CONVERSATIONS WITH KAMM
Why were you pulled to Yosemite for your current collection?
In the fall of last year, I bought an incredible documentary called, “Valley Uprising”. The film is about the tradition and history of rock climbing in the Yosemite Valley. In the film, there is an important section that focuses on the era of the 1970s. This is the era that I most identify with in my life. My first memories are of my hippie parents in the late 70s, in the great outdoors. The clothing, the hair, the vehicles, the sentiment of freedom, and the laid-back attitudes of that fringe society appeal deeply to me. I was really taken with the imagery and the spirit of these individuals in this film.
So, you watch the documentary, and then what?
Over the next months I kept meditating on these pictures. I thought a lot about packing up your belongings and hitting the road, cooking over a fire, and sleeping under the stars. These ideas have always been a part of the fabric that is Jesse Kamm, and the family I grew up with. When I was a kid, vacation was camping. Climbing on rocks, hiking, swimming in natural bodies of water, being surrounded by nature.
The collection was simple and meditation on this lifestyle, and how that could be woven into the reality for the modern urban woman that most of us embody today.
Who is your Wandering Bird?
I tried to imagine what kind of wardrobe one would want to travel to the California National Parks on the weekend. I love the idea of driving back to town very late on Sunday night, with a hot cup of coffee in your thermos. On Monday morning you roll into the parking lot of your office, and change in the car. I like the idea of being at the water cooler in your chic jumpsuit, with dirt under a few of your nails, and scrapes on your shins … reminding you who you are. This kind of free, strong woman is the most interesting to me … so I wanted to make a wardrobe for her … The Wandering Bird.
The idea of being a working woman, four days a week, and free woman on the road the other three days. This is who I strive to be at all times. This collection was a simple meditation on this lifestyle, and how that could be woven into the reality for the modern urban woman that most of us embody today.
ON VINTAGE CAMPING GEAR
BY LUKE BROWER // THE MAN BESIDE KAMM
I was raised to be an outdoorsman. Perhaps it was growing up in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by big nature in every direction, or perhaps it was the influence of my father, but I always knew that the outdoors would be a huge part of my life. My father was an avid adventurer, and I remember riding my bike around the block with him, while he jogged, training for an ascent of Mt Rainer. It took him three attempts, and on one, he had to carry his guide down the mountain from near the summit, but he eventually made it. Prior to each of his outdoor adventures, there was a trip to REI.
A family trip to REI was a drawn out affair, with plenty of time for investigating every item in the store, small and large, from the iodine tablets to the kayaks. My brother and I passed the time checking out every tent. These lightweight, strong, portable shelters were perfect. Beautiful light filtered through multiple colors of translucent, rip-stop nylon, creating geometric patterns that one could spend hours studying. Long, skinny poles flexed nearly to their maximum, providing rigidity to what was otherwise limp material. Spending time in a tent is magical, not unlike a well-built fort or a cave.
Our gear was all stored in a large wooden crate in the corner of the garage. It had a particular odor, musty and sweet, that might not be considered “pleasant” but others, but a stronger olfactory trigger I have never known! Much of the gear that my father used in his outdoor pursuits is still in use with my family today. There is the North Face dome tent, that is built to withstand the brutal elements dished out by the Cascades, including a a special flavor of snow that we affectionately called “mashed potatoes”. This tent can still handle up to 3-4 hours of heavy snow accumulation without collapsing, all the while keeping occupants warm and dry. There are first generation Thermarest pads, the Camp 7 sleeping bags, and the Patagonia fleeces, still lined in my dad’s closet like a retrospective study of the company. My internal frame pack, which has literally traveled hundreds of thousands of miles with me, beginning with my first big backpacking trips with my dad , and eventually down rivers, up to the high alpine, and through the tropics, shows no signs of adverse wear.
This gear was built to last. While the temptation to upgrade to new gear is always right there for me, I just can’t do it. I look and admire, but I rarely purchase. The construction of our vintage gear is so rugged, and its design so fine, that to replace it seems asinine. Sore, the smell is still present, but one whiff sends my nervous system into shudders of anticipation and joy. Never am I happier than when spending time in the outdoors, perfectly comfortable, layered to perfection, sensing the subtle changes in weather and adjusting accordingly. The feeling of slipping into a sleeping bag in a geodesic dome tent, removed from the rigors of modern times, brings a certain amount of clarity to my perspective on life. What is important shines brightly, and the rest seems a bit absurd. I try to take these lessons learned from my time outdoors, and the minimalistic simplicity of the gear required to be comfortable, and to bring that into my daily life. Go light, care for your gear, and keep it simple. I think that is a great place to start.
The thing that hit me when I saw “Valley Uprising”, were the people. I grew up with those kids. My parents and their friends were not climbers, but they were artists, and musicians, and lovers of the outdoors. The hair, the beards, the high waisted corduroy, the bandanas, the footwear, the free and easy spirit, and the do-it-your-own-way attitude reminded me of all of my parents’ friends, and my aunts and uncles. These were the people I grew up with. This felt like home.
After I built the collection, and we had come back from shooting in the mountains, I was with Katrina in the editing bay at her studio. I came across the image of Hannah in the white button down and the blue corduroys, sitting on the tree stump. I sat with the image for a half of a second before I yelled, “Holy Shit!”… It was my mom. I had subconsciously turned Hannah into a 25-year-old Kathy Kamm. I am sure that is what drew me to Hannah in the first place. She not only looks like my mother, but she also carries the same calm and quiet airspace as my mother. I saw the whole collection in an entirely different light after that.
This is my favorite shoot we have ever done. I feel like I was able to really share who I am at the core. This was the most magical thing that came out of this collection … . realizing that I was rebuilding my history, without really knowing it at the time. My closest friends call me Bird, and I am, and have always been, The Wandering Bird.
DESIGN // ALYSON FOX