Ever wonder how a collection comes to be? The design process is different for every product, but the path is rarely a straightforward one. A design process that begins with the factory rather than the other way around? Rarer still. And yet here we are, with a collection of products inspired by the factory that builds them. Read on for the full story.
It all started when we came upon a renewable energy-powered, completely vertical, minimal waste factory that prioritizes the welfare of its workers. The factory was founded to solve the problem of "dirty denim" – a traditionally resource-intensive process that takes a significant physical toll on the people who make the garments.
Finding a factory like this was just one step of many we’re making to minimize our social and environmental impact. Now that we’d found it, the next step was to answer the question: how do we make the most of it?
We conducted a lot of research on historical outdoor basics to find our answer. We considered classics like belted pants, cargo pants, field pants, climbing pants, and so on. (Building on outdoor recreation’s rich design history is important to us, and an essential building block of our DNA.) What were they made of? What kind of shapes did they come in? What kind of features did they include, and which features did they not include?
But this was to be a collection, not just a pair of pants. So we settled on the idea of an outdoor uniform, based on the classic Oxford shirt and slacks, to guide us. That eliminated some of the more complicated and explicitly outdoorsy concepts and gave us the idea for a button-down shirt and a light jacket.
And then we got to drawing. These had to be pieces you could live in. Something durable. Something that not only functions well wherever you are, but also makes you feel good about the way you look no matter where you are. And maybe even something that reduces early morning decision fatigue. If this list reminds you of denim still, good.
We made dozens of drawings to start. Our design team reviewed them all, selected favorites, and honed them further. After several more rounds, we whittled it down to three final favorites. From there, the designs needed to go from concept to real life products, so it was time to bring in the Product Development team.
Product developers are experts on creating an end product that fits well, looks good on, and is affordable to the people buying our gear. The designers presented their three final concepts, and the Product Development team figured out which of the three would be most executable.
Final Design Elements
The end result is not only a combination of our favorite design elements, but also the ultimate expression of our approach to sustainability. Here’s what we landed on:
Denim’s outdoor counterpart. We’ve always loved canvas, but we picked it because it’s also extremely durable, takes our factory’s garment-dyeing process well, plus we liked the subtle nod to workwear and how that plays into the idea of an outdoor uniform. We went with a 7.6 oz weight for how easily it transitions from outdoor to lifestyle use. Made with organic cotton, of course.
We did say these had to be pieces you could live in. The added stretch gives comfort and mobility that make them some of our most versatile and utilitarian pieces in our lineup.
A mainstay of any workwear piece of ours. Since we added stretch, it was even more important to include this element, but we stopped short of overbuilding the seams to maintain the comfort factor.
A military holdover short for Battle Dress Uniform? How could we not? BDU buttons are a choice we make over and over again for their durability and timelessness.
Gussets, Articulated Knees, Ergonomic Hand Pockets
For maximum freedom of movement and comfort. They also increase durability so your body isn’t creating so much tension against the fabric.
Drawcord Waist & Ankles
Cotton instead of our usual paracord to fit in with the overall aesthetic of the collection. (But with the same black ticking you’ll find on our paracord to pay tribute.)
Inspired by the places we love to recreate, but ultra-saturated compared to typical outdoor apparel to give the colors real presence. And ninety-five percent more efficient than traditional dyeing techniques.
What’s Next For Dirt Design?
Truth be told, there's nothing "final" about the current pieces in the Dirt Collection. (They call it a design process for a reason, right?) This spring we introduced Dirt Shorts and new colors. We'll continue to add new colors and/or silhouettes each season. And as our employees, ambassadors, and customers use them more and more, we'll incorporate their feedback into future Dirt designs. We will also continue to look for new materials, processes and manufacturing opportunities to make the collection even more sustainable in the future.