Brand Spotlight: EVERGOODS

Originally posted on Carryology.

EVERGOODS.  An honest intention, no?  One might think it were by design to have a namesake so intriguing. It makes sense that Jack Barley, the co-founder of GORUCK, and Kevin Dee, a master designer and the genius behind some of Patagonia’s most beloved projects, would want to capture the curiosity of the masses as they are so boldly poised to strike out on their own.  The two, the visionary and the perfectionist, have set their sights on redefining what the all-day category represents with only one guiding principle: to be completely product and development driven.  No red tape. No corporate agenda. Just the product.  We had to get a closer look at what the pair are sewing.  Carryology HQ sat me down with them to chat about the philosophies behind their new endeavor and the noble approach they’re taking to designing the future of cross-over equipment.

I can feel the mountains outside the windows of their Bozeman, MT workshop.  Jack apologizes for being short of breath.  He’s just finished a “business hike” spanning five miles of Montana’s finest—how quintessentially Bozeman. He slings a prototype off his shoulder, and we begin.

Shop shot. Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

Cavernous blue light lingers outside the office where Kevin and Jack sit.  They rented this empty warehouse space and built every piece of furniture themselves so they could work in a way that suits them.  I understand that particularity as I look at them.  Barley sitting forward in his office chair, his enthusiasm transferred into its constant movement.  Dee, farther away from the monitor and ever so slightly behind Jack, is more relaxed, perhaps reserved even.  You can nearly hear the gears turning.  They wear plain clothing, though they speak like physicists in the 40s.

Barley arrived at EVERGOODS by way GORUCK where he co-founded the brand and managed the young start-up’s design team that delivered the new standard of bomber bags: what we know today as the GR1.  Meanwhile, Kevin Dee was busy in the R&D lab over at Patagonia pushing material and construction until he left for private contract ventures, where only after his leaving did some of his work trickle into the High Altitude Kit.  You ever open an Ascensionist? Yeah—this dude designed that mechanism. Their new titles are well deserved.  Barley is CEO and Dee is Head of Product and R&D, but things can get a little fuzzy when it’s only a two-man show and there’s a lot of shared responsibility.

Custom made work tables. Shop shot. Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

That’s what these bags are dialed for.  Urban. Active. Outdoor.  Each bag will have its own prowess but be equally adept at its siblings’ forte.

When I spoke with Barley and Dee, there were a few recurring themes.  The first was their passion for creating these products. The second was honesty.  Both of these dudes laid it out pretty straight forward.  They’re here to make the best bags they can.  Well that seems obvious, right?  That’s what any brand would say.  The difference is that when you talk to these guys, you can readily tell that they have no other objectives: that’s the only thing on their board, and they don’t have anyone to answer to.

While I don’t want to tell you too much about the products, they address the all-day category.  As Barley explained, “Once you step out your front door, you’re outside.”  And that’s what these bags are dialed for.  Urban. Active. Outdoor.  Each bag will have its own prowess but be equally adept at its siblings’ forte.  And while they’re starting with bags, we all know it takes more than a great bag to make it through the day. What excites me most as a consumer about this, is that these guys are talking long game—confidently.  Jack explained, “Part of the reason we want to be in business together is that we wanted to be completely product and development driven. We want to build a foundation of that knowledge, so that ten years from now, who knows what we’ll be capable of.”

With the long game in mind, a blog has been created to chronicle the brand’s story including some of the thousands of photos taken of the development process, notes from Barley and Dee, and the option for you to participate directly with the brand as they grow. If you’re interested in learning more about EVERGOODS, you should give it a look.

Barley and Dee’s partnership in EVERGOODS is about them coming together to make something that neither of them could do alone. Dee is all in.  According to him, “The kind of product I want to make is going to take a guy like Jack to get it to the finish line.” He goes on, “I’m excited because I feel like I get to work with a marketing, strategy, business person that is very keyed into the product, and that we’re going to make good product together.  It’s about me aligning myself with someone that will make that possible in a way that I think is significant.”

