When I met Laura last year, what first caught my eye about her was her sense of humor, I don’t know if I should call it English humor or something else, anyways, I love it. Then she told me she was designing for Westbeach, and as she will explain after, first thing that came to my mind was that hoodie I bought in Vancouver back in 2008 and I have been wearing almost every riding day since.
I always feel curious about the designing process of sports, and specially, snowboard clothing, so I’m happy I can share some questions I asked to Laura Bentley, who has been a designer in many areas for 8 years and for the last one has been Head of Design for Westbeach. In her words “designing snowboarding outerwear is the best.”
What’s so special about Weastbeach?
Westbeach has going since 1979, so for a snowboarding brand it’s got a really rich heritage. It’s been through a lot of changes over the years, but it’s has a special place in snowboarding culture, a lot of riders remember their first Westbeach jacket. This brand endures because of its connection with the sport, its belief in what it does, and I think by being just way too stubborn not to exist!
If you could do anything, what would you like to design?
Wow- this is quite a hard question for me to answer! How about a full Westbeach Chalet? I would design every thing in it, from your toothbrush, to the clothes in your walk in wardrobes and the full bar (obviously, there would be a bar). I love trying anything new, so, I guess I’ve copped out of this question a bit by designing everything!!
What makes you tick? Where do you gain your inspiration?
People inspire me. Since doing this job, I have met so many amazing people who work in the snowboarding industry. It’s really important for me to design with them in mind, I love that people will always tell me about their favorite hoody that they bought years ago, or the pants that they wore for a full season despite the fact that they were ripped to shreds. People have such an emotional attachment to clothing, whether you realize it or not, it can really be an important part of the snowboarding experience.
The great thing about this industry is everyone is buying the product because they love it, they’re excited to get up the mountain and try it out, and you’re a part of that experience for them. I find that infinitely cool!
What’s your main focus when you design the outerwear: technical aspects, look and style, comfort…?
I start with the look and style in mind of what we want, and then add in the functional elements we need the garment to have (powder skirts / goggle pockets / fully adjustable hoods and cuffs etc), then we start sourcing fabrics. Our fabric development is a really important part of the process, as we always have 10k waterproofing and 10k breathability as a minimum performance standard.
Then we start sampling- we always get our friends, & team riders to give them a road test, and give us any feedback. If they don’t make the grade for technical or comfort reasons, then we either fix it or go back to the drawing board. It can’t just look good but feel wrong- no way!
Everyone who has been into boardsports for a while knows Westbeach from back in the day when it was still based in Canada. Now that is owned by an English company what are you doing to bring it back to the World?
We’re is a Canadian Brand at heart, in fact we still have almost as many staff in Canada as we do in the UK. (you’ve gotta love skype!) Westbeach was originally founded in 1979, so it’s really been there from the start of the sport and has gone through many changes over the years. We take feedback and direction from our team riders from all over the globe, but I think the Brands soul will always be in Canada. We are distributed in most of the markets we want to be in with the notable exception of USA, I think we’re just waiting for the right opportunity for that one.
Do you like designing sport oriented clothes or would you much rather be working in the fashion industry?
I much prefer designing sports oriented clothing. Over my career I have worked for other brands doing more ‘fashion’ type product, but outerwear in particular is so much more challenging- there is so much to consider from a practical point of view, it can be like a puzzle getting all of the elements just right. I actually love the complexity of it. Who wants an easy life anyway?
What new styles are coming for the next season?
For 12/13 we’ve got a great Women’s duffle jacket, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
For men’s we’ve got the Garage Jacket which I’m really pleased with, it’s got a real street wear layered look about it, but great performance too- no compromises! We’ve got some new t-shirts hitting the website next month too, for those who can’t wait for winter for their Westbeach hit!
THANK YOU LAURA!