Dissolving Barriers and Connecting with the Earth and Each Other with Brandon Scott Herrell and Rob Darmour of Earth\Studies®

We've been a fan of Earth\Studies® since they first appeared on our radar, so we couldn't be more stoked to launch their SS24 collection before general release at our Brooklyn shop on Saturday, March 30th. Their branding and their pieces always strike this perfect difficult balance of technical and crunchy, familiar and futuristic. In our interview with Rob Darmour and Brandon Scott Herrell of Earth\Studies®, we get into how their collections are just one product of a larger worldview about how we connect with each other and the Earth.

There is a distinct Pacific-Northwest quality to Earth\Studies®. In what ways is Earth\Studies® a product of the PNW?

    BSH: We both grew up here, I in Washington and Rob in Portland. Camping, hiking, sailing, cooking outside, even foraging - These are the things you do growing up here. It’s not novel at all to identify a mushroom in the woods and then cook it for dinner.

    RD: Landscape and seasons have a significant influence on life out here. Famously, there's every kind of outdoor activity you can think of and clothing has been a reflection of this active culture.  What I found interesting was to think about the day-to-day living that happens in these same conditions. The quieter moments like going for a coffee, picking up groceries or just having a walk in the neighborhood. I wanted to approach clothing design with the same care for function and utility you would see for an activity like hiking but made for living in the city.

    This is where the concept originally came from. A realization that all these moments are part of life, not something separate

    The human relationship with time seems foregrounded in many Earth\Studies® projects: prioritizing the use of handspun yarns and handwoven fabrics, making slow coffee, serving wine made without the use of electricity. What are Earth\Studies®’ values as they relate to time?

      BSH: Part of our emphasis on time- and attention-intensive processes is about recapturing our sense of presence. We are decidedly pro-friction in a culture that increasingly feels dominated by the tech- and business-driven obsession with sanding all the humanity off of society. What are we trying to ‘save time’ for anyway?

      RD: Human is a good way to put it. One way that we mark time is through learning. I am inspired by the way people develop a particular skill or talent toward mastery. The craftsmanship that comes from that pursuit is ever changing and reflects a moment in time for the human being that made it. 

      Something made with minor imperfections reveals the journey of a maker. They become a unique quality that reflects this human scale of time into a creation. That process is slower than pure mechanization.

      There is a sentiment on your site that the outdoors “isn’t a separate place from wherever our lives are happening every day.” What does it mean to eliminate that distinction between “the outdoors” and the rest of our lives?

        BSH: It is part of dissolving the false and destructive dichotomy between human beings and what we call ‘nature’. Conducting our society from that sense of division has brought us to this moment - Where the Earth is on her knees, and we her children are losing track of who we are/what we are here to do. We don’t suddenly enter “nature” when we get on a trail. Our houses are made of wood and rocks. Our clothes are made of plants, hair, and oil. Microchips are made of sand. Everything is nature.

        RD: Carl Sagan invited people to see earth through the lens of a distant alien observer. From that vantage point, everything we humans are doing on earth is an “outdoor thing.” Maybe it's inside a shelter, maybe not, but all of it is surrounded in vast landscapes. The distinction seems to break down when thought of from this perspective.  

        If there isn’t a distinction, then perhaps we can see a more complete view of our humanity; our connection between ourselves, the planet and each other.

        While the gorpcore trend has been defined by incorporating technical (often synthetic) clothing into casual wear, Earth\Studies® seems to have a different take on incorporating “good old raisins and peanuts” into its garments. Could you speak to Earth\Studies®’ views on natural and synthetic elements in technical outdoor garments?

          BSH: We want to make nylon pants for when we need nylon pants. They’re coming out in June. But we don’t need nylon pants for most of what we actually do every day. Humans have developed textile technologies for almost 40,000 years - Probably longer. We respect that our ancestors had beautiful and effective solutions when they created canvas and jacquard, just as our contemporaries did when developing synthetic fleece and shell fabrics.

          RD: Every material serves its purpose. Synthetic materials are lightweight, fast drying, and weather protective in ways that most natural materials can’t achieve.  Natural materials are generally more comfortable for day to day scenarios and non-outerwear applications. 

          The way these materials can work together is interesting to me. Earth\Studies® is about combining articles made from either natural or synthetic fibers in order to achieve the most optimal kit for the intended use case.

