South Korean outdoor adventure equipment brand Helinox create some of the strongest and ultralight gear on the market. However, it’s not all about exploring territories unknown. The brand’s TERG line of bags and pouches merge casual-chic and streetstyle, pushing both aesthetics and functionality forward and injecting freshness into the carry world. We caught up with Helinox Director Young Lah to chat design insights, the creative process and future plans…
Can you tell us a little about Helinox and where TERG fits in?
Helinox is created by DAC, which is a well known tent pole manufacturer in the outdoor industry. DAC is known as its product, but there is this unique culture behind it. The DAC team has been challenging the limit of aluminum material and tent pole structure for the last 25 years. Ironically as a tent pole manufacturer, the DAC team tried to use less and lighter poles to create stronger tent structures. They kept pushing more and more for stronger, more durable and still lighter tent frames and ended up widely recognized as the best tent pole maker in the world. Helinox is another extension of this culture. Making more durable and stronger, more efficient and still easy-to-use products is at the core of Helinox culture. We are not afraid of testing all the available materials out there and sometimes even create our own mixture. TERG, short for “Trial and Error Research Group” is a part of Helinox that mainly researches “cutting and sawing”. We brought know-how and tech that we learned from the outdoor industry to everyday life.
What key insights drive your stuff?
As part of a young generation born, raised and living in a big city, I gained knowledge of so many different fields. Art, music, fashion, design and of course outdoor and some military. As frequent travelers we learn a lot from each country’s special materials like fabric, leather and so many other parts. From Italian leather to US leather, from Okayama selvage denim to Indian organic cotton canvas and almost infinite numbers of so many kinds of Nylon, Polyester fabric and a mixture of chemical and natural fabrics are our passion. Moreover, there are so many vintage goods that age from decades to centuries that we get inspiration from. And of course we cannot miss new creations of leading designers in the fashion and design industry. I cannot choose only a few key insights but if I condense everything, then I’d say “The 21st century’s city life is my key insight.”
Who else is doing great things in the world of carry and why do you think they’re important?
I and all of my team are big fans of Dana Gleason. Already a few decades ago, when he was making packs under the brand name of Kletterwerks and Dana Design, his achievement was significant. His recent work with Mystery Ranch is what we believe to be the most advanced and practical gear that enables people to carry a lot more and a lot further. We are always excited to see their new creations and also it’s exciting to see his sons D3 and Paul’s work.
Are there any things other brands do that you think are great or could be improved?
I like SEEING bags from fashion brands. Prada, LV, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, and Stone Island, rag & bone, A.P.C…. However, I would refuse to carry them with some load in them. They look so nice, but are quite uncomfortable and unpractical. Moreover, sometimes they are so vulnerable and I’m not surprised to see them with a ripped out shoulder strap.
What single product are you most proud of and why?
The “Daypack”. It took me 2 years to finally manufacture this pack. It took so long because we were not thinking about making a pack as one of our products. However, as a frequent flyer, big pack lover and a heavy user, I NEEDED to make a pack with all the features I wanted. Firstly, I wanted a good-looking and uniquely-designed pack. And at the same time, it needed to have many pockets so I can store things separately. I like thick Cordura and leather, so I needed them as materials. It has to have an easy and quick access even when I’m walking in front of an immigration counter at an airport arrival hall. It needs to have another pocket that I can store documents in without them being folded and crushed. It needs to have a very comfortable fit on my shoulder as well as my back.
Little by little I revised samples and finalized the product at about the 15th trial. Frankly, I stopped counting revisions at about the 10th sample I was carrying, but there were 4 significant changes from the first sample for sure. That’s why the product says “4th trial, 1st cornerstone”.
What’s next for you guys?
We’ll keep making trials. 9 out of 10 trials are errors. But we find 1 is something we can share with customers. We number them as a cornerstone. We’ll keep trying our best not to share an error with our customers.
What do you personally carry daily and why?
My Daypack for sure. I fly at least once in every two weeks. So I carry my own flying kit all the time – my passport, earphones with Tumi coin case, sunglasses with a leather case, a small notebook with The Superior Labor leather cover, name cards with a titanium name card case that I bought from Japan, a pen, some emergency medicines. Also two pouches – one with electronic supplies and the other with multiple currency cash.