Here’s to Never Looking Back: The Story Behind Portland Apparel Brand Bridge & Burn

Here’s to Never Looking Back: The Story Behind Portland Apparel Brand Bridge & Burn


One of the first designs I did had a hand holding a match under a bridge, and it said, “Don’t Look Back.” The idea that I was burning the bridge from my corporate life and starting off on something new. My name’s Erik Prowell and I’m the founder of Bridge & Burn. I was a software engineer, but I wanted to cut the cord from that and commit to working on my business, and kinda like being a creative. It’s scary to start a project and especially when
you’re making a product, you’re afraid of people
judging you for what it is and I strongly encourage
people to follow their dreams. I already knew how important
your digital presence was when you’re starting
something like bootstrapping, you’re really– it’s a fake-it-’til-you-make-it situation. Our business is split
between three channels. About a third of it’s wholesale, and then we’ve got the retail stores and our online business. The stores really feed our online business and vice versa. On the eCommerce side, we’re trying to capture the product. It’s always a challenge when
you’re selling something online ’cause so much of our brand is built around the fabrics we use. And it’s hard to convey what it’s actually gonna be like. We generally don’t target people. We just try to make clothes that we like. From a visual standpoint,
we try to present the brand as part of city and nature.
And that’s what Portland is like, having access to both. As we’ve opened our retail spaces and you actually get to see
the customer, and we were surprised at, like, how
broad the age span of people. We’ll see family, like a
mother, daughter, father, son come in and walk out buying
different pieces of clothing. When I started the brand, I did everything from sales, photography, all the design. I was four years into it before I hired my first
full-time employee, and since then it’s kinda
been a slow process. I have such a strong vision of
what I want the brand to be. I brought in these people
that are super talented. Although I have such a strong vision, they have their own interpretations also and that we actually get the best results when we all kinda work together
and collaborate on things. That’s turned out to be really fun. We’re actively trying to
improve our operations while still maintaining
our laid-back culture. We’re based on commitment,
dedication and hustle. We all are committed to working together and we work hard. We work really hard. I don’t have a typical day and that’s what I love about the job is it’s never quite the same. As far as mission goes, I think my personal mission
is just to stay challenged. I get bored doing the same
thing over and over again. And I’ve been doing Bridge
& Burn for over 10 years and I’ve learned a lot along the way, but I feel like I’ve barely
scratched the surface.

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