          With your new collection, you are using indigo for the first time. Could you describe the challenges and importance of bringing indigo into the Earth\Studies® color palette? 

            BSH: We draw color and texture references from the landscape. Primarily the Columbia Valley in Oregon. So far, we had not addressed the river itself, which has infinite gradations of blue and green through the seasons, and moment to moment. Indigo is unstable, inconsistent, and messy. Embracing those qualities has made us more flexible, and drawn us into clearer relationship with our producers. 

            RD: For a long time color was limited to tones inspired by arid landscapes. So, lots of earth tones.  I was spending a lot of time in the Sonoran desert and was inspired by the subtlety (and variety) of rock colors in washes, ridge lines and eroded trail sides. This experience shaped color for our early collections; earth inspired color.

            Indigo is color from the earth itself. In this way it's an evolution on this “earth tones” concept. We’re able to use natural occurring dyes to create the color in this release. 

            It is also a reflection of the unique craftsmanship developed in India. These techniques have long traditions that pre-date the industrial revolution. It's been very exciting to combine these traditional techniques with the technical and utility details of Earth\Studies® articles. This combination of natural and synthetic elements is conducive for irregularity. This uniqueness is a contrast to the seemingly flawless nature of so many consumer products these days.

            Also, indigo blue is complex and beautiful. This is something exciting to bring to Earth\Studies® articles.

            Many consumers assume that a product - especially, an outdoor product - is the end result of experimentation and testing. Is the Earth\Studies® approach to experimentation different from that? How so?

              BSH: While the close examination and measurement of data in material science is useful and in fact integral to much of our world, we are also testing against emotional and other immaterial qualities in our Experiments. We want to express ourselves, connect with other humans, and ground ourselves as co-creators in the biosphere. We know how it feels when we get it right, and those feelings are what we try to clarify and reveal with each Experiment. 

              RD: It's a little different in that many of our articles are designed for their utility in everyday life. This differs from the robust testing that one may see for a garment intended for arctic exploration as an example.  The technology requirements are different and the testing parameters reflect this.

              We use an experimental approach, which is focused on iteration. It's similar to an artist's approach to their work. It's about expression as much as it is about function. Combining handcrafted textiles with technical snaps and YKK zippers is as much about the technical details as it is about framing the humanistic feeling of the fabric. 

              It's about open-ended learning. Each ‘Experiment’ is released with the idea that we will learn some new insight for the next project. In ‘Experiment_06’ we learned about incorporating Polartec fleece so that in our collaboration with Camp Yoshi, we could expand on this with multiple colors and weights. 

              You’ve compared the relationship between the body, clothing, and environment to the relationship between the earth, its magnetic field, and outer space. Could you describe how you understand the role of clothing in that system? To ask another way, is there something a garment needs to achieve in order to become an Earth\Studies® garment?

                BSH: While a lot of outdoor apparel is developed around the concepts of protection, barriers, resistance, etc. - We work primarily with materials that facilitate exchange between wearer and environment. When we’re at camp, on a trail, in the garden - We want to be as mentally and emotionally receptive to those experiences as possible. Wearing things that transmit moisture toward the body, things that pick up dirt - These can be means of grounding the heart and mind in those moments.

                RD: ‘Clothing as threshold.’ Earth\Studies® pieces are intended to be something that you can sense the planet through, rather than a barrier protecting you from the environment. The articles are meant to be futuristic working uniform. Something that can get dirty, store tools and foraged items. Something you can wear to lay in the grass and still feel the cool humidity of a spring evening. In this way clothing can be the bridge connecting our bodies with atmosphere and landscape.

                With experimentation and adaptation being such vital parts of this project, could you shed some light on what we have to look forward to from Earth\Studies®?

                  BSH: P*article (Performance Articles) releases in June, which is a small capsule of wind and water resistant styles, sweat wicking base layers, and other things for higher intensity activities in inclement weather. This Spring, we’ll be busy traveling to meet new friends in Los Angeles and around Oregon and Washington at popups and Earth\Studies®_Cafe events. We’re working on some strange, non-apparel related art projects as well which are not ready for outside attention.

                  RD: More events that highlight human connection with nature through everyday experiences. Technical pieces intended for research in remote landscapes and unpredictable conditions.