic brand, District Vision.

Back in March 2020, when District Vision closed its scrappy office in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Vallot found himself pretty much without a clue, he said in an interview at the Marlton Hotel in New York in early April. “Then, from one day to the next, it felt like we got this backwind. Suddenly people were really into activewear, and we noticed the orders trickling in.”

As anyone who attempted to buy a set of three-pound weights or a bicycle during the early days of the pandemic knows, there was a run on fitness products. At the same time, many people who were attending to their physical health were also considering their mental health, which, as it happens, is the second prong of District Vision. The intersection of sports and mindfulness is the brand’s ethos.

In short order, Mr. Vallot, 35, and Mr. Daly, 34, had a 16-session online Mindful Movement course professionally produced, recorded and ready to distribute.

“That sounds really smart now,” Mr. Daly said. “But we are not that smart.” The timing was fortuitous, and the course took off.

By the end of the year, Mr. Vallot and Mr. Daly had moved their operation to Los Angeles and taken a salary for the first time in six years, they said. “It turned from a project into a company,” Mr. Vallot said. Next week, District Vision is introducing women’s apparel, with sports bras, singlets, jackets, leggings, bike shorts, arm warmers and gaiters.

Made from luxury Japanese and Italian fabrics, many of them recycled, the women’s line is designed in the white, cream and orange that are the brand’s colors. It is proper performance wear built with moisture-wicking, antifriction, windproof and water-resistant properties. There are hidden pockets and shapewear elements, a suggestion from Mr. Daly’s girlfriend, the former Victoria’s Secret model Elsa Hosk.

Perhaps the most potent design element is the District Vision logo, a D intersecting with a sideways V, that looks jotted down like a spontaneous drawing. It’s the work of Filip Pagowski, who created the Comme des Garçons Play logo, a heart with eyes. “It took, like, two years to do the logo,” Mr. Daly said.

Having the eye and hand of a graphic designer like Mr. Pagowski is part of District Vision’s amalgam of design-minded athleticism and wellness. The brand is not Goop or Alo Yoga. It’s not a $75 Pilates class. What differentiates District Vision from its competitors, in Mr. Vallot and Mr. Daly’s opinions, is outdoorsiness.

“The journey from our standpoint doesn’t start in the yoga, barre or Pilates studio,” Mr. Vallot said. “It starts in nature and goes from there.”

Best friends since their university days in London, Mr. Daly and Mr. Vallot became business partners in 2016 when they started District Vision with Japanese-made eyewear designed specifically for running.

Their first product was a frame they had agonized over for two years, with a back story with an array of cool factors that a certain set of stylish athletic elites were likely to lap up: Mr. Vallot is a former model who was spotted at age 14 by Hedi Slimane and brought into his world, working as a model, a D.J. and finally in marketing at Saint Laurent in New York. Mr. Daly is a lanky, shaggy blond who worked for the Acne Studios co-founder Jonny Johansson in Sweden. He has a 1-year-old daughter with Ms. Hosk.

Saint Laurent was a cool, if not necessarily easy place to work, Mr. Vallot said. After one particularly taxing day, Mr. Vallot wandered into the David Lynch Foundation around the corner from his office, discovered Transcendental Meditation and never looked back. He’s a regular on the Vipassana retreat circuit.

Mr. Daly remembers the higher-ups at Acne issuing copies of Mr. Lynch’s “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity.” “It was, ‘If you could do a little bit with your mind, maybe you could be happier,’” Mr. Daly said. “But let’s be honest, it was really: ‘Maybe you can work more.’” He quit, moved to New York and became a serious runner as his therapy of choice.

“We had frankly been spit out by the fashion system,” Mr. Daly said. “We weren’t as good as we thought we were in that system.” But here they are, finding themselves tangential to the fashion system, trying to infuse it with health, sincerity and purpose — but also nice products.

“It starts with our own practices, but unless you meet us, District Vision just looks like a smart brand,” Mr. Daly said. “How do we get across the sincerity?”

They know how that sounds. But District Vision’s Citta sports bra is designed with a hidden pocket to secure valuables or even a snack. That’s the kind of design element that any woman who has ever stashed her cash or keys in her cleavage when she went on a run will sincerely appreciate.