There’s a famous quote that says: find the intersection where your genius meets the world’s need, and work there.
The design floor at Arc’teryx is a 3D rendition of that intersection – a real life engineering lab full of coming and going, stitching and sampling – of needs being met, and genius being flexed.
Meet three people who keep the zone in flow, who remind us that the power-move that shifts things from hopeless to resolved, from failure to innovation, from overwhelmed to resilient, is to pull focus tight into that sweet spot of overlap, the crossroads of what you love and what the world needs, and to reframe the conversation-ending question of “what’s the point?”, to the game-changing opener: “What’s the purpose?”
Brylee Gingras, Senior Designer for Snow Sports
While she was ski racing through high school, Fernie-raised Brylee Gingras sewed her own lycra speed suit. That’s when it occurred to her that design school might be a path that had the potential for her to combine two passions. “I could do both the things I liked, and each could influence the other.” Her final project in design school was to create a women’s slack-country ski wear collection. Soon after, she was working at Arc’teryx. Eight years later, having designed for snow, climb and bike, she’s heading up the Snow Sports design team, where she recently designed the Rush Jacket and the Alpha SV Parka.
“Skiing all winter,” says for the former coach, “and testing the gear out myself feels important to me. When you connect with the environment, the sport, the lingo, the community, it’s so much easier to be passionate about bettering the product. And a huge part of my inspiration comes from our athletes. Hearing what they’re thinking and doing, taking trips with them, skiing with them, or watching their films totally revitalizes me.” When the Arc’teryx office shifted to remote operations during COVID-19, Gingras would connect virtually with the athletes to hear what they were doing and tap into the pure source energy they’re always streaming. Snow sports, as a design space, has a lot of personality – “there’s a lot of room to play with colour and silhouettes and blend simplicity, technicality and style.” Through COVID-19, working remotely from a west coast surf town, Gingras could be spied clearing her creative mind from a wetsuit, swimming in west coast lakes with her dog paddling by her side. It was a good refresh, and she’s ready to get back to the mountains.
“I get satisfaction from wearing things I’ve designed,” she says. “But I get more satisfaction seeing other people wear them, especially our athletes, especially watching them winning awards wearing the gear we’ve designed. Adopting preferred materials is now one of the first things we think about. We have a lot of freedom to problem solve to meet what the athletes need. But we also have big goals to meet in sustainability that really focuses our problem solving. Sustainability is on all our minds right now.”
Greg Grenzke, Director of Advanced Concepts, Proof of Concept
His first industrial design internship was the only time he’s ever been trapped in a cubicle, and the only time he ever fell asleep on the job. Designing lighting sconces and chandeliers did not light Greg Grenzke up. “Your passion and your work coming together is really important for a lot of people at Arc’teryx.” An athlete and outdoors lover whose gear quiver slash garage has to accommodate a love of surfing, stand-up-paddleboarding, kayaking, biking, climbing, running, backcountry skiing, Nordic skiing, and new fatherhood (add backpacks and Chariot to the mix), Grenzke now leads the Advanced Concepts team at Arc’teryx. He’s dreaming up how to design gear for a range of outdoor environments, in ways that sustain the Environment we depend on.
Grenzke has always been interested in sustainability, gravitating wherever he’s worked onto whichever committee or working group was considering the green side of things, so to be formally tasked with designing for longevity, not just of product, but of planet, is right up his alley. “Now I have a little more freedom to research and work outside our walls, especially with “end of life”. In the past, brands have all been so competitive. If we want to get to net zero, we’re going to need to work together, and not just as companies, but with distributors, customers… It’s really going to be a collective effort. As an industry. As a community. It’s not us against them. We’re going to need to be vulnerable and transparent, the more we learn.” Nothing like a new baby to put a different perspective on your priorities. “There’s so much to learn. We’re never going to be perfect. But restraints create more innovation.”
Emilie Pellerin, Athlete, Professional Climber, Field tester
Until COVID-19 forced her to stay in one place, (she chose Squamish, BC, part of the Arc’teryx backyard), Em Pellerin had been a climbing nomad for 13 years, dodging winter, living in a van, and sending routes as and when she felt it, (including La Zébrée, a 5.14a trad route, making her the first Canadian woman to do so), just for the joy of keeping on the move. Upwards. Upwards. Upwards.
She joined the Arc’teryx athlete team in 2018 after spontaneously sending The Shadow, a 5.13 overhanging dihedral on Squamish’s University Wall that had not been onsighted since Peter Croft did the first ascent in 1988. Attempts to climb it from the ground up on the first attempt had eluded many since, including Stanhope, Trotter, Honnold. She’d never seen it before, was intrigued, had a go. Then disappeared back to Quebec, where she was living at the time. “I think it was that I didn’t know the story. I had no expectations. I’m a first-go type kind of person. I’m not really precise. I’m not a big projector. I’m really good at fucking it up and finding a way to get to the top anyway, just somehow correcting mistakes on the go. I find my flow when I’m in that moment of, ‘oh no, that’s not it, I’m not able to do it this way’, and then I go back down, and try to figure out, like a puzzle. And it’s a lot about breathing, staying calm, and being able to focus just on your very next goal, like getting to that hold that’s two metres away.”
Given her ability to flex into complete splits and hang on climbs upside down with ease, Emilie has always sought to climb in clothes that aren’t restrictive, and allow her to move freely. She now provides a direct line of feedback to the Arc’teryx design team, field-testing new designs. Prototypes arrive, sometimes as puzzle pieces in progress – one half in one fabric, the other half in a different fabric, to make accurate comparisons. And knowing that success is about moving from one move to the next, putting the pieces together, she’s the perfect partner to help develop gear that’s designed to help people move.