Founder Brad Hodgson talks to Lizzi Philokyprou about the triumphs and challenges of creating a british-based brand during a global pandemic.
Founded in the summer of 2020, and in the midst of the nation’s first Covid 19 lockdown, Gorge-Walk sets itself apart by pioneering a new approach to outdoor clothing. Taking inspiration from the past to create timeless pieces for a sustainable future, Gorge-Walk produces clothing for the ethically-conscious consumer with a taste for adventure.
There is a growing need amongst consumers for ethically produced, long lasting products, a demand which Gorge-Walk has been created to meet. A global pandemic won’t strike many as the ideal time in which to launch a business, but for founder Brad Hodgson, the lull created by the ‘new normal’ provided the perfect conditions for him to take the plunge. He discusses how the pandemic created an opportunity for entrepreneurs like himself to put long-standing ambitions into action, explaining how “during the pandemic, people were looking for something different. In some ways, smaller businesses were supported, because of the demand for unique and interesting products.”
This is not to say that the start-up process was plain-sailing; Brad notes how, because of the Covid-19 crisis, he faced delays in production, and initially struggled to find manufacturers to bring to life his concepts. An additional focus was ensuring that the clothes made were both ethically sourced and durable, a two-fold challenge which led to Gorge-Walk products being made in the UK in a Scunthorpe-based factory in. Brad notes the numerous advantages to British based manufacturing, which allow the brand to align its practices with its ethical principles. He notes how “it’s quicker to produce clothing here in the UK, because you don’t have to wait for the items to be shipped. This cuts transportation costs (and clothing miles) significantly, reducing the carbon footprint of products and allowing for a business model whereby clothes can be made only when customer orders are placed, a system called ‘drop shipping’.”
In contrast to fast-fashion business models, whereby clothes are made in great excess, and discarded into landfill when demand for them ceases, this method ensures that every item which is made by the brand gets sold, reducing both profit loss and product wastage. For Gorge-Walk, the profits saved by this efficient business model are put towards ensuring that the clothing is made from 100% cotton, and that the supply chain guarantees good quality production, and a living wage for employees. “Although it costs more to source our t-shirts in the UK, the clothing produced is higher quality than abroad and makes it easier to ensure that employees in the factory are paid a proper wage” explains Brad. Gorge-Walk’s use of drop shipping techniques, whilst sourcing their products from UK manufacturers, allows the business to be both efficient, and environmentally conscious, by reducing the brands carbon footprint, a key principle of ‘green drop shipping’.
Gorge-Walk’s overarching ethos focuses on high quality and long lasting clothing, and looks to tackle the plethora of poorly made, disposable products pioneered by a number of reputable brands. Brad notes how competitor outdoor clothing brands, despite their prestigious names, do not create clothing on par with their reputation, in terms of both quality and fit. “So much of outdoor based clothing, touted as ‘long-lasting’ and ‘weather durable’ withers away within months” notes Brad. “Gorge-Walk is trying to move away from that- we want to create clothing which you buy once, and that’s all you’ll have to do!”. The brand aspires to break the fast fashion cycle whereby consumers buy cheap clothing, and then quickly are forced to replace them when they inevitably break or wear out within a few months, or even weeks. Brad tells me that “the clothes we create are designed to be long lasting, to the point that they will become vintage/retro pieces- worn for life.” To achieve this, he focuses on creating simple, timeless pieces which are as aesthetic as they are functional.
The initial clothing drop, launched in November 2020 consisted of a succinct set of ‘Founders Tee’s’; a classic, unisex cut, featuring a reinforced neckline in heavy-duty cotton, encapsulating perfectly the brand’s fusion of outdoor function with streetwear style. Speaking on the design process, Brad explains how he takes inspiration from vintage and retro clothing of bygone eras, when dapper styling was norm in both everyday and outdoor clothing. Based in outdoor-wear, and created ‘for the adventurer’, climbing pioneers such as Edmund Hillary (part of the first team to successfully climb Everest in May 1953) are taken as the style inspiration for the brand, as it looks to encapsulate timeless style, effortless function, and long lasting quality into its pieces.
This summer, Gorge-Walk looks to take further leaps into business, with plans in place to develop an Autumn/Winter 2021 range which will include a jackets, gloves and snood set, creating an ‘ecosystem’ of pieces designed to fit together seamlessly. Speaking on the future of the brand, Brad explains how “the aim is not to necessarily make a massive amount of profit, but to run the business as efficiently as possible and to create high quality clothing which people can order all year round”. Reflecting on his experiences so far, he notes how “starting Gorge-Walk has taught me that building a clothing business is not as inaccessible as I once thought- as long as you have the conviction and confidence within your idea to take the plunge, you can make it happen.”
About the Author: Lizzi Philokyprou is Deputy Lifestyle Editor for WILD.