I first discovered Bridge & Burn walking along 3rd street in Los Angeles. They just happened to be featured in a pop-up boutique for a month-long run and their clean designs and cool graphic tees grabbed my attention. Sure enough, the guy that was looking after the boutique was the founder himself, Erik Prowell, who it turns out I had known from his other venture, No Star Clothing. Small world, long story.
Anyways, we got to chatting about the line, it's inspirations, and the business of fashion and all that goes with it.
Bridge & Burn is a line that speaks to everyone in one way or another with great graphics and fabrics that fit for men and women. Whether you are headed to a festival or off to a local hipster bar, B&B works for everything.
I followed up with Erik for a quick interview to deeper dive on the line and why he does what he does. Check out what he had to say below, and head on over to Bridge & Burn's website to see their garments for yourself.
Tell us a little bit about the concept and design behind Bridge & Burn?
Erik Prowell: To be honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started Bridge & Burn. I studied computer science in college and worked as a software developer for a few years. My friend and I started making graphic tees for fun, and it snowballed into a pretty decent business where we were selling to over 200 stores nationally including Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Through that business, I started going to trade shows and was exposed to the wide world of apparel. At the shows, I’d see all these pieces that had great silhouettes but always seemed overdesigned. When I started, my goal was to make clean, classic pieces that I wanted to wear.
Why Portland? Is it challenging to run a boutique fashion brand from a city that is better known for beer and weird donuts?
Erik Prowell: I grew up in Oregon. I love the city. It’s small, it has character, and it's full of inspiring, creative people. Our location can be challenging as most of the apparel world is centered in New York and Los Angeles. It’s more difficult to make connections, and I am forced to travel quite a bit. That said, our origin naturally differentiates the brand and gives us unique character. Our designs come from a different point of view.
How would you discourage someone from getting into the fashion/clothing business?
Erik Prowell: I’d show them how many hours I work and my monthly paycheck. It’s a grind. There are so many moving pieces; sometimes it feels like I’m juggling 11 or 12 things at the same time. That said, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
You make incredible garments with really reasonable price tags, how do you pull this off?
Erik Prowell: We work with an amazing boutique factory in China. They let us do super small production runs and really believe in our product and our business. I’ve tried to do more stuff domestically, but no one here wants to work with the kind of volume we’re doing. A friend introduced me to the factory, and without it, Bridge & Burn would not exist (Thanks, Tara!).
If you could describe B&B’s core identity in one word, what would it be?
Erik Prowell: Classic.
What do you love about the clothing business? What do you hate about it?
Erik Prowell: By far the best part is the great people I’ve met - the owners of the shops we partner with and other designers. I’ve made lifelong friends through the business. It feels like this business is split 70/30 between people that are doing it to make money and be “cool” and the other 30 that are truly passionate about what they do and just want to design a great product. I hate that first 70%.
What other brands/designers are inspiring you right now?
Erik Prowell: I’ve always loved Margaret Howell. Ace & Jig always does good stuff. On the men’s side, I like Levi’s Made and Crafted and Rogue Territory.
What kinds of music do you listen to during the day? Do you listen to music while you design?
Erik Prowell: I mostly listen to old indie rock, blues, folk, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
Micro Brews or Bourbon?
Erik Prowell: Yes, please. I grew up in Bend, Oregon, and love just about every beer that comes out there. Also a big fan of [Wild Turkey's] Russell's Reserve rye.
What has been one of the biggest things you’ve had to overcome in this business and what keeps you going?
Erik Prowell: I studied computer science in college and had no design experience whatsoever when I started the brand. I never took a business class, either. The biggest challenge has been learning how it all works from the design and development side to figuring out how to run and maintain a business. But I love to be challenged. There’s so much more for me to learn and so many ways to keep elevating our garments. That is what keeps me going.