It’s a Big Eddy welcome. A random barking dog challenges me in the parking lot in the industrial district. After gaining rapport with the gatekeeper, I’m allowed to pass into the Somewon Collective warehouse, a run-down, split-level converted former mechanic’s shop that now houses the clothing manufacturer’s Revelstoke headquarters.
An octopus-like silk screening machine sits near the back. Boxes with Chinese lettering are stacked to the ceiling. Upstairs, the walls are lined with wooden cubby-holes, each stacked with piles of folded Somewon Collective stock.
The room is cluttered with piles fabric samples, invoices, catalogues, blank T-shirts, baseball caps and stickers. Clothing samples line the back wall. Web designer Rachel Petrie mans a computer near a nest of large-format printers that create the screening designs.
The Somewon logo is everywhere.
I sit down with co-owner Jen Kipling and we’re joined by her business and life partner Mark Baron via FaceTime on the iPad. He’s in Northern Alberta where he works in the field on oil projects as a geologist.
The Times Review did a business profile when Somewon set up shop in the Big Eddy; we’re checking back now.
They started out as a lifestyle brand. “Our roots are deep in snowboarding,” Kipling explained. They wanted to create “a clothing company we could wear and look good in.”
Kipling said the company has expanded and grown in many ways.
They’ve added riders and collaborators to the team, which now includes Rob Alford, Sabrina Gauthier, Cole Vibert, Sam Tuff, Jam Gallagher, Greg Ryan, Melanie Parent, Michelle Salt, Mike Cyr, Andrew Jackson, Jean-Guy Michaud, Katie Vogel and more. Salt is a member of the Canadian para snowboard team and a contender for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“She’s one of our hardest working athletes,” Kipling said. “She’s in it to win it.”
They also sponsor artists and musicians on the collective, and feature their designs. Ian Manhire, Steve Chmilar, Melanie Parent, Kasia Jasinowski and Jessie Robertson are a few. “There’s a lot of creative minds to draw from when you’re running a lifestyle business,” Kipling said.
Somewon’s branched out their distribution. Karl Jost at Society Snow & Skate took them on at the start, and his years of experience in the snowboard business. They’ve expanded to retail outlets in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, and even have inroads in Australia.
Baron explained to the Times Review that Somewon had its roots as a group of friends making T-shirts and selling them at parties – a kind of in-joke identity. A few years ago, they branched into manufacturing their snowboarding-focused lifestyles brand overseas, partnering with a Dongguan, China-based manufacturer that assembles their custom designs.
The partnership is key for Somewon, enabling them to design and create more intricate and complex designs for shirts, hoodies and more. Somewon has expanded their catalogue past branding and screen-printing based designs into a full lifestyles fashion line. Baron and Kipling will travel to Dongguan in the new year to meet with their manufacturing partners.
Somewon has also expanded their services, providing silk-screening, design, embroidery, and sticker printing for local and regional clients.
Kipling said through the expansion, they’ve also been narrowing their brand.
Their women’s line is getting a positive response. In a volatile snowboard industry, women’s lifestyle wear has been a positive trend, moving from the back corner of local snowboard shops to an equal position out front.
Working out of Revelstoke has its ups and downs. They don’t have access to the same supplies and materials, for example, but the people are great and they work hard to make it work.
Jen and Mark moved from Alberta to Revelstoke for the snowboard lifestyle, and they’re committed. “We do what it takes to make it work here,” Kipling said. “You definitely have to have a passion for that to make it.”
She added: “It’s looking at what your can offer this town. We’d like to stay here, we’d like to give back to this community.”
Part of that giving back is the Somewon Collective White Out party on the evening of Dec. 21 at Traverse, featuring DJs Bryx and Wakcutt. Proceeds support the Community Connections Christmas Hampers program. Dress in white and come ready for the raffles. Tickets at Society Snow & Skate.