Offering a wide array of simple soft goods in leather and canvas, Portland, Oregon-based Red Clouds Collective is the brainchild of Jason Brown, Owen Johnson, Seth Neefus and Dan Weaver. “There’s a bunch of us that come from the skateboard and hip-hop industries,” says Brown. “We do a lot of different kinds of art, but not many of us have been able to make a living of it.”
As long-time veterans of the snowboarding industry—Brown rode professionally for Burton and helped co-found CAPiTA snowboards; Neefus worked for influential glove company Grenade—the friends realized that their buisness-based knowledge of the industry could help get a few inventive ideas off the ground. “We’ve seen what good marketing can do, if you believe in the product,” says Brown.
At first the four directors drew up an extensive policy document to set a few ground rules regarding pay percentages and how to cover materials, tools and marketing. With Brown and Neefus handling the business side, the rest of the collective is left free to snowboard, skate and simply create. “If you do that, people come up with more interesting ideas,” Brown says. “We wanted to capture that.”
Their business model also allows for turning products around rapidly. Each of the four founders has a studio, so with a large number of willing hands and an equally extensive assortment of skills—the collective’s members include woodworkers, artists, photographers, bag designers and even musicians—an idea can materialize, be photographed and sold within a matter of weeks. According to Brown, they start by getting things online quickly. From there, he says, “If you like it, then we offer it to the shops. We love working with shops. It’s better if you hold the products in your hands.”
One of their first creations was the GOODbook, which came about in an appropriately organic fashion. Neefus was unsatisfied with his store-bought iPhone case and ended up making one for himself out of paper, incorporating a sketchbook and a wallet in the process. After showing it to a few people in Portland, the collective looked at leather-making processes online and began crafting the books by hand. Eight months after Neefus first had the idea, the collective can barely keep up with demand.
Images courtesy of Red Clouds Collective