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Industry

Struktur Event (Portland, OR) Recap

by , June 3, 2014

When we learned about Struktur Event (May 1-2, 2014) in Portland, OR, we knew we had to get involved. As carry geeks (and full-time bag designers), we simply wanted to attend “the first creative conference for the active outdoor industry” so we could soak up the information from the dream team lineup of speakers who would be there.  

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Little did we know that we would not only be attending as “media”, to cover the event for Carryology, but that we would end up partnering the event, we’d have Carryology’s Brown Buffalo (Douglas Davidson) talking on a panel at the conference, as well as having the opportunity to giveaway a free pass to a lucky Carryology reader.  

John Canfield (from Seattle, WA) and myself (from Austin, TX) booked our flights and packed our bags for our respective journies to The City of Roses (AKA Stumptown, Bridgetown, Rip City, Beervana, or PDX).

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To be brutally honest, we didn’t know what to expect.  It was the very first Struktur Event ever held, which they are planning to make an annual occurrence. We weren’t sure if there would only be a few attendees or if it would be a packed house. We pretty much only knew what the website told us.  Either way, we knew it would be great and informative at the very least.

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“Eat your own dog food.”

When we arrived (early) at the venue, the Ecotrust building in Portland’s Pearl District, we were greeted by the event founders Michelle Rose and her husband Sam Ward, both exceedingly friendly and welcoming. We dropped off our Carryology swag items to add to the attendee grab bags, found some seats, and sipped chugged some Stumptown Coffee to shake off the mental cobwebs from our travels.

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“Outdoor gear is now inspiring the runway fashion world heavily.  This can not be ignored.”

The room began to fill with outdoor gear designers from all over North America and beyond. Some faces we recognized and some new folks we were excited to meet. Everyone was ridiculously friendly. This is a very tight knit world, and during this moment, we were in the exact center of the beating heart of it. We were extremely humbled by how many folks knew of Carryology and told us that they read our site daily with their coffee. We were blushing.  Didn’t expect that. Carryology even picked up a new contributor… or two. After we shook hands and talked (nerded out) for a bit, the room was filled up with 150+ bodies and it was time to get started.

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Solution based design thinking: “People don’t want drill bits… they want holes. And maybe they don’t even want holes… maybe all they really want is to hang pictures on their walls.”

Struktur Event kicked off with a welcome introduction from Michelle and Sam, followed by quality speaker after speaker. The speakers ranged from outdoor gear designers, brand founders, design directors, creative directors, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, brand anthropologists, softgoods factory owners, crowdsource funding gurus, fashion designers, radio producers, published authors, and more.

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Progressive Reduction: “How do we make it less?”

So many brands were represented (either as speakers or attendees). Think of every outdoor gear brand you know of… then add 42 you’re not aware of… then add another 17 more. Then you’ll have a number which represents about half of the brands represented! The diversity of disciplines is what really made Struktur shine. Perhaps we were a bit surprised by this, thinking it would be gear designer after gear designer, talking about how great gear designers are and how awesome designing gear is.

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“Maybe the best jacket isn’t even a jacket at all?”

Some of John and I’s favorite topics were delivered from Abe Burmeister (Outlier), Matthew and Tanya (Maker’s Row) with Sara (Spooltown), Benji Wagner (Poler Outdoor Stuff), Mark Galbraith (Nau) and Robert Fry (Mountain Hardwear), among several others. The knowledge and experience within the walls of this conference room was explosive.

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“Embracing Failure vs. Fearing Failure.”

These individuals have been down the roads of failure after failure, which ultimately has led to their massive successes (which was one of the topics covered, actually) . And they openly shared it all with every attendee. You can’t get this kind of quality and direct information without having painstakingly gone through it yourself… unless you attend the Struktur Event.

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We were clapping out loud when one of the very first speakers brought up how terrible airmesh is when used on backpack shoulder straps. We’ve been talking about this since 2010!

Though it wouldn’t be fair to cover each topic in detail here (you’ll have to attend next year for that!), we can say that our minds were filled to the brim with new information and ideas and that our industry contact lists got quite a bit larger. Not to mention, new friendships made.

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“We were trying to introduce Lycra into basketball, but it just wouldn’t catch on.  While I was at NIKE, I worked directly with Michael Jordan himself and made him a custom fitted one-piece Lycra jumpsuit for him… it was a horrible failure.”

If you want to take a peak at some of the topics covered, you can take a browse at our Carryology Twitter, as we were live tweeting from the event (go back to May 1 & 2, 2014).  Struktur Event also has their own Twitter account that you can scroll through as well.

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“Extremely tiny changes in design can make huge impacts.”

Struktur Event wrapped up with a lights-off presentation from Roman Mars (of 99% Invisible radio program) on design and change. It was the perfect way to wrap up the 2nd day’s afternoon. Ultimately, Struktur Event was closed down exactly as it should be, with drinks and conversation on the roof patio of the Ecotrust building. People in the outdoor gear industry always enjoy a drink or three.

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We can’t wait to be involved and to attend next year. Calendars have been marked, days are being counted down. If you’re in the outdoor industry or are wanting to get into it, there is no better event to attend. See you next year for the 2nd annual Struktur Event!

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PS – we highly recommend you go check out the newly published book, “The Outsiders: New Outdoor Creativity” from Gestalten. I’ve just purchased one myself after having the chance to flip through one on display at Struktur. Many of the topics addressed at the conference are covered in this book. Plus, the authors of this book helped sponsor the event. A great read if you’re a gear nerd… and if you’re still reading this, then you officially are.

Thank you again Michelle and Sam!

 

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