Robin Van Der Kaa_ Why did you finally grab all these things together and decide to start a company yourself?
Errolson Hugh_ That was out of frustration mostly. We were in Munich at the time and we were doing freelance design work for a number of companies – a lot of snowboarding, actually. We were seeing all the technology for the outerwear, which was already heavily ingrained in snowboarding. You needed the tech to do this sport. So we saw that and learned how to make it and how to design with it and we figured, "Why don’t we have this in our everyday clothes?" We proposed that idea to everyone we were working with, because we obviously didn’t have any money. All of them said, “No thanks. You’re crazy.” So we figured we’d just do it ourselves.
Robin_ Do you feel like you’re reaching the limits of what you can achieve this far into the whole ACRONYM project?
Errolson_ It’s an ongoing process. I think particularly with ACRONYM as a brand, the image it has is a lot bigger than the actual infrastructure that’s behind it. There’s friction in that, because people just think we can do more than we actually can. Because of how little we actually use the existing systems in the industry, we’re somewhat out in the wild. This means we have the freedom to do things you can’t get away with at any other company, but at the same time there are challenges any other company will not face. You can’t have one without the other. Every single season, every piece that we produce is kind of a miracle; because it’s so unlikely it would all work.
Robin_ Are you looking to change that?
Errolson_ Yes. I definitely want that to change, but we’re also very aware of how tied together what we do is with how we do it. The freelance design agency makes us aware of how other companies work. What we learned over the years is that the infrastructure of the company determines the product. Owning our own production facility has advantages and disadvantages — the same thing for your own dyeing facility or your own retail chain for example, which we don’t. All of those things influence how decisions are made and affect the product that gets delivered. The product that people love and expect from us is intrinsically tied to the way we’ve done it. That type of infrastructure is not something you can grow quickly. If we want to grow, it’s not just a matter of typing in a bigger number on the order sheet. We actually have to think, “Ok, we need to hire an X number of people, we need to buy those machines, where do these machines go? Do we have enough floor space?” ACRONYM is also not the type of product where in the space of a season we can train another factory to produce it. There’s thousands of little tiny details and consequentially thousands ways to fuck it up. If one detail is half a centimeter too low, the whole jacket doesn’t work and collapses onto itself. But when it does, and everything is there and everything has been caught, then it’s magic. The synergy is there. It’s like a sports car. The complexity is the pay-off, but it’s also the problem.
Robin_ You’re not making things easy on yourself.
Errolson_ No. The whole point of ACRONYM when we started was, "let’s try and establish a way of doing things where we don’t have to compromise on the product." From day one the price structure or merchandising plan was never a part of the process. We don’t have a sales manager. There’s no forecasting. It’s all product-driven. We see the limits of the way we do things everyday. It’s an uphill battle. If you look at the first product we made in 2002 – the box set containing a jacket, a bag and some other stuff – it’s basically the same thing we’re still doing now. The bag that was in the set is still the best-selling product we have, and the same goes for a version of that first jacket.
Robin_ Does that mean you’re just 15 years ahead of everyone else?
Errolson_ Well, either that or we’re just too stupid to quit.
Robin_ I think we got our headline there.
Errolson_ Well, we did our homework, we did something we believed in and we worked on something that’s good and did the things we wanted to do. If you insist long enough, other people will start believing it as well, as long as it actually delivers and does what you say it does.