Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen are the founders of Anywhere Apparel, a clothing and accessories company with a philosophy of travelling light and discovering more. In their versatile items, Kelly and Nick want to give people the freedom to explore and not feel weighed down by what they bring. The duo believes that travel is about limitless exploration and they aim to make clothing and accessories to go anywhere. From deep cultural adventure to the remote outdoors, their goal is to give people the confidence to travel with a smaller footprint by only packing the essentials. Through original designs that combine style and function, Anywhere Apparel emphasizes hiddem features and smart fabrics sourced globally, from Switzerland to Italy. Kelly and Nick employ innovative techniques like bonded pockets and convertibility and use materials in unconventional ways.
With craftsmanship and quality as their base, Anywhere products are limited edition, small-batch, and ethically made in Minneapolis and NYC. Everything created by the small, three person team is built to withstand the rigors of the road and last long after you return.
This interview was in collaboration with Minneapolis Craft Market for their event Fashion Week MN Spring 2017 Market at Modist Brewing.
Talk about the beginnings of Anywhere Apparel. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
My husband, Nick, and I travel a lot. We strongly believe that the best way to make the world a better place is to go out there and experience it firsthand. You shed your preconceptions about what life might be on the other side of the world when you see it in person. This is something we all very badly need right now. Our core inspiration is really simple: let’s make it easier for people to go out there and see the world themselves.
After traveling to 45+ countries, we learned that bringing less is liberating. When we take trips, we want to hike and experience beautiful views, but we also want to immerse ourselves in local culture as much as possible. So, we typically only pack one carry-on bag.
This means what you pack needs to be super smart and versatile. The problem, we found, is that there were no apparel brands making stylish clothing also built to withstand the demands of travel. Fashion brands weren’t durable or functional enough. But all the functional brands were too outdoorsy or sporty! We saw a huge opportunity.
In 2013, we started to build the foundation for Anywhere. In January of 2016, we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and in August of 2016, we launched our e-retail site with our first products: four different odor-resistant bamboo travel tops. Everything is built to help you “travel light, discover more.”
How has your business evolved? How have you evolved alongside it?
When we started Anywhere, it was just myself, my husband, and a big idea. We were sketching designs on the backs of napkins during our trips. A lot happened during train rides especially in Japan, or transatlantic flights. It was always the moments of transit that allowed the best thinking. This was back in 2014.
As we started the process of turning our ideas into real tangible pieces, we quickly realized that we needed help to fill in our skills gaps. So, we hired a very talented designer, Alisa Miller. You cannot create something larger than yourself without the support and collaboration of a team. We’ve worked with some brilliant people in MN, LA, Portland, NYC, and all over the world to bring the vision to life.
Our business really got its first push during our Kickstarter campaign in 2016. We got lots of local support which was so fantastic, and we got backing from people all over the world. Now, we are finally transitioning from a crowdfunded project to a real brand. That is a huge evolution.
For me personally, before Anywhere, I was in the business of creating ideas, not things. It takes a huge leap to apply something conceptual to a real, finished good. Now, I identify with the maker community, and I am so proud to stand behind a brand concept that can be worn and used by people out there exploring the world. It’s immensely gratifying to see your ideas not only come to life in tangible form, but to actually be used. When we see trip photos of people wearing our stuff in London, Bali, Paris, New Zealand, etc., it is the best feeling! Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like real life to me.
It sounds like travel, and all of the self-reflection and growth it inspires, plays a significant role in your creative process. Can you speak to that a bit?
My husband and I have learned, over the past 15 years of traveling together, how to be better people. Not just in a general sense, but how to be a better partner, friend, or boss. Travelling solo and with significant others and in groups really forces you to learn about yourself and your personality. And, if you’re perceptive, it teaches you a great deal about others. Travel can be uncomfortable and exhausting. But, you’re not the only one on the flight. Understanding how you deal with stress and learning how to manage it is so critical to maintain a healthy group dynamic.
Our creative process is best executed as a team effort, so there’s a lot of balancing required to ensure everyone’s skills are being leveraged appropriately and everyone’s voice is heard. Sometimes I think of the three of us as long-term travelers on this crazy journey together at Anywhere. We’ve had a lot of bumps in the road, but we’ve all learned to adapt and enjoy the ride.
