From Architect to Designer: The Arrivals Founder on his Brand of Minimalist Outerwear

The Arrivals is a New York City-based outerwear label, producing minimalist looks at a direct-to-consumer business model. Although, the label’s founders did not hail from traditional designer backgrounds, Creative Director Jeff Johnson brought his attention-to-detail and creative drive, while his business partner, Kal Vepuri, invested in launching a label of sleek and sharp angles. Their attributes complimented one another and The Arrivals was born.

Founded in 2014, the brand is most recognized for their lightweight, transitional jackets as well as functional layers. Johnson and Vepuri decided that since they arrived at this label, after following a non-linear path, The Arrivals should reflect that and have a unique approach of its own. Therefore, along with conceptualizing a direct-to-consumer business model, The Arrivals has also crowdsourced designs to remain on the brink of innovation in the fashion industry. We sat down with The Arrivals’ Jeff Johnson, to chat about the inspiration that sparked this innovation and how an architect and entrepreneur found themselves in the world of fabric and fittings.


Where do you first begin when someone asks, ‘What do you do?’

I began my design career working as an architect throughout the states, and most recently at UNStudio in Amsterdam. While I loved the comprehensive nature of the architectural design process, I found myself struggling with the slow pace of these projects, which typically range between 2-10 years from concept to completion. I was craving a more immediate design medium where ideas could be implemented quickly and through a multitude of channels. Then in 2013, I made the decision to partner with my good friend Kal Vepuri–we put our heads together to envision an environment where we could test out ideas and create products that we loved. Fast forward to 10 months later and The Arrivals was born.


How did you meet your business partner, Kal Vepuri? And what are three adjectives to describe him?

Kal and I met through mutual friends when I moved to NYC back in 2007 to complete my Masters at Pratt Institute. Back then, Kal was more likely to be found in a three-piece suit than a pair of skinny jeans, but he had an amazing sense of candor that was immediately palpable. Kal is sharp as a laser, but he’s also incredibly interested in people and in what makes them tick. It’s this balance of business know-how, intertwined with the human component that makes Kal an extremely thoughtful and inspiring business partner.


How do you think your background in architecture affects the designs you create?

My architecture career began with the desire to create functional solutions to complex problems. In architecture, these problems consisted of weather, geography, building material and construction technique. With The Arrivals, we apply these same filters to designing outerwear, holding superior quality, functionality and timelessness above all else. Only once these principles have been thoroughly considered do we begin to prototype the final product.



What is your favorite piece of clothing to wear versus to design?

I have an unhealthy obsession with trousers and tees, and have amassed a vast collection of pieces, each with the slightest of variations. This is probably my guilty pleasure because I really appreciate their simplicity and diversity, especially those which are good quality. In terms of design, I’m completely obsessed with outerwear construction, constantly refining concepts that blend technical materials with irreverent silhouettes, to create pieces that are highly functional with a contemporary edge.


What season do you enjoy designing looks for the most?

I love the light handed expression that accompanies the spring season, but “Fall & Winter” is absolutely where my passion runs deepest. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to rethink traditional outerwear staples, incorporating new technical materials and smart details to create timeless pieces that marry form and function.


Do you attribute your creativity to any role models?

Inspiration comes in all forms and rarely discriminates between era or medium, spanning mid-century modernist designers such as Dieter Rams to contemporary musicians such as Justin Vernon.



What has been the most inspiring moment about launching The Arrivals thus far? And what are you most looking forward to?

The Arrivals design team is extremely focused throughout the entire process of creating a new style–from initial concept, to product prototyping and final product delivery. The moments of pause when we’re able to take a step back and look at the product we’ve created, the community we’ve connected with, and the brand we’ve built, truly inspire us to continue innovating and reinterpreting traditional notions of outerwear.


Do you have any goals for The Arrivals’ near future?

We founded The Arrivals as a challenge for ourselves to create something authentic and innovative, to question the status quo. That idea has since evolved, but it’s safe to say that we’re constantly inspired by this idea of foreverwear and in creating beautifully-lasting products that make life better. At the moment, we’re developing a new product capsule that fuses body ergonomics with technical material innovation, which is slated to launch Fall ‘17. This capsule, and a handful of other upcoming projects, serve to reinforce The Arrivals ethos and are constantly pushing boundaries in form and function.