Those underwhelmed by the current range of outdoorswear on offer might welcome the news that in its first week on Kickstarter, Ohakune label Opus Fresh has raised double its target in a quest to debut its range of "function-fused fashion".
James Simpson and Laura Currie plan to cater for the five-days-a-week worker who likes to go adventuring on their days off – less ski/surf bum than the 'work hard, play hard' demographic. The tagline: Work. Play. Repeat... Never Settle.
They've created working prototypes for fully waterproof, breathable jackets and accessories, drawing on high-country New Zealand merino wool and real leather. Scroll to the end of the story to see product videos.
Simpson has been tinkering around with the adventure clothing idea since competing in white water kayaking and skiing in his teens.
"After nearly drowning kayaking over Huka Falls in 2002 then breaking my back skiing in 2003 and nearly freezing in the aftermath, I came to the reluctant conclusion that being a professional athlete probably wasn't my calling but that technical clothing was awesome," he says.
"I started working for a few years for a major adventurewear company but got frustrated with their refusal to cater to a market that wanted functional clothing that was well cut and could cross over as street wear/corporate clothing."
In February 2012, Currie (whom he met prior to the back breaking incident) finished graphic design school. Their complementary skills – graphic design and style-driven clothing on her part and video and tech-driven clothing on his – dovetailed nicely, he says, and they decided to take a crack at the market themselves.
"New Zealand is awesome and has a strong history of amazing adventure clothing outfitters, but we felt like they had all turned into dollars and cents companies, turning their backs on their roots for a chunky bottom line. We wanted to focus on the customer, what they wanted and ultimately how they wanted it: stylish, green, and premium quality by New Zealand made."
Opus Fresh is sourcing and manufacturing everything in New Zealand, from the materials to the printing to the labels and packaging.
Simpson says they've formed great relationships with suppliers who were willing to take a punt on Opus Fresh.
"We had no idea where to start at first, and had minimal funds, but showing up on the door step for a hand shake has got us a long way – Kiwi business people are good like that we are finding. It's all about face time!"
With 187 Kickstarter backers and counting from all over the globe – Japan, Switzerland, Poland, the US – it would be fair to say the concept has legs.
"Kiwis have given a great response so far. I think using premium merino sourced from New Zealand and having products that are 100% made in New Zealand has really struck a chord with a lot of people – it makes a change from the 'Made in China' default. We're pretty environmentally conscious as well, so that gets people pretty positive about it. Plus, the clothes are very wearable and quality-focused."
Simpson and Currie have spent a fair bit of time "missioning" around the world to remote locations in search of snow, water and big city lights, and designed their clothing to be versatile, functional and comfortable for international travel.
Simpson says the brand is aiming globally – think North America, northern Europe and Japan – places that identify with outdoors adventure culture but still have a strong metropolitan identity.
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