We've recently added Poler Camping Stuff, a Portland, Ore. based brand that has deservedly generated quite a bit of buzz recently, to the floors of both our New York and Portland storefronts. We were immediately drawn to the brand because of our shared passion for quality made goods that say less about the products themselves, and more about the people that use them. We caught up with Benji Wagner, the brains behind Poler for a quick chat about the inspirations and aspirations behind the brand's refreshingly simple market.
The Poler vibe seems to be that you can take quality seriously without taking yourself too seriously—is that a reaction to the overly-techy outdoor industry, or just an extension of your personality?
It's a bit of both honestly. I feel that the outdoor industry is full of fantastic, well made products, but that there is room for stuff that isn't all about climbing Mt. Everest. We're embracing what most people actually do: road trips, partying in the woods, weekend adventures to the beach, music festivals etc... These are the things most of us look forward to and have fun doing. Our gear brings a high design sensibility to an affordable price point so its accessible to all. We have some genuinely innovative products like the Napsack, some really clean basic vintage inspired bags as well as the Magic Tarp-It which is a really pragmatic, useful item.
Can you talk about the Adventures, and more broadly the brand's entire web presence—it seems like it's important to you guys that people understand Poler is first and foremost about real people loving what they do, especially in an industry where customers are sick of being sold 'adventure' by corporations and marketers?
We have a section of our site called 'adventures' where we have really beautiful photo essays of guys from our team and regular folks doing stuff they love to do. It could be motorcycle camping on Mt. Hood, Surfing in Montauk, or just a simple car camping road trip, these stories are of trips that we can all relate to and be inspired by at the same time. We're striving to bring everyone something that they can feel is authentic and not a canned, calculated and overly glossy photo shoot. Everyone knows when they're being sold something thats phony and contrived as opposed to something authentic. We will have new photo essays shot by leading photographers and videos on a regular basis from here on out so there is always something new to look at and be inspired by.
People have been loving The Nap Sack—can you talk about how that product came to be?
The Napsack is definitely a big part of Poler. It's a sleeping bag that you can stick your arms and legs out of, and it has a hood and pockets like a puffy jacket. It's the perfect weight for summer camping, but it also works fantastic if you wear it around the house in the winter. It's like a multi tool sleeping bag. You can pull up the bottom and cinch it around your waist and wear it like a jacket while you sit around the fire, and just as important you can go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without taking it off! We have 3 sizes including a kids size.
How did you connect with Dunderdon? What made you think that we'd be a worthwhile retail venue for you?
I've been a fan of Dunderdon for years. They've been making quality workwear clothes long before it became a big trend. I can honestly say I would wear all the clothes myself. They're practical while still being stylish. The mix of brands at the Dunderon retail stores is great and I am really proud to have Poler in the stores along side them.
You've assembled high-caliber snowboard and skate teams, any plans to do products tailored to those specific sports in the future?
As time goes on we plan to introduce more sport specific technical gear to some degree. At the same time Poler is all about the in between times. The time you are traveling and sleeping and hanging out while you are en route or in between doing the things you love.
Similarly and finally, what can we expect to see from Poler in 2012?
We'll be expanding the line to include more higher end made in the usa products, a wider range of colorways to our existing line. We've only really scratched the surface. More to come on all fronts!
See the goods for yourself at our New York Workshop, located at 25 Howard Street and our Portland Workshop at SW 13th and Burnside.