- Buyer's Guide
Introducing: Afterschool Projects
Picture this: you and your buddy start Chrome Industries in the mid-1990s and sell it after a successful and lengthy run. Over a decade in, you hire the guy living in the apartment above the shipping warehouse. After selling Chrome, you start Mission Workshop, named after the Mission District in San Francisco. Lyle, the guy you hired before? He now heads up your European operations, warehousing, and marketing. Fast-forward 10 years to 2019 and you meet a Spanish designer who designed bags for the likes of Loewe and Coach. The three of you decide to launch a brand unlike anything you’ve done before; not just focused on gritty messengers, or bombproof technical fabrics and packs, nor high-fashion.
This is a true story of how Chrome and Mission Workshop founder Mark Falvai teamed up Lyle Barton and Cesar Villalba to start one of the freshest lifestyle brands in recent memory. Afterschool Projects (ASP) is based in Los Angeles. It’s influenced by the diversity of Southern California’s cities, beaches, and mountains. Their name is a nod to the notion that all the fun happens after school. One look at their website and their product line and there’s no confusing it for any of the previous brands the trio worked on.
The trio chose to start the brand in Los Angeles not only because it allowed them to find inspiration in their backyard, but also it gave them access to a variety of dye houses and manufacturing partners. LA’s Garment District spans 100 blocks wide and includes more than 4,000 independently owned and operated retail and wholesale businesses.
The design philosophy of the brand is refreshingly simple. They build clothing and packs they want to use, and with the best materials and manufacturing partners they can find. With such a small team, all hands are on deck in running the brand. Lyle and Cesar are neighbors and often have design jam sessions in their front yard. Mark sews the samples in his barn in Malibu. Can you imagine a more hands-on founder, still sewing 30 years later?
Their first collection includes three bag designs that show both experimentation and restraint. The common thread between the bags is the whole collection is made in the USA, comes in three colorways (white, black, and camo), and is made from VX. In general, this advanced fabric often features in technical or niche bag companies. Or only as part of a capsule collection or limited release. Given the laid-back vibes of ASP, you would not expect to see this used. But let’s not forget the pedigree of the founders – coming from Chrome and Mission Workshop and with a background in competitive sports.
The largest pack is the ASP Rucksack. It holds 18L which feels like the sweet spot for an EDC bookbag. It has an internal padded laptop sleeve (up to 16″), two external mesh water bottle pockets, a front cargo pocket, and external compression straps. Due to the material choice, the whole thing is very lightweight and highly water-resistant.
Some say 2020 was the year of the sling and you’d be hard-pressed to find a brand launching without one. The ASP Simple Hip Pack is a simple affair. It’s a Made in the USA VX bag that’s as comfortable around your waist as it is worn cross-body. A mesh pocket subdivides the single main compartment. Wings on both ends provide a little more stability and comfort.
Lastly, the Sacoche is Afterschool Projects’ take on the ever-popular Japanese silhouette that is as practical as it is simple. It comes in two sizes – Grande measuring 10″ x 6.5″ and standard coming in at 7″ x 6″. Think of it as the “extra pocket you always wish you had.”
One thing that stands out immediately is the juxtaposition of the component choices on the bags. For example, beefy waterproof zippers, Dimension Polyant fabrics, and thick paracord zipper pulls, but plastic hardware in some places. However, ASP explains that their philosophy is to always design things they want to use and wear and to solve issues that they perceive to be problems. In other words, ASP will focus on areas they think are most important – in this case, waterproofness and weight.
Their practical approach extends to their clothing line as well. For example, the ASP team found an American mill producing some impeccable cotton. So they used it to make their hoodies and crews. Similarly, they found a great partner in Los Angeles making 4-ply swim trunks so now ASP has them on offer. Afterschool Projects has introduced a nice wardrobe collection including: t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, utility pants and shorts, and the aforementioned swim trunks.
The initial clothing collection might seem a little casual (pastels, color blocking, tie-dye). But it’s actually a reflection of the work-from-home vibes that many have experienced this past year. However, never one to be pigeon-holed, the team from ASP is teasing some really exciting upcoming developments. These include more technical fabrics for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter in their clothing. Plus experiments with Dyneema and a collaboration featuring an interesting “twist” on a fabric not seen before in their carry line.
Afterschool Projects have demonstrated extreme flexibility in their designs and material choices and a willingness to produce the best quality goods, unfettered by material, manufacturing, or image perceptions. With a strong launch collection and the promise of interesting designs and partnerships to come, they’re a brand to watch.