Berghaus’s head of design tells Stephen Spear how hanging with the hip-hop set influenced his creations for the snowboarding posse
When did you get into fashion?
In the early 1990s, when snowboarding started to become a sport. I realised I was never going to be a pro, but I saw some of the clothing, and the coats were like machines. It was fascinating.
I got into the technical side of design rather than the high end.
Do you see yourself as a technical guru or a fashion designer?
My experience has been with both sides. At [US streetwear labels] Sean John and Marc Ecko in the US it was very fashion led, but with [surf brands] Rip Curl and Animal it was more technical. The two play off each other rather than sitting at opposing ends. Fashion people always want to find out about the technical side but don’t necessarily understand it, and tech heads always look at fashion.
Who has been the most inspiring designer to work with and why?
I worked for [rapper and music producer] Puff Daddy for a while [at Sean John] and it’s difficult to get away from that. But that was more interesting culturally than in terms of fashion. In the US there are so many celeb-led fashion brands and people lose interest as soon as that celebrity fades. But I learned more from Marc Ecko in a year than I did in four years at university.
It’s about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you took a homeboy from Brooklyn and put him on the slopes, what would he wear? He’d be more concerned about how he looked than how well he snowboarded.
Did you get into that mindset too?
I’m not ‘hip-hop’ or interested in that world but I learned a lot about what that kind of guy wants. I’d want clothes to be fitted and a bit sharp, but to him that’s the least important thing. He wants the ostentation and he wants it baggy. When I went to work on boardwear I already had an affinity with the product and the end user.
And what about at Berghaus?
One thing that’s great is the 40 years of history Berghaus has and that’s untainted. Berghaus has always addressed the outdoors end user; it has never wandered into other sectors such as golf. Not many brands are as pure and you have to be aware of that. We’re fortunate at Berghaus to have a materials team focused on the technologies we can apply, and an innovation team that specialises in designing the innovative products that will trickle down. We have some exciting innovations coming through but I can’t tell you what they are. It’s such a competitive industry so you’ll have to wait until the shows to find out.
You’re currently in Hong Kong having just left Tokyo. Do you enjoy the travel?
I’d love to say it’s as glam as it sounds, but the only things you think about are jet lag, loss of sleep and what’s going on at home. But Tokyo is my favourite city to shop in because of its consumer culture. There is a thirst for new and exciting things. You know when a trend is hitting because it hits Japan first - sometimes three years before it comes to the UK. Often a trend has passed in Tokyo before it’s in the UK.
What is your favourite shop? Magma in London. There’s always something interesting there in the graphic design books. It proves you don’t always need to be on the internet.
Who is your favourite fashion designer? Hussein Chalayan, just because what he does is so interesting and different
Who do you think is the most stylish celebrity? Kanye West. Here’s someone in hip-hop, which is all about big and baggy, with an idea of style that’s completely different.
- Ross McPhie is head of design at outerwear brand Berghaus