Geoff McFetridge Talks Norse Projects Collab, Style, Family & Outdoors
A conversation with the influential artist on the intersection of outdoors and fashion, fishing in LA, fatherhood, and making art
Ely Phillips / Norse Projects
It's not easy to fill in the blank in the sentence "Geoff McFetridge is ______." Geoff McFetridge is an artist, yes, but within that, he's a painter, drawer, sculpter, and animator, among other things. He also likes to ski, flyfish, and bikepack. So maybe the correct answer is simply, "hard to peg." Not hard, however, for Norse Projects, which recently tapped McFetridge for a new collaborative collection of technical apparel that, somehow, does a pretty good job at filling in the blank all on its own.
As the second Norse Projects x Geoff McFetridge joint venture (check out first NP x GM collab here), it comes to us in two parts: one is a line of everyday essential apparel with a utilitarian, vintage feel—think t-shirts, crewnecks, chinos—while the other draws on technical fabrics that hikers and backcountry skiers will find familiar. The two are two sides of the same coin, unified by simple design and, of course, characteristic graphics and illustrations by McFetridge himself.
"Style has always been an important part of the outdoors."
It should come as no surprise that everything in the collection is multipurpose—like McFetridge himself, it's hard to describe the new collection as designed for one thing or the other. To prove it, McFetridge and a group of friends took it all on a multi-day trip down the Flathead River from the Canadian border to Whitefish, Montana. Materials like stretch nylon and CashPad, an insulation made from recycled cashmere and wool sweaters, ensured that the crew stayed warm and weatherized while they fished and camped their way through the wilderness.
To better understand how the collection came together—and to gain some insight into the mind behind it—we recently convinced McFetridge to take a break from a trip to Tokyo for a short conversation.
This isn't your first collaboration with Norse Projects—what do you like about the brand? How does it lend to your artistic style and vice versa?
What I like about Norse is the shape of the clothes, the materials, and the lack of graphics. In many ways I have always worn Norse because they look like ordinary clothes, but the details express a sophisticated point of view.
Do you have a favorite piece from the new collection?
There is this vest we made. It looks like simple workwear but it is fine chino and lined with wool. So it insulates better, and not heavily sprayed with chemicals like the workwear ones. Those are things that I think make something worth making. Something that I know works well already, but could be made a bit better for my uses.
The most worn piece by me is the hooded tech shirt. I have worn the samples on many early mornings in the mountains.
"They look like ordinary clothes, but the details express a sophisticated point of view."
What makes a good artist-brand collab in the first place?
I like anything that feels like the artist is following what they actually like, so that the final product feels enriched and nobody involved feels hindered. Or something like Peter Doig doing the sound system for Dior. He used their resources to produce something he would ordinarily never have created. It should never feel like a “posthumous” collaboration!
It seems like you could write about the difference between a collaboration and project. Like, does collab intimate an amateur working with an expert? an insider and an outsider? Does a collab refer to a power structure, rather than a creative process. If you have Dieter Rams on one side and Keith Haring on the other… what is the sliding scale between the two?
In my family we joke a lot about collabs. So if my daughter's pancake is bigger than mine, or has blueberries, I would say (jealously), 'Oh, you got the collab??!'
Any thoughts on outdoor (i.e. functional, technical) clothing making its way to the heights of fashion over the past few years?
I am writing this from Tokyo, so I feel very close to the epicenter for this. Generally? It makes me so happy. I remember when I was here for a show in 2013 and I saw a person walking around Harajuku in La Sportiva hard boots. I was astounded. Next to the Gallery I was able to buy a piece of ski touring gear I need for skiing in Hokkaido, where I was going after the opening. I benefited from the trend.
Almost 10 years later and the Outdoor influence is even stronger, and I still feel like I am benefiting.
"...being a father, loving the outdoors, and being multidisciplinary has really shaped my direction as an artist."
I think I am similar to many people in your readership in that we all love all sorts of things, including gear and the outdoors.
I would also say that style has always been an important part of the outdoors. We just forgot because things became so bad for so long. The tradition of tweeds in fishing and hunting in the UK still exists and how climbers put together improvised workwear layers was just a generation ago. So outdoor brands squashed a lot of improvisation, and tradition over the years. Now, outside brands are developing options, if we want them, because some of us think: “We should dress in clothes we like when doing things outdoors,” not disposable Gymboree plastic stuff.
Your art practice is multidisciplinary. So is your approach to the outdoors. Do you see a connection there?
I am sure there is a connection there. Recently I find myself looking back and thinking of how being a father, loving the outdoors, and being multidisciplinary has really been what has shaped my direction as an artist. It has put limits on it. But when I look at that list, it is easy for me to feel; yes x 1000 to those limits.
"It's not like I am a mountain town guy. There are things I can do daily and things that I do infrequently, but they are peak experiences."
How do you make time to be a father, an outdoorist, and artist, etc?
I mean, I fish 20 days a year? I ski maybe that many days maximum. So it is not like I am a mountain town guy. There are things I can do daily and things that I do infrequently but they are peak experiences. The work I do exists in the same world as all these things. My work has to be open to me being home for dinner and going on ski trips. So I could never have been a film director where you have to go into a bunker for two years.
How do you get outside while living in LA?
I can do something pretty great most mornings in Los Angeles. I think our cycling community has revealed this to the world. LA is unique for a mix of city life and high quality outdoor experiences.
Give us a good fish story before we go?
The other day I was fishing locally with 2 friends, about an hour from my studio, and the fish are very small, but native trout. I had a take on a dry fly and I set it so hard, and the fish was so small, that it flew out of the water and hit me in the chest. Pro.