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
I was the little girl who wrote plays, performed in musicals, and always had a soundtrack running through her head. My parents are math and chemistry professors, so they must have really been stumped as to how I turned out the way I did!
My creative efforts have always involved a combination of conceptual, written, and visual mediums. I did cultural trend analysis for about 7 years for a creative insights company before starting Anywhere. I also earned a Master of Liberal Studies from the U of M where I integrated research in art history, fashion, and semiotics. My final project was a mixed media installation of fashion art inspired by the visual and pop-cultural relationship between Japan and America. It was so much fun to do!
I always like asking people who love travel and adventure what their connection to home is like. How does travel impact your perception of ‘home’?
I think home is really the only constant you have when traveling. You’ll always take pieces of home with you when you leave and you’ll always bring the trip back when you return. When I was younger, in my early twenties, the idea of home as an emotional anchor point didn’t carry as much weight when I traveled. However, now that I have a daughter, home really does feel like a substantial place. Since my daughter and our family is a huge part of what home is to me, I just want to pack everyone up and go explore together!
Also, I don’t necessarily think of travel as happening only when you’re physically away from home. When I book a trip, let’s say a few months in advance, I am in “anticipation mode,” day dreaming of what I might experience. Mentally, I’m partially already on the trip. Then, it really happens and everything becomes visceral and magical and real all at once. Then, I return and suddenly home has that dream-like quality. It’s like when the seasons change in MN, and you step outside your doorstep and feel a shift in the air. Things are different. You begin to notice little details that you ignored prior to your trip like how wide the streets are here and how green MN looks compared to a lot of cities from the airplane window.
Sometimes, when I return home, I still feel like I’m traveling and I start to view the Twin Cities like I would any new place where you get excited about where to eat next and what to see. I think that’s so important—to explore your own backyard with a traveler’s mindset.
I’ve also experienced extreme reverse culture shock returning home to MN. When I spent a month in Japan, I returned home thinking that Minnesota was disorganized and unkempt. Compared to the level of importance placed on public appearance in Japan, it made sense that MN would feel this way. Of course, when I returned home from a trip to Kathmandu a few years later, I thought St Paul felt sterile. But this is why travel is so great! You get to see home from a new vantage point every time you return.
When you travel, you get outside the constructs of your every day life. When you’re at home, you get so wrapped up in the world that you built which is a reflection of who you are. Traveling forces you to detach from that a bit. Even if you’re just trying to get outside of it to check in with yourself, traveling can be a re-centering experience. You just need to be knocked off-kilter a bit.
In terms of making and living in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
I feel extremely connected to Minnesota. I’m a transplant. I was born in Georgia and grew up in Onalaska, Wisconsin near LaCrosse. It took me about 10 years to really feel established in St Paul, but I think the process of getting to know a new city and then falling in love with it creates a different kind of connection from people who were born here. It’s like a romantic relationship where you get to know the person first, fall in love, then say “I love you,” and then commit.
Ever since we started building Anwhere, I have really felt the local pride and support. There is such a talented and loyal community of makers and creatives here who really want to see the community succeed. I have weekly meetings with other MN apparel makers and brand owners, and they are my best cheerleaders! I don't think this kind of community exists everywhere.
What do you see for the future of your business?
We are planning bigger runs and more variety in our offering. A long term goal is to create a total lifestyle experience with not just apparel but accessories, content, excursions, and events.
We also want to continue to focus on the local market. Even though Minnesotans are very proud to call this place home, we love to travel, more so than other areas of the country.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Absolutely. We’re not just making clothing. We want to encourage people to step outside of themselves. We really truly believe that most of our current problems in the world stem from people isolating themselves in their own bubbles.
When you leave behind your routine, if only temporarily, you begin to experience life through the eyes of a child again. Kids aren’t like adults. Kids are experientialists. They have what many Zen authors call “beginner’s mind” where you aren’t predisposed to a certain way of thinking yet. Travel can create that more formative state which really opens you up.