Kevin Dee sewing up a prototype. Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

In a very yin and yang sense, Barley and Dee are in this because they need each other.  While working with two of the biggest brands in the game, they’d never really had the creative opportunity to produce something entirely their own.  Both of these guys believe that the product should come first and allow that to inform every other aspect of the business.

In a very yin and yang sense, Barley and Dee are in this because they need each other.  While working with two of the biggest brands in the game, they’d never really had the creative opportunity to produce something entirely their own.

Barley says, “We work well together because I am absolutely sensitive to and inspired and in awe of process and development as it relates to product and research and development.” And he’s got a business plan to back that up; a portion of each sale gets kicked into the R&D fund so they can let that drive their future projects. “We want to work together… so that the product and the development does drive everything,” says Barley.

EVERGOODS is—uncompromisingly—product driven. You don’t get that so often these days with the business decisions being made on a different floor from the studio.  That’s not the case with EVERGOODS. “I think what is important is that there is a kind of product and a way of working/developing that is important to Kevin and me.  It is not for us to say our way is any better or the only way, but to say this is how we do it, and this is why we do it this way,” Barley wrote to me.

Jack Barley deep in thought over a mock up of a prototype.  Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

What way is that exactly? Well, the conceptualization for each project starts with them working together.  Dee says, “When it comes to product development, when you really get into it, there’s a million and one decisions to make and none of these decisions have a clear right or wrong yes or no answer.  They’re just sort of pros and cons and they have to balance out…” He continues, “It’s very delicate and we have to interact and discuss a lot.”

When an idea does make it to the development stage, Dee, with his uniquely broad skill set: a degree in sculpture, a self-taught seamster, and master designer, begins patterning out these visions and assembles them to scale, making sure that each face and curve are perfect before ever cutting a single piece of fabric. One of Dee’s greatest strengths is that he plays on both sides of the design/manufacturing process. “We sew all our prototypes in house, so we can leverage shape and pattern and material toward the end goal, where designers more separated from the sewing can only go so far,” explains Dee.

If the mock up doesn’t pass their strict aesthetic standards, it gets tossed, and there’s a pile of paper models sitting in the corner of the shop to prove it.  They don’t represent failure though, as Barley says, “Here’s the beauty of that—you haven’t lost time.  You might have to back out and then move forward, but I feel like there are these nuggets of gold that you discover and keep.  You’re creating this treasure chest of mistakes and discoveries that become eternally at your possession and disposal for subsequent projects.”

All in a day’s work.  Mock ups abandoned and improved upon. Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

If the mock up doesn’t pass their strict aesthetic standards, it gets tossed, and there’s a pile of paper models sitting in the corner of the shop to prove it.

Barley and Dee build off each other for a moment longer, collaborating even in their responses.  Barley says, “I think we bonded, like he wants to work that way but he also wants it to be interactive and collaborative.”  He speaks with his hands to punctuate the steps of the process, “We are checking in on this stuff like every step of the way.”

“Absolutely,” Dee picks up, “that’s why Jack’s a good fit, because he’s kind of visionary, kind of business guy, but he gives a shit about the product. So many of the business guys, the visionary guys, just don’t have a clue and they don’t care about—”

“—how it goes together!” Barley more excited now cuts in, “or what the problems are, or what it is to make product like that! I want to understand it as much as I can so that when I engage with them [designers], I deserve to have that conversation.”

Progress shot. Photo courtesy of EVERGOODS.

I couldn’t help but admire the fact that these guys decided to turn this vision into a reality.  That’s always the most profound thing for me, to meet someone, listen to them tell you their dreams, and watch them do whatever it takes to make it happen.  “The goal is for us to get to do the kind of work that we want to do on our terms. That’s why we’re working together, and I’m most proud of us marching toward that.” Barley tempers his emotions and reels back into his seat.

Dee and Barley couldn’t wait any longer.  Rocket ship stoke. They pulled out two of the three bags they’re releasing next year and gave me the run down.  They’re just what you’d imagine—for town and country and everything in between. Their five-year calendar, methodically color coordinated on the white board behind them, subtly stakes its claim.  EVERGOODS are coming.  And when they arrive, I imagine they’ll be here to stay.

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