- Buyer's Guide
Interview w/Chris Graham
James asks Chris about designing away from home
Here is our third question time focusing on carry designers based in the Far East. Working with Asian suppliers is a reality for many of us carry folk, and I am a huge believer in the experience and knowledge that can be gained from jumping overseas and living with those people you work with.
An amazing example of this spirit is Chris Graham. A genuine English adventurer who dove into Vietnam 5 years ago and has managed to do more on his motorbike or feet than many could achieve in a lifetime. Lets see what his thoughts are on making the jump…
What led to you moving to your current location and how long have you lived there for?
Prior to working at Osprey I worked for a number of years for Lowe Alpine. I was based in the UK but was making regular development trips to Vietnam, China and Korea. When an opportunity arose to work for Osprey in Vietnam, reduce the travel and hotel time, and work in the heart of the industry, I jumped at it! I’ve been living here in Saigon for the past 5 years.
Three things you’ve noticed/learned about living abroad?
The pace of change in Asia has been a real eye-opener for me, as there’s a real hunger for knowledge, change and improvement that seems to continually drive things to be built, moved or sold. The energy is quite enveloping and you get a real sense that almost anything is possible.
The people of Vietnam have enhanced my stay here probably more than anything. They are incredibly friendly, kind and fun-loving and make for an extremely welcoming place to move to. It seems easy to think that your home country is the centre of all that is going on in the world, but living abroad soon teaches you there’s a lot more going on!
What is the biggest opportunity with being abroad?
In the textile industry (and being based close to manufacturing in particular), the single biggest opportunity is pace of change. We are within an hour of all of our suppliers and work directly both with the sewing factories and the raw material suppliers with a team of local staff. This gives us both superfast turnaround and eliminates a lot of the communication breakdown that occurs when working from afar.
What is the biggest challenge with being abroad?
I’m a keen outdoor enthusiast and used to regularly trail / fell run, mountain bike and generally get out in the mountains. Saigon is a tough place to follow these pursuits, being an eight million population city and at least four hours of chaotic traffic from the nearest beach or mountain. Some careful planning and some bus time soon resolve this though!
How has living abroad working for Osprey helped in expanding your knowledge within the carry industry?
Moving to Vietnam and working with a local team amongst our suppliers has immersed me in the manufacturing and creative side of the industry. It’s taught me a great deal about how products are made and how to get them to market. During the time here, we have expanded into multiple new categories including hydration packs, lightweight travel, skiing and child carriers, so these have each created great opportunities to learn new markets and consumer demands.
3 major insights you’ve gained from working at Osprey
Make it simpler, lighter and better!
When you travel, either home or further abroad for work trips, what’s your typical Carry setup?
When I travel for work I normally bring several dozen samples of new product so this tends to dictate the rest of my packing. I like to use a checked-in wheeled pack (Sojourn 80) for my clothes and carry on a courier (Flap Jack Pack) for my laptop and other odds and ends.
If I’m travelling for pleasure then I try and pack light and use a Talon 22 or 33 which are great lightweight packs that suit both travel and adventure at the destination. These are small enough that they can be carried onto a bus or plane for a quick exit at the other end!
Note: The Question time series has been run by James Jeffrey, who himself has and does live abroad to design carry gear. A big thanks to him for running the series (with more to come!).