Packing for a trip is a source of anxiety for many travelers—and overpacking is one of their biggest issues.
Enter Anywhere Apparel, a new start-up based in St. Paul that aims to make clothing that is as versatile and practical as it is stylish. During their travels together over the past decade, founders (and wife-and-husband team) Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen had always struggled to find technical travel clothing that was also style-conscious. When they realized there was a gap in the marketplace, they set about creating their own.
The initial launch features two designs: a women’s reversible coat and a men’s jacket that converts into a satchel. The women’s coat features a slightly more rugged, utilitarian side that reverses to a tailored, sleeker style, taking its wearer from a hike to a nice restaurant. The men’s jacket has a tailored, classic cut made from police uniform–grade wool for extra durability. Both coats have multiple hidden, water-resistant, rip-stop nylon pockets for valuables designed to reduce bulk and remain inconspicuous, plus fleece-lined hand warmer pockets and a convertible hood.
Koster brings her background tracking consumer trends for Fortune 500 companies and ad agencies to the table, coupled with Hansen’s business model analysis background. This past fall, they added fellow traveler Alisa Miller, a product designer, to the team to manage Anywhere’s product pipeline.
After being in development for about two years, they have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for manufacturing, and plan to begin selling their goods in spring or summer of 2016. The men’s and women’s jackets as well as reversible, premium bamboo t-shirts are available for preorder until January 7, 2016.
I chatted with Koster about the company’s origins, their design process, and what’s to come in 2016.
How did the idea for Anywhere Apparel company come about?
The company was started by myself and my husband a couple of years ago about ten years after traveling together as a couple. We realized we were packing too much stuff. It became a burden to us—I hate packing. We realized there weren’t a lot of options out there on the marketplace that are marketed toward the traveler. You have your North Face, you have your Patagonia, but it’s not geared specifically toward travel. We wanted to merge versatility and function with style. Our travel is varied—we’ll go to a few different places. We like to go hiking, but we also want to enjoy a latte in a Parisian cafe. At the same time, there is the need to pack light. When you travel, you don’t want to have to check luggage. We wanted to create something that resonated with people who like to travel the way we do, and care about the way they look. You don’t want to be turned away from a nice restaurant if you’re too casual. At the same time, you don’t want to wear something fancy if you want to hike a trail. We couldn’t find anything that would satisfy our needs so we decided to create it.
Anywhere Apparel’s Men’s Convertible Jacket
How did Alisa Miller come into the fold?
After a year of establishing some financing for the business, we realized we needed to hire someone with a product design background. I was trying to do everything with minimal design skills, and we really needed someone with a true designer background. We’ve also been working with [St. Paul–based] Clothier Design Source, and another development partner in Portland, Oregon. They offer services to smaller companies that are trying to get a foothold into the industry. We work with them to make sure the designs are feasible from a production standpoint. You might have a good idea that works in theory, but wouldn’t be feasible when it goes into production.
What were your main goals with designing the jackets?
The jackets are really geared toward more moderate temperatures—between 36 and 65 degrees—so our first intention was to develop a staple piece for spring and fall temperatures. For the women’s coat, we wanted to give her options, from a rugged look with technical functionality to a more chic coat. The second goal is to provide her with functionality. A lot of the fabrics we’re using are water resistant. Outerwear is really bulky and not something you want to pack, so we wanted that one item to do a lot for her. Guys are a little different—they can get away with something that looks a bit more classic looking but also performs really well. So we took the idea of taking a jacket and making it out of a sturdy cotton, the same kind that is used in police uniforms, and incorporating pockets and making it convertible so you can actually turn into the satchel if you get warm. We want to make goods that don’t make people look like they’re a typical American tourist when they’re traveling.
How and why did you decide to add specific elements, such as the tablet back pocket?
Women typically get thrown into this position where they feel like they have to buy a lot of accessories to carry all their stuff. They want to be hands free and be safe. Putting a pocket in your back doesn’t add bulk and makes it more inconspicuous.
Do you plan to eventually add new designs? If so, what ideas do you have?
We have a lot in the works. We’ve got a blazer for women, we’re calling it our moto-blazer because it has motorcycle inspired details but in a blazer. We have a kimono-style cardigan, which will double as her blanket on a plane, but it has all these tricks and features that are geared toward travel. We have a men’s pullover sweater that is in development. We’re also doing some scarves that are more travel-friendly and unique from what’s already out there.
What’s your goal with the Kickstarter campaign?
The Kickstarter is going to help us take the outerwear items to market sooner. The goal is to get them out by this summer, but if we surpass our goal, we could potentially get it out in the spring. Making the goal could help us size up the order, and be able to offer a wider range of sizes. At that point, we’ll be selling the goods on via our e-commerce site, but we’re open to wholesaling, if the opportunity presents itself.
Give me your elevator speech—why should people support your Kickstarter campaign? In addition to the great pledge gifts [ranging from a women’s reversible bamboo top for $65 to a curated week-long trip to anywhere in the world, including Anywhere gear, for $10,000], of course.
The main point that I always want to make with people is this idea of cultural versatility. It’s really hard to find brands out there that are speaking to the need to change to different locales. I think we’ve tapped into something unique. Versatility is so important to people, especially when they’re investing in premium pieces. We want to create pieces that last a long time, and you can go back to on your next trip and wear in your everyday life.
To find out more about Anywhere Apparel or contribute to the Kickstarter campaign—and get first dibs on a convertible jacket or bamboo top—visit kickstarter.com.
Anywhere Apparel’s Women’s Reversible Coat, Chic City Side
Anywhere Apparel’s Women’s Reversible Coat Back Tablet Pocket
Anywhere Apparel’s Men’s Convertible Jacket
Anywhere Apparel’s Women’s Reversible Bamboo Top, City Side
Anywhere Apparel’s Women’s Reversible Bamboo Top, Rugged Side
Anywhere Apparel’s Men’s Bonded Pocket Unstinkable Bamboo Tee