When Mark Baron was in high school, he and his high school friends formed a snowboarding posse called Snow Speeders – from the speeder bikes in Star Wars.
They came up with a logo and started making T-shirts and stickers to wear. A friend who was a graffiti artists did the designs.
“We made a few T-shirts for ourselves, the designs got kind of cool, people wanted to buy them,” he said.
The first design Baron came up with, he said, was an oval sticker that said “Snow Speeders” on it and had three heads on it for him, his brother Troy and friend Darcy. An old box of them was recently uncovered at his parents’ house.
Thus was the genesis of Somewon Snow, the Revelstoke-based clothing brand who’s logo you’ve most likely seen pasted to the back of a truck heading to the ski hill.
Snow Speeders was something Baron did with his friends. “Originally we printed them off on printers and ironed them onto shirts,” he said. “That didn’t last very long.”
Instead, he got someone else to print the clothes – a fairly costly proposition, as it turns out. “We figured making T-shirts couldn’t be that hard so we got our own press and did it ourselves,” Baron said.
When he moved to Calgary to study geology at university, he kept making T-shirts. He would print out shirts to wear at parties and make shirts for university clubs. Finally, sometime in 2007, he decided to try to make a more serious go at turning his hobby into a business.
By that point, the double-S on the Snow Speeders logo was already so ubiquitous around Calgary that Baron decided to keep it – lots of clothes and stickers had been given out with the logo on it.
“Everyone knew that as us so I wanted to keep that logo going,” he said. Still, he realized he needed a new name. “I couldn’t market a name like that,” he said of Snow Speeders, despite its popularity amongst friends.
Unfortunately, most S-names were already taken up by other skiing and snowboarding manufacturers. One day, on the way back from Lake Louise, Baron came up with ‘someone’. That turned into ‘somewon’ and Somewon Snow was born.
The first few years of Somewon Snow was spent building up the brand. He got his girlfriend, Jen Kipling, to help him out and they worked together to print shirts out of Baron’s garage, and create excitement by handing out stickers all over Calgary and beyond with the Somewon Snow logo on it. The aim was to create a strong base and interest in the brand before launching in stores.
“We weren’t getting a lot of clothes out. We weren’t selling in stores yet, we weren’t doing festivals.” Baron said.
“I think we confused a lot of people because we would give them stickers before they could buy it,” he joked.
During that time, Baron and Kipling moved to Revelstoke. Baron had been skiing here since Revelstoke Mountain Resort has opened and he came out in January 2009, right after graduating from university the previous December. Kipling followed not long after but for the first while, the print shop stayed in Calgary, so they spent a lot of time commuting back and forth. Eventually, they set up a shop above Revelstoke Powder Rentals.
Meanwhile, Baron found employment as a geologist and travelled to China for work. While there, he visited with several clothing manufacturers to find a factory where they could make their clothing.
“The whole time I’ve been making clothing, it’s been focused on printing little designs on T-shirts. I’ve been doing that for a long, long time,” said Baron. “Now we’re starting to get into a little more fashion style or designer style. Instead of putting a logo on a T-shirt and putting it out there we’re….”
“…Designing that T-shirt,” continued Kipling.
Added Baron: “Now that we have the freedom to do what we want, if we can think of a piece, we can make it now.”
Dealing with a Chinese manufacturer presented its own challenges. There was the language barrier, colours were off and sizes were wrong. “It’s always funny to see the first run because every thing’s always wrong,” said Kipling.
Then, when the shipment of clothes showed up at the docks in Vancouver, they watched as more than 100 boxes of clothes were unloaded from the boat. All they brought down to bring that back to Revelstoke was a van and pick up truck. “People looked at us like we were idiots,” said Baron. “Every little step is new. You just have no clue.”
Somewon Snow launched its first line in the fall of 2010. It consisted of mostly T-shirts, hoodies and caps, with designs for men, women and kids. The clothing featured both Baron’s creations as well as the designs of artist friends of theirs. During the interview, Kipling sported a Somewon hoodie designed by Vancouver’s Kasia Jasinowski.
After the launch, Somewon Snow expanded. Several new stores were signed on and in September they moved into a large warehouse in the Big Eddy.
Right now, Baron handles the production work for the company while Kipling takes care of sales and helps with production. This year they hired a sales rep on contract to deal with some of that work. Somewon Snow clothing can now be found as far away as Ontario and is now in 12 stores, up from four.
Last Friday, Somewon Snow launched it’s new line of clothes with a sample sale and party at the River City Pub. People came to get first crack at the new wares and afterwards Calgary band Robot Workers played and DJ Wesside performed.
The new line marks another step up for Somewon Snow. In addition to the line of T-shirts and hoodies, there’s a puffy, zip-up jacket, a ladies pea coat, belt buckle, and toques.
Both Baron and Kipling still keep side jobs, he as a geologist and she at the Big Eddy Pub, but Somewon is more and more becoming full-time work. “I consider it a real company, a real job. It’s busy,” he said. “We have to work every single day. It’s definitely gone beyond a hobby.”
There is some satisfaction gained from that, notably seeing his logo plastered all over Revelstoke.
“I like it. It took a little while to get used to, mostly because I’d been making my own clothes for a long time and it was only me that got to wear them,” said Baron. “I’m proud to see it and it’s cool that people in town like it and support us.”