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A Visit to Herschel Supply HQ :: Meeting the Founders

A Visit to Herschel Supply HQ :: Meeting the Founders

By Chris Danforth

Herschel Supply Co.‘s reach is allowing the brand to have more visibility than ever, through the brand’s universally-liked accessories - and brothers Jamie and Lyndon Cormack, the brand’s founders, have never been more inspired. Herschel Supply and its succinctly expressed identity echo not only through the consistent seasonal offerings of backpacks and accessories, but also through the comfortable, tidy, and delightfully well-lit office space in Vancouver’s Railtown area. The Vancouver headquarters does not represent all of Herschel Supply’s square-footage however; as the brand also has offices in Los Angeles where part of the design is handled. Partway through our discussions, Jamie shares an anecdote that seems to ring especially true, in saying that one of the best gauges of the label’s success was when friends outside the industry such as teachers or doctors started becoming aware of Herschel Supply and its wearable, likeable accessories. Available in 63 countries today, Herschel Supply has grown far outside its country of origin, but what exactly makes its classically design products so well-liked?

CHRIS: What are your respective roles at the company?
JAMIE: I look after design and production, and oversee a small amount of marketing

LYNDON: Yeah, so Jamie and I share a marketing role, and I look after mainly sales operations.

What were you doing before Herschel Supply?
J: I worked out of Calgary, at a sales agency there. We worked with a sports distribution agency - it was primarily winter-based, and I did that for about 12 years.

L: Before starting Hershel, I took care of Vans footwear for the Western portion of Canada.

How do you find people’s reactions to the brand being Canadian?
J: I think people don’t know where its from, and that brings about a sense of discovery. At most tradeshows people ask where we are from, even after we’ve told that story so many times.

L: We never set out to take a stance on a country or city of origin. We really set out to make a global offering for the specific products that we are bringing out. But do people react? There is a general consensus that Vancouver is a great city in the world, and we are certainly proud to be from Vancouver and from Canada, and we’re happy to have a Canadian brand the resonates globally.

What led you to the classic aspect of the brand?
J: More than just a [classic] product is the brand, and we’ve brought a brand out. In the very early days, I probably thought Lyndon was crazy because he said he wanted to make a lookbook, just so we know what we have and to give it a heartbeat and a sense and make it a brand. We have stuck by that, and we give a whole brand experience and tell stories.

L: We thought a brand just like ours was missing from the actual category. To be able to look back and have that nostalgic styling, but really take that styling and taking those influences and modernizing them. That is what we’ve been doing since day one, is looking back, and saying, “How do we move that forward?” Jamie and I have grown up together appreciating the classics. We’ve grown up loving fashion and streetwear and sportswear, but we also really love basics. We take those can take a basic piece and add the attention to detail.

Talk about the Canadian aspect of the brand.
J: We both live by the water, we both live by the mountains. I call it home because it’s the best city in the world. Does some of that come out in our product mix? Absolutely, but not to say the brand is solely Canadian.

L: Naturally, our product is going to sit well in the scenery around Vancouver, because we are from here and we live and breathe this, so there will be some sort of tie-in organically. But we’re not interested in only selling bags in Canada with a Canadian aesthetic, we spend as much time abroad as we do here, and we don’t take a very Canadian-centric approach. We are very proud to be Canadian.

Herschel Supply bags are being worn in most big cities in the world, how do you keep things simple?
J: For us, keeping it simple is about hiring key people. Vancouver has become a great place for that. We have some great managers running finance, the marketing side, and the graphic design side. It’s letting those guys have some ownership and enabling them to hire great people underneath them. It’s entrusting those guys - and you have to continue to educate those people, and with trust they have more ownership. It’s a pretty small and collaborative group. Doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about an operational issue or design. We have a great group, and a great place to work.

What is the most appealing characteristic about Herschel Supply?
J: Our brand tells a story. We’re great at storytelling and we put a lifestyle behind our brand. Some other product-based companies don’t have that story to tell. More and more travelling and talking to people, they’re buying into a brand and not just a product. We get better and better at telling the story every season.

L: Whether it’s wallets or backpacks or duffle bags or computer cases, we want to have the widest range for a global offering. One thing that we concentrate on with the brand is ensuring that our collections can resonate in each country, whether it be a different currency size, or the fact that Americans don’t carry as much change as Canadians in their pockets, we really focus in on how to do it globally. That’s part of our brand message, we want to make sure we are having the right offering at the right time in the right place for everybody. I think that although our designs are ever in-your-face, we like to be a little more stand-offish and we want to have a fashion-infused product but with timeless styling. It’s something we do each and every day. We want the bag to be timeless. We’re interested in fashion, but we want those simple timeless characteristics.

Any upcoming projects you can hint at?
J: …We just launched a navy [Clarks] Desert Boot in Europe. In the middle of October, we’re going to launch a second color in North America - we’re going to launch the navy and another color. That’s the next good one coming up around October 15th. Lots of other footwear projects. Stuff like this allows you step out of where you’re allowed to be and where your brand is. Collaborations let you have more fun, and they take your head to a different spot, it lets everyone be more innovative.

L: There are a bunch of things coming up. We’re most likely working on a collection with Disney [and] we are working towards something with a very large classic watch brand. We are continuing to work with Stussy - we’ve done 12 collections for Stussy. Every single season, we do a new collection for them. We just launched our 3m wallets. We are continuing to work on projects with Beams and United Arrows in Japan, as well as Journal Standard. We’re also working on 2 collections for Liberty London right now, and in 2 weeks there is a new collection dropping for Barney’s New York. Some people say collaborations are getting stale, but great ones are fucking great. Just for me and not Jamie, all of a sudden I’m pretty stoked on collaborations right now, I think we can use collaborations to push a little bit more right now.

Who would you love to work with, that you have not already?
J: It’s 31^0C outside, I’d probably like to do something with Corona. Kidding, but I know that I started a list when we first started the brand, and I’ve checked off those three already, and those were Clarks, New Balance, and Stussy. There are more out there that we talk about internally, but we’ll see. I know we’re in a great spot right now. Even watch companies - would you want to sit down and do a Patek, or a Rolex?

L: I’m a huge fan of Nike, and I have been for a long time. It’s one of those brands in footwear that would be really fun. I would want to do an interesting trainer with them. We also really love New Balance. We just did a retail identity with a company called Cigue from Paris, and we called on some architects to help us out - this will be rolling out soon. These architects are responsible for doing the Aesop stores in Europe and the Isabel Marant stores, as well as Kris Van Assche. We grew up going to this A-frame cabin in the interior of British Columbia that our parents still have, and we used to get the new SURFER Magazine and tear out the Stussy quotes and post them on this roof, and it was covered. Now, we work with Stussy. It’s amazing. If you rewind that and ask who our dream company to work with is, it’s Stussy.

Final thoughts…
L: We’ve learned a lot in the past and we’re executing a whole bunch of those ideas today, but tomorrow is fun. We’re going to be able to take all the lessons we’ve learned and all the things we’re applying to our business today, and go get it, and remain innovative and keep bringing out new products. All the same passion that got us into this industry and got us into this industry, we’ve got that even more than we have in the past. We might be one of the fastest growing brands in this part of the world, but we still have that passion to keep on improving and that passion to work with different people, that’s what really excites us and keeps us coming to work every day. Tomorrow eventually becomes today, and then you have another future past that.

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