Over the last ten years, Mission Workshop [MW] has been quietly building one of the best bag and apparel brands on the market today. With a keen eye for design and a passion for insane fabrics, the team at MW has built up a rabid following of dedicated customers. From creative professionals to outdoor enthusiasts to DJs, this brand appeals to those that want great looking gear that will endure and provide the ultimate in technical performance.
Where MW get it so right is the design of their products, with only a few brands that are even in the same league - think Acronym, White Mountaineering, and Visvim. We have had the chance to test out several of their bags/garments and can attest to the quality and functionality of the product, along with it just looking fantastic and timeless.
Magnetic catches up with MW's CEO Josh Margolis to learn a little more about what makes this coveted brand tick.
Tell us a little bit about how you approach the design process for your garments and bags?
Our general design approach is more technology- and engineering-driven than fashion-driven. One of our core brand promises is “Built to Endure.” We take that to mean not only exceptional durability but also creating timeless pieces that a person can use or wear for decades without ever being “out of fashion.” If you look at the most timeless apparel and softgoods pieces throughout history, they were almost always developed by engineers to serve some sort of functional purpose: bomber jackets, field coats, field packs, etc.
Mission Workshop did a recent collaboration with one of the members form Glitch Mob, can you tell us a little bit about that?
That collaboration happened really organically. Ed is a friend of ours. He goes on rides with some of our crew. He’s a fan of our brand and products, and we’re big fans of TGM. When we were planning a launch for the Radian, our first travel pack, we wanted to tell the story of the ultimate traveler. We thought it would be great to find someone that had reason to travel very often for one of the best reasons we could think of. One of our crew had just been on a ride with Ed and remembered that TGM was about to drop a new album, See Without Eyes. We called him up and learned they were going on a European promotion tour right when the bag would be ready. We followed Ed around on a typical day for him in L.A. before traveling on tour, then tagged along with the TGM around Europe before and after their shows. Everything about the campaign was authentic.
How did the brand get started? There seems to be a lot of different DNA from cycling to surfing to outdoor?
The brand is simply a reflection of our passion for an active lifestyle. We ride and surf and travel on a regular basis, so the gear needed to be able to adapt to multiple activities and look handsome enough to wear around the city. We began with The Vandal and expandable cargo backpack that holds daily essentials but doubles the size for a weekend trip or grocery store run. All our bags and apparel are built with the same ethos, the best materials on the planet with bombproof construction.
You’ve just made the lightest waterproof jacket on the market, The Sans, can you tell us a little bit about the process and material used to design it?
The Sans is built from a textile made for us by an amazing mill in Japan called Toray. We’ve worked with Toray for years, partly because they have developed one of the most advanced waterproof/breathable membranes on the market called Entrant. During one of Toray’s visits to our San Francisco workshop, they showed us an experiment they had done to create one of the lightest 3-layer fabrics in the world using the Entrant membrane. When we saw it, we knew that it had amazing potential for cycling, climbing, backpacking, and travel because it would allow for a fully-featured 3-layer rain shell that weighed less than many 2-layer stripped-down models. They were hesitant at first to commercialize the fabric since it was just an experiment at the time, but we worked with them to iterate the fabric using results from both lab and field testing and dial in the specs so that it became not only ultralight and high-performing (with truly amazing water column and MVTR), but also incredibly durable for a fabric that light.
If MW was a person, who would you be?
I would say, Sun Tzu. He was super tough, a philosopher, and if the statues and block prints are to be believed, he was really well-dressed. Some of the other MW crew might have different answers, but I think that a mixture of toughness and beauty is at the heart of the Mission Workshop.
What is your favorite piece you’ve put out?
The Mission Jean. I can wear them to meetings, for traveling, to the climbing gym, on my bike, hiking – pretty much anywhere.
What would an MW playlist sound like? What bands/artist would be on it?
Bad Brains - I Against I
LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Quicksand - Manic Compression
Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves
The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Methadrone
Cold Cave - Cherish the Light
Dinosaur Jr. - Without a Sound
ISIS - Panopticon
Queens of the Stone Age - R Rated
Mastodon - Oblivion
What’s next for MW, are we going to see another retail outlet soon? New collections?
We developed a lot of new apparel for 2018, so in 2019 we’re going back to our roots and working mostly on new bag designs. At the moment we’ve got a new messenger bag on the work table that is the most sophisticated product we’ve ever created, incorporating custom-developed textiles, new hardware, and our patented Arkiv modular system.
Your gear is perfect for professionals that travel - from DJs to creative professionals, is there one specific type of customer that you find keeps coming back? Or is it a mix of people?
At this point, it’s a pretty diverse mix. Anyone who commutes to work on foot or on a bike is part of the core group, but we also have many customers who are traveling professionals, designers, adventure journalists, photographers, models, athletes… One of our favorite customers is a U.N. weapons inspector who splits his time between Western Europe and some very remote and dangerous places.