I grew up in Jiangsu, it’s by the coast, right next to Shanghai, with vast plains and everything else flat. So I used to daydream about being in the mountains. Every day I thought about places I could and wanted to go to. So when I applied for a school I picked one in the most remote place where I could find a not-too-bad school in, and I ended up in Jiangxi that was filled with mountains. The mountains from my dreams.
The school offered a degree on sports management and that was like a dream come true. My major covered survival skills, camping techniques, various sports and sports related theories. I never thought I’d be using these things to make a living. I just knew I loved it. Unlike a lot of my peers, my parents never pressured me about my future. They told me to do what I loved and to be responsible for myself.
Talking about family, I had a simple upbringing. My parents owned a restaurant and with that business they provided for me through my youth. We were rich in the sense that the house was filled with laughter. My parents loved to joke with the kids. Come to think of it, my parents didn’t give a damn what I did, so long as I was responsible for myself. So it felt like I was going back home working in OneTigris!
One time in school we did a cliff rappelling practice, when you descend from a cliff with ropes and carabiner systems. We practiced so many times every day and we made sure we were so familiar with the routine that we could do it in our sleep. When I really went to the top of the cliff though, I was terrified. No preparation prepares you for fear. It jumped at me like an animal out in the wild. All it took was 15 minutes to descend and I sweated buckets. I was so nervous. It wasn’t just about fear of heights or fear of failing, it was that feeling of everything going to pieces if you miss one little detail. At that time, it was merely a test, but in real life, it could mean my life or somebody else’s. It was after this intense episode of fear and exhaustion, that I applied more tactics to my life. I try to be more careful, to do things step by step, so that even if I make a mistake, I take as few risks as possible. That also applies to my work.
Before coming here I’ve worked as a sports coach, group tour manager, things that required breaking a sweat, but it’s completely different. Before this it was all about selling what people sketched out for me, numb, unthinking, trying to sound clever. With this job I knew who I was. I create value.
Designing Rover 35L came from a need of something reliable that I could use in the city. I love the outdoors but I have a full-time job. This bag is about functions for one, but ultimately it’s about that feeling of being able to head out whenever I want. Even if I can’t head out, I get to carry that possibility with me wherever I go. Do you know what I mean? When you go to work but can still carry your outdoor gear with you, it brings me peace. My gear means my preparedness. It’s an add-on of me.
You don’t see very many decent tactical gear brands in [China]. We’ve got so many factories and so much manpower, so you’d think that making good products wouldn’t be too difficult. But we lack creativity. We look to successful examples and mimic. We don’t listen to ourselves and take charge. At the beginning, OneTigris was like that. We weren’t confident and we didn’t know that we had the power to create. If you create something that is based on need, on desire, or your own dream, somebody will feel it and come towards you. Make something the self believes in and then try to get somewhere with it. Somebody else will pass on this bit of faith, and that’s how a design lasts.
Not that creating a design is easy. It’s hella hard. For me, when you look for gear, it’s the first impression that counts. Like when you meet a person, it’s the first impression that draws you over. Rover 35L is great, in my humble opinion, but who’s going to believe me when I just tell them about it? They need to feel it. So this bag took a lot of work to get that feel to come out. I mean, how do you draw a feeling? Somehow, though, with my pencil and wobbly but determined hands, Rover 35L slowly came to shape. You look at it and you see me. It’s me, a little bit of my family, the people I reach out to, but mostly me.
I’ve only been in OneTigris for a year, but good things have been coming in abundance. I’ve designed t-shirts, shorts, scarves, bags... It wasn’t easy but I never forced it. You don’t wish for things to come true. You realize it with your hands and then time is incidental. I wanted to build something that I loved. I nurtured an idea with passion and with patience. It takes at least 3 redesigns and a whole lot of determination.
One day, I’m going to bring the gear I designed to the Jiangxi mountains, the mountains from my dreams, and it will be an awesome day.