I’ve always wanted to be a designer despite only finding out what that was while already in art school. Before then I’d only heard of Oscar de la Renta because he was Dominican.
In elementary school I once found a fake gemstone and then wanted to design jewelry. In middle school I would design Kobe’s next adidas sneakers, the Xbox 2, the next Mac, Game Boy. Back when I was building robots in high school I was interested in designing the control panels.
I ended up graduating from Parsons thinking I had to stick with the last things I was interested in designing, furniture. My dream has always been to design most of the things I own but just didn't know where to start. I just needed to find something I was passionate about designing rather than objects I like designing.Could you describe the evolution from making bags for yourself, your wife, your friends to now being the founder of allmansright?
Love for Nature, adventure, and creativity were things instilled in me at a young age. When I got reconnected with nature and the sense of adventure through outdoor recreation, the love triangle that is allmansright was inevitable. I started obsessively researching and learning how to sew. I made gear for myself, friends, and family until I went on a 2-week solo trip to Colorado with mostly self-made gear. This was just a year and half since learning about backpacking for the first time. I knew I wanted to design gear for others after that trip. I believed there was something I could contribute to the scene. I met AMR’s first customer on that trip as well, he kept his word about 6 months later when I founded AMR.What is it about bags and UL bags, in particular, that speaks to you?
I got really into gear in my late teens. I had a trip to Antarctica coming up so my sponsor took me to paragon sports and let the salesperson have her way. I walked out of there with the coolest stuff and a new obsession with outdoor wear and packs in particular. I was carrying mountain hardware when all you saw at school was TNF packs.
UL gear came after I started backpacking. I liked the challenges of designing functional gear that is minimal. It is more comfortable to carry less, of course, and I really enjoy the idea of carrying as little as possible so that you are forced to understand and connect with nature.
Photo: Luis Maturana
Are there guiding principles to your designs?
Design for the experience not the task. What is the experience like of holding, smelling, seeing, performing a task with an object, etc.
Design as responsibly as possible. Not in any order.What’s a feature on one of your designs that untrained eyes might overlook?
There are 2 on one design I want to mention. One talks about our devotion to designing an experience and the other to designing as responsibly as possible.
- Our pack has a large front pocket in black mesh. The fabric panel behind the mesh pocket is also black to visually eliminate that unattractive “u” shape that the opening of the pocket forms when the pocket is stuffed. You get to enjoy the same look regardless of how packed the pack is.
- I designed the pack so all of its elastic components are replaceable. Elastics wear out, it's the nature of the material. We did not want to create a pack whose pockets are rendered useless by stretched-out elastic openings. We want to create products people love and keep.
I spent my youth in and out of the Dominican countryside. There, I would spend most of my time in nature doing all sorts of things for fun and survival. Outside of the DR was just NYC for me. I grew up with a single mom, poor, no car, and language barrier. I was forced to live in inner cities with little connection to the natural world.
In my late teens I got a chance to connect with again. I won a sort of scholarship that allowed me to hike in Tierra del Fuego, experience the wrath of Cape Horn, climb a mountain in Antarctica and almost get attacked by an elephant seal. There I learned about mankind’s impact on the planet and global warming.
I truly learned what a trail blaze was 11 years later, age 28 then, when my buddy told me about hiking and backpacking. Since I've been trying to build a lasting relationship with the natural world and now I'm passing it on to my kid.
Photo: Luis Maturana
So often, when we talk about urban spaces, we talk about them in contrast with “natural spaces” and sometimes, “the outdoors.” How do you understand that contrast?
I only experienced that stark of a contrast living in the US. I think I’ve only seen “No Trespassing” signs on open land properties in the US. As a kid I’d roam for hours through privately owned property with only an occasional chasing from a groundskeeper. Life just seemed freer for those seeking time outside.What inspired the name “allmansright”?
The name’s inspired by the Swedish law “Allemansratt” which open up privately owned lands, lakes, rivers, etc. for the public to recreate in. You can't be prosecuted for taking a stroll through someone’s land or even camping in it. I thought that law was conducive to the kind of world I want to see. One with people more connected to nature and inspired to protect it.