One of the only complaints I have about traveling abroad is my inability to blend in. Windbreakers, tennis shoes, and backpacks all scream “American tourist.” It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Ecuador that I fully realized the importance of blending in… that is, if I wanted to experience culture in the most authentic way. I’ve found that it’s difficult connecting with natives when you stick out like a sore thumb, appearing to be there only for the most noteworthy attractions.
The idea is simple: travel light, discover more.
Where Did The Idea Come From?
Co-founder and Chief Design Officer Kelly Koster explained the strategy behind the product: the adamant need for a clothing line that transitions easily.
“We’ve done a lot of traveling, a lot of trips to different places around the world,” she said, speaking of she and her husband, Nick Hansen, co-founder and CEO of Anywhere Apparel. “From more developed countries, like Copenhagen, to developing countries that are a little bit rougher like Kathmandu and Nepal, we found that we couldn’t find clothing that was built for travel in a variety of different environments.”
Your typical travel apparel may equip you for outdoor hiking, Koster explained, but much of it doesn’t factor in time spent dining at high-end restaurants or exploring museums. “That’s not going to help you go from a a super cosmopolitan city to… someplace where you can’t be advertising your wealth or your status,” she said. “You need to blend in with your environment.”
The husband-wife duo saw a gap in the market. They knew young travelers didn’t want to limit themselves to outdoor adventures, but they also don’t want to be tied down to extra baggage. “We thought, ‘Why not create a clothing line that really transitions amongst all these different environments?,’” Koster explained.
Understanding The Product
I wondered… what would such clothing look like?
The company’s first designs, with help from Lead Product Designer, Alisa Miller, are a women’s coat and men’s jacket:
Women’s Antipodes Reversible Jacket
Traveling around the world means interacting with cultures much different than our own. Women especially must be mindful, realizing that the same apparel that is acceptable in the U.S. may be considered inappropriate in more conservative cultures. Women’s travel clothing also had to consider the change in environments.
That’s why the women’s coat was designed to be reversible.
On one side, the coat appears rugged and durable. The cotton-polyester twill works well for casual settings and outdoor adventures alike. It also contains several waterproof pockets to hold your belongs in wet conditions.
On the flip side, the coat takes on a classic, minimalist look in all black. Trench-inspired, the coat can be belted, giving it the most city chic look for more formal events.
Men’s Stowaway Convertible Coat
Guys can get away with less styling, Koster explained, so the men’s jacket didn’t need to be reversible. Instead the designers played on the idea of transformation. The coat is made from the same durable fabric used in police uniforms and converts into a bag.
“Guys love that,” Koster said. “They love features, they love gear.” To convert the coat into a bag, the consumer folds the jacket, put the sleeves together, and zips it into a satchel.
Continuing The Inspiration
While the Anywhere Apparel team agrees that much inspiration for the product came from personal experience, Koster said that isn’t the sole inspiration.
Talking with other travelers about what’s missing in the market was a big part of it. “If you’re traveling from one environment to the next, you need to do it seamlessly,” Koster said. “And you don’t want to be carrying around your whole wardrobe on your back.”
Other travelers have agreed. In fact, the Kickstarter campaign was sponsored by individuals not only in Minneapolis, but also from New York, Belgium, Taiwan, Europe, etc. “Travelers from all across the world are interested in the concept,” Koster said.
[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]If you’re traveling from one environment to the next, you need to do it seamlessly. And you don’t want to be carrying around your whole wardrobe on your back.[/gdlr_quote]
The other part of their inspiration—perhaps the component that’s fueling further product development—is culture. The team has found that in some cultures, like Peru and Lima, “people see dressing as something you do, no matter your socioeconomic status,” Koster said. It’s important to be “conscious of other cultures in the design perspective.” Miller agreed, saying her designs are inspired by fashion from around the world. “We aim to design a classic style that is going to work in a lot of cultures,” she said.
The Future Is Bright
The women’s jacket and men’s coat are only the beginning. In addition to the men’s and women’s tees that the company plans to have produced by April, there are many other products in the pipeline. Amongst them are a men’s sweater, women’s kimono-style cardigan (that doubles as a blanket), scarves, jeans, and a women’s motoblazer—an item Koster refers to as Miller’s premiere design.
Currently, the three-man team is in the midst of working with factories to line up production partners—a task they hope to complete within the next couple weeks. If all goes smoothly, Koster said they should be on track to ship out the Kickstarter tees in April. The jackets and coats, a more complex design, won’t be available for distribution until summer. Overall the company is hoping to officially launch their retail shop by April or May.
“In essence, you’re always going to be an outsider wherever you are,” when traveling abroad, Miller explained. But, part of our responsibility as visitors is communicating that we are trying to be respectful of culture… and our dress reflects that. Anywhere Apparel ensures that is the case, while also giving the avid traveler versatility in their dress, saving them the need to lug around unwanted baggage.
Perhaps Koster said it best: “People are so excited about young companies, new companies, new ideas—basically anyone who is willing to break the status quo and challenge invention.”
She’s got that right. If you enjoy traveling half as much as I do, you’ll keep your eye on Anywhere Apparel… I know I will.