SEARCH AND RESCUE DENIM: Turning a Utilitarian Article into a Fashion Statement
While starting as a small one-man operation, Search and Rescue Denim has been featured on CNN, The New York Times, Netflix and Lonely Planet to name a few.
How did this happen?
The founder of the company, Will Fosdick, came to creating designer aprons in a serendipitous way.
Between the ages of 18 and 24, his life was insecure and he took whatever jobs came his way: a chef, a bartender, a car salesman, a DJ, and a bicycle racer — you can say he was a “generalist.”
The contacts he made along the way became his “Rolodex” and the experience he gained moving from one industry to another became the education that would serve him well in the near future.
From Tattoos to Designer Aprons
Tattooing is a growing industry and cuts across all age, gender, and ethnic groups. Tattoos are works of art.
But they are also a way for people to express their individuality, memorialize an experience or a loved one or even make them feel better about themselves. It is estimated, according to CNN, that twenty-five percent of people in the United States now have at least one permanent tattoo. Like many young people, Will was acquiring tattoos and observed that the tattoo artists became very spattered from the inks, dyes, and pigments being used during the tattoo process. And so…
Why not design an apron to protect the artists from being spattered by the inks?
The Genesis of the First Apron
Will knew Mitch Kirilo from Gastown Tattoo Parlor, a venerable tattoo company in Vancouver doing “quality and original tattoos,” and offered to design an apron for him. The apron was cut and stitched on Will’s kitchen table at night.
Kirilo was so impressed with the effectiveness of the apron that he requested one for each member of his staff. A client put a photo of one of the aprons on Instagram and this was the trigger that set the apron design business in motion. People started contacting Will wanting to replicate the design for different purposes.
This was his “a-ha” moment (and for those who do not know what an “a-ha” moment is, it is a moment of sudden insight and realization, in which one exclaims “a-ha” with gusto).
Search and Rescue Denim was born creating custom aprons with unique designs for artists across many industries and it changed the trajectory of Will’s life. It was also at this time that he met his wife and he attributes his turn around from “generalist” to luxury custom apron designer to the positive influence she had on him.
Will’s “education” and job history up to this point had been a prelude to what came next. With his experience in the hospitality industry and the contacts he had made, he suddenly realized the potential to design aprons for chefs, bartenders, baristas and many other “culinary craftspeople” and set about designing, finding fabrics, machines and people to work for him.
The Flagship “Search and Rescue Denim Co.” Store
Search and Rescue Denim now has a flagship store on Granville Island, where Joanne and I casually walked into Will’s shop one Saturday afternoon not knowing anything about it. Will is extremely personable and does have some tattoos !! The aprons are well displayed in the showroom and one can inspect and try on different designs — or build a unique custom design from scratch, combining different elements.
One of the special design features of the aprons is that each apron has several custom-designed pockets to accommodate the tools needed for a particular industry: consequently the barman has pockets for all the gadgets he will use opening bottles, removing corks, coasters, blade, phone and towel loop; the barber has open end scissor slots to prevent holes in the pockets, zipped pockets to prevent the hair getting in, slots for brushes, combs and spray he will need and so on. Another identifying feature is the lined, rounded bottom, which defines each apron and is more difficult to sew than a straight bottom.
Most of the manufacturing takes place in a dedicated space at the rear of the showroom where customers can observe the aprons being stitched and assembled. All the add-on items required for the apron are organized and stored in this area. Heavy industrial machines are used to stitch the materials and presently there are thirteen machines in operation.
The materials used are mainly canvas and denim, and the denim is available in charcoal, blue indigo, and chocolate brown colorways. It is 100% cotton, fully washable and hardwearing. Leather is also used. It outlasts fabric and also ups the price, being far more difficult to work with — but the quality is undeniable.
The aprons have a unique retro look: a leather X back strap allows for adjustment and comfort, and the featured imported chrome and brass rivets and stainless steel grommets that set these aprons apart are rust-free.
The cutting of the fabric for the aprons is done in the Granville Island Flagship Shop (no longer on the kitchen table !!), overseen by Will’s wife who is also involved in the company.
Search and rescue Denim is not just making aprons; they are also helping clients brand their companies with the apron design and logo.
The only advertising the company does is through Facebook and Google and has grown organically through word of mouth and social media. An app on the internet, the Custom Apron Builder, is easy to follow and guides customers through the ordering process creating different one of a kind apron designs.
Fashion, tool? Both. This is a handmade utilitarian item that has been transformed into an identifiable fashion statement for many industries and craftspeople.
The prices vary quite a bit, from $150 to $850 Canadian dollars, depending on the components chosen for the design and the number of hours required to put it together. This is a handcrafted item and can not be turned around overnight as each one is unique. The hard work has paid off: last year they grew 100% through hard work and being guided by good mentors.
Search and Rescue Denim are presently forging ahead with new projects. They are in a very creative phase, exploring new categories and using unique decorative techniques. One direction they are pursuing is the beauty industry — a segment with large growth potential — and they are presently looking at new fabrics and designs for cosmetologists, and other beauty professionals. The apron market is a niche market and niche markets can grow. Grow this one has, extending well beyond the original market.
Search and Rescue Denim is making aprons for more than just tattoo artists. Some of their clients include: Madonna, Metallica , Johnny Walker Whiskey, Jaigermaister, Jamie Olivier (Brtish chef and TV personality), Absolute Casa Noble Tequila, Tanqueray and 300 aprons for the cast of Game of thrones
Why is the company called Search and Rescue?
It’s named for Will Fosdick’s godfather, a thirty-year North Shore Search and Rescue Veteran. “Search and rescue (SAR) is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.”
Search and Rescue Denim
1420 Old Bridge Road,
Vancouver BC V6H 3S6