Max Vallot and Tom Daly are former fashion executives – Vallot worked at Saint Laurent, Daly at Acne – but when they launched their startup District Vision in 2015, they didn’t want it to be just another fashion company. “We were tired of making denim and leather jackets,” reflects Vallot, a 30-year-old based in New York. “We wanted to put something out there that people needed.”
They wanted it to speak to what mattered to them. They were meditation and yoga evangelists – feeling good and looking great was a crucial parts of their lives – and they wanted to shepherd those interests into the business. And so it was that District Vision was born. In 2017, Braun partnered with the duo to find out how this has played out in practice.
“Braun at its design heart is quite special,” says Daly. “They have design at the core of the business, which is quite similar to District Vision. We probably approach business problems and creative problems from a design standpoint.”
Today, the founders make sure they look and feel their best, taking time to exercise, meditate and take care of their personal appearances. Shaving being of particular importance, now that they’re entrepreneurs.
But beyond making its co-founders a living, the company is designed to improve the lives of others. Yes, it sells a product: technical eyewear that looks stylish (in other words, the opposite of those wraparound shades that most athletes wear). But it also seeks to promote yoga and meditation among sportsmen, and functions as a social network for the yoga-running community.
This focus is no accident. When they were setting up the business they had recently discovered that running and yoga were the things that mattered most to them, “We recalibrated our inner compass,” says Daly, also 30. Previously they had been living rather less healthily. “We were going out a lot, we were drinking a lot, and I think when you’re in that mode you’re more about survival than excelling.” District Vision may have an unusual remit but it has excelled, growing 300 per cent in the past year and now working with 100 leading fashion, optical and sports stores in the US.
Vallot and Daly met at business school in London about 13 years ago. It was clear even then that they had different priorities from others in their peer group. “We both had greasy, long hair, we were skinny, in a huge group of aspiring investment bankers,” says Vallot. Contrary to the typical values of the City, Vallot and Daly would go on to found a company that was about, in Vallot’s words, “helping others and making a positive contribution to what was going on in the world.” It took them a while, however, to realise that running and yoga were ways of doing that.
Daly had always loved running – his mother was a long-distance runner – but it had been a means to an end. “It was a tool I always used for hangover when I was quite young,” he recalls, “and as I got older and moved to New York it became a tool that I used to get over a breakup.” When he joined a running club, he realised that running was about something bigger: community. Vallot, on the other hand, came to his passions – for yoga and meditation – more recently.
“The first time I tried meditation was when I walked out of the office feeling very frustrated. I walked around the corner and saw a sign for the David Lynch Foundation, which teaches a method called transcendental meditation. I was curious because I was a fan of David Lynch and I had seen some of his speeches. A few days later I went for my formal introductory session and had a really profound experience. I have practiced every day since.”
It helped him gain a sense of perspective on everyday situations. At District Vision this has translated into working with a type of moving meditation based on Iyengar yoga, a lineage focused on alignment and breath.
To Vallot and Daly running and yoga aren’t competing interests: the pair insists that yoga is as important a part of running as nutrition. “We wanted to bring running and meditation together because we feel like a lot of runners would benefit from an understanding of some aspect of a meditation practice,” says Vallot. “Only through some aspect of meditative practice are you going to find a way to connect to your body on a deeper level.” Initially there was some skepticism among the athletes they knew (Daly recalls having to “beg” runners to meditate) but now each of their events attracts between 60 and 80 people.
The duo believe, however, that meditation should persist beyond organised classes. Rather than zoning out by listening to music, they argue that runners should be mindful of how their body is operating throughout their session. That’s because through running, Vallot says, we gain an insight to the most significant thing of all: “We learn something about life.”
So what have the District Vision duo learned? “I would say what matters most to us, right now, is being happy coming to work every day and going through this process together,” says Vallot. “Because this is it – it might all be over tomorrow.”
For more, see braun.uk