Ten years ago if you told me that I’d ever run longer than a 10k, let alone an Alpine 200 miler, I would have laughed in your face. Yet, today they’re adventures I’ve embraced and grown from. Likewise, despite having a background in Art and Design, to think I would actually use those skills as a career was just as far imagined. Then, one day, I’m sitting alone in a conference room in Dongguan China listening to the excited voices of young office workers preparing for a huge company dinner celebrating the New Year.
The moment is surreal, terrifying, and exciting. The two women I’ve been corresponding with during production of my babies, the Victory Bags, for the last two years, walk into the room with notepads in hand. It's the first time we’ve met in person.
The factory in Dongguan.
What’s led to this moment is a wild and random matrix of events difficult to articulate & put into scope. The closest description would be a vast Seurat-like collection of differently hued and sized points upon a majestic canvas, each point creating a bigger picture than the parts.
Anna and Helen look at me in silence awaiting my instructions. I smile to myself, as the words come out.
Future CEO, Dressed for success. I know, the hair. It's a long story.
Like so many people in life, when I was young, I had a reluctance to put myself out in the open. I was afraid of what others would think of me, my actions, and my ideas.Over time, my confidence would be bolstered by key figures in my life: strong Individuals, who stood by me even in times when the path seemed questionable. Some of them are the usual suspects, like my mom, who always reminded me that Victor also means victorious, and that no idea is too crazy to follow and conquer. On the opposite side of that was my father, who agreed with her, but also reminded me to recognize when crazy really did equate to crazy. Then there were the
many good friends who supported my endeavors, as I did theirs, with critical honesty. Finally, my wife Jena came along. She and her family would not only embrace my path, but walk it with me knowing the potential risk and unavoidable sacrifices.
With rapt attention, pens were scribing into notebooks as I went over every point and design element of the bags. This wasn’t about making a product. It was about making art.
What ultimately became Victory Bags began as the result of a long history attempting to create something that my heart would see with use and value.
Too cool for school. Ahhh, youth...
Having a core educational background in fine art, I drew, painted, and sculpted. Finally, I focused on filmmaking, because my desire to share an idea with a larger community was greater through that venue. At one point my father, an architectural engineer, persuaded me to study something “to fall back on”.
"But dad, I'm an artist!" & yes, the hair...
I switched my major to Industrial Design and focused on product design, as well as added a minor in Business Administration. It only took one semester for me to switch back to fine art. Although it was a short lived exercise, I did design a curiously organized art supply bag that converted into an easel.
In the end, even though I earned a BFA in fine art, and had shown great promise as an artist, I was young, idealistic, and became disenchanted with the art world and my place in it.
A fractional sample of "the art"...
Two years later I stopped making any type of visual art and started acting & playing music. It was the only way I could be creative and still feel connected with a greater community. At some point even that diminished and I started running far… very far.
After our meeting was over, I sat alone in the conference room looking over the bag samples before me. The excited chatter of office workers continued in the other room.
My thoughts drifted through the last few years of designing, drawing, tinkering, cutting fabric, destroying prototypes, sleepless anxiety-driven nights, 4am epiphanies, annoying language barrier miscommunications, and most importantly… dreams, determination, & perseverance.
Aside from still having the ability to translate an idea onto paper, this was manufacturing, not fine art. I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. Only because of a new and intense involvement in running and outdoor adventure did I have a desire to create something needful, like a curiously organized gear bag that didn’t exist in the market. Serendipitously, my father-in-law, Hank, partner in a reputable factory overseas, offered to help me put it together. For those who need the abridged back story… my long-shelved art bag was revived as an all purpose gear bag.
We made one bag, which I used for a year. Every time someone saw it, they said how cool it was and asked where I got it. Not only did I poll everyone I knew and discover that there really was a need and desire for what I had, I could also hear the encouragement of my mom’s voice. I knew I’d never live with myself if I didn’t commit to this “crazy” idea and someone else did! Yes, it was a leap of faith, followed by a learning curve rivaling the trajectory of Haley’s Comet. Thankfully Hank was there to navigate this novice across a perilous ocean, and Jena was there to help steer our intrepid little ship.
I spent the rest of the afternoon compiling new notes and observations. I had a night to review everything we had discussed. In the morning I would return for one more day, to make sure we were all on the same page, before I left for home.
Looking out at the mega-dense city of trade.
Trail wildlife, Hong Kong style!
Despite the tremendous support from friends, family, and all those who champion Victory Sportdesign, there are still days I doubt myself. There are days that hurt with anxiety. There are days that strain the mom and pop spine of our operation. There are also days that make my heart explode with gratitude, inspiration, & strength.
We get by with a little help from our friends.
My teachers, nurturers, and inspiration.
I close my notebook, never imagining that I’d write this story, as much as I never imagined that I’d be sitting in this small conference room in Dongguan China listening to the excited voices of young office workers preparing for a huge company dinner celebrating the Chinese New Year. For the moment I sit back and listen, as I look upon the journey laid out on the table in front of me, and smile.