Can you explain the process from idea to production for us?
Right now we’re looking at the range for spring summer ’19. Initially we’ll decide what we’re missing, what hasn’t worked and what new products we want to introduce. After this we divvy up the products between the design team. Then we’ll move on to fabric, any developments and innovations we want to introduce. At the same time as this we’re looking at colours, deciding our pallet for the season. These colours need to be lab dipped. That’s the process whereby we ask the fabric mills to colour match our fabrics to our new colour palette. Colour’s react differently when they’re dyed on different fabrics, so sometimes it takes a couple of dips to get it right. For example, a nylon and cotton would react very differently to one another when they’re dyed. Following on from this we work out specifications and send these to the factories which involve size charts, all the details drawn out in illustrator. They then produce a prototype sample, which we will review, doing fittings on models and making various comments which get fed back to them.
The next stage after this is actually going out to the factories and talking face-to-face with them, because a lot can be lost in translation. It’s really good to actually meet the people you’ve been in communication with. We’ll see the second prototypes when we’re there and we’ll make comments at the time. A few weeks after getting home we’ll receive the final prototype sample. Finally we do the trim. So that’s deciding on all the zip and cord colours, because these are coming from specialist producers, not the factories. Once that’s all done, hopefully you’ll receive a box containing a shiny new salesman sample that all the sales reps can show to our retailers. That’s where our role finishes in the process and we hand it over to the garment tech team. So it’s about a six month process to when we hand it over to them, about a year and a half ahead of products being in store.
Is there a product that you have designed that people who are reading this might own? Is there a product you are most proud of?
Well it’s quite a collaborative process within the design team. But I have managed the rock climbing range because it’s something I’m really interested in. I’ve been wearing the Asylum Jacket which I think is the perfect bouldering jacket. Also the Gravity Pants, I’ll wear them whatever the weather. In terms of other products that have been designed within the team, I love the Flashpoint Jacket, it’s so light I wear it all the time, and also the new Photon X belay jacket which is redesigned for this season.
So do your own experiences on the hill, at the crag, shape your approach to design?
Oh yeah, definitely. I regularly take prototypes down to the wall to test. I get obsessed about fit when I’m climbing, so my experiences definitely shape the products. The Asylum jacket came about because I felt like everything on the market was going super, super lightweight, and it wasn’t what I needed. For alpine climbing obviously lighter but warmer is what you need, but for bouldering you want something that is super-durable. Weight doesn’t really matter. Boulderers want something that will last. That’s the same for the new Kinder Smock, it looks great and it’s really durable.
Sometimes you have to temper your own experiences though, you still have to be aware of what’s going on in the market and not just focus on your own opinions. For example, I don’t wear leggings, but they’re a massive trend within the market right now.
It’s really satisfying being down at the wall and having people comment on the prototypes, saying ‘oh those are nice’ and ‘oh, where can I get those from’. I’ve just been to the Women’s Trad Fest and it was great to see so many women in our gear too, there’s a lot of respect for the brand.