Ibex GM Bonie Shupe tells about her Independent design work, traveling with the family bluegrass band, the great new things happening with ibex, and running to fish.
How were you introduced to the outdoors?
I grew up traveling around in a family bluegrass band, and so we spent a lot of our time traveling all over the United States and camping at different bluegrass festivals. And my first experience in the outdoors that I remember is trying to catch fireflies because it was so foreign to me. I grew up in Utah and we were traveling back in the south. And so the fireflies were really, probably the first outdoor experience that I remember. But the one thing that we did do every year, that’s probably my first outdoor adventure was backpacking in the wind river and camping.
Do you play an instrument?
Yeah, I grew up playing the fiddle, playing the fiddle, and clog dancing is what my parents had in store for me. And I also play the bass and the drums.
How did you get into design?
I’ve always been a visual designer and I’ve always been really interested in apparel. I think I just followed my passion to get here. The idea of combining fashion and function has always been something that’s really helped me become where I become an outdoor apparel designer.
And you’ve had your own studio for a long time, too. What inspired you to go that route?
I started independently right out of the gate. I had done graphic design in the outdoor space for a long time before basically following my passion for fashion. And because I was doing graphic design before, I decided that I really needed to follow my passion too. Design outdoor, and activewear for the outdoor industry.
Then I went back to school and once I finished school, I just followed my connections and ended up getting to design apparel in the outdoor space. I’ve always really enjoyed working for myself and having my own creative schedule.
How did you get involved with Ibex?
I was a huge fan of Ibex for a lot of years. So as an apparel designer, one of my biggest ambitions is to combine fashion and function, to reduce consumption. And when you create apparel that can easily slide from the outdoor space into cities and travel, you’re really able to create these multifunctional pieces and reduce consumption overall.
And I think of IBEX as City to Slope before it was cool. They were always creating that. I was just a huge fan and they were always innovating wools. So they’re like the original wool innovators. And I remember IBEX as being like the first to innovate wool seamless. They did wool air, they did clima-wool, they did wool denim, right before they went out of business there was the Pursuit Jacket that was a hundred percent Merino wool rain jacket. But even when they started, I have this boiled wool jacket that is so warm and yet uniquely set stylish that it’s one of my favorite pieces. I like I’m really obsessed with wool.
And I think there’s this underbelly crowd of wool enthusiasts who love IBEX because they were wool innovators and I’m one of them.
What, what are some of the learnings you’ve had in resurrecting the brand, does anything stand out?
I would say that balancing small batch, no waste production with demand is a huge thing that I’m working through. I really believe that every garment of Ibex needs to find a good home and I don’t want to make so many products that we have to put them on sale. That’s not, it’s not a sustainable way to run a brand. And so that balance, finding that balance between demand and small batch production and making sure that everything is just beautiful and top quality has been hard to get to. So we’ve really been focusing on inventory planning.
What has been the toughest challenge of rebuilding relationships?
I’ve had to clear the air.
There are customers who loved IBEX and they didn’t want to see a change. They were burned when IBEX pulled out of their wholesale partners. And I’m working on rekindling and building those relationships and then even re reconnecting with suppliers has been a huge challenge when Ibex went out of business, all those connections where were pretty much dropped at the time.
And so it’s been like reaching out and saying, Hey, we’re back in business. And everyone’s just been a little wary, but I feel like slowly but surely I think people who have worked with the brand have found us to be authentic and really wanting to build IVEX back to where it was.
Do you have a favorite style from the current lineup?
I wear the Woolies Tech Top pretty much every day. And then with a pair of Joggers, that’s my go-to.
What outdoor activities do you get to participate in?
I really enjoy endurance and being strong in general. I try to keep a really good base so that I can do whatever I want during the year. I think in my friend group, I’m known as the solid buddy. So when my friends get wild ideas, they know that they can count on me to be a member of their team on anything they do.
I do a little bit of everything. I’m that Jack of all trades master of none.
I think the latest thing that I’ve been doing that I just absolutely love is because I live in Netherland and I have a bunch of trailheads with lakes. So I bring my fishing rod and I like to run to fish.
Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into the outdoor industry?
I would say that you need to let your passion be your guide. This is an industry that you don’t get into to make money. You get into it because it’s rewarding. It’s an industry that you want to be in. So think about what part of the outdoor industry you love, what really drives you as a person, and then if you follow that, I think the rest will follow.
If you were able to hang a huge banner at the entrance to one of the outdoor shows, what would it say?
“Buy less, buy better”
I want that to serve as that mantra for Ibex, but it’s also a recommendation for the entire show. I think that’s what the outdoor industry should be built on, the idea of fewer higher-quality things.
Do you have any favorite books or books you give as gifts?
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Willian L. Ury and Bruce Patton
What is your favorite piece of outdoor gear?
Get 10% OFF Ibex Apparel use code outdoorbiz10, that’s outdoorbiz, then the number ten.
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