Can you tell us who you are and where you are currently based? Where does the name Hikerdelic come from?
I'm Mark, I'm currently sitting in our HQ in Manchester, England. It's a slightly eerie scene as the UK has gone back into high-level lockdown. We're braving public transport to come into the office though, just to keep ourselves sane! The novelty of being able to work from home has long since fallen away. Hikerdelic is an increasingly large part of what we do. I'm currently heading things up as the brand has grown from a side project to something more meaningful and with it comes the need for more focus. The name? Well, it's a classic portmanteau which accurately describes the kind of clothing we've always been drawn to. From the late 60s through to the late 80s and early 90s, music has always been important in our part of the world and with it came bright colours.
Growing up we both lived through a period where classic outdoor walking and hiking clothing became fashionable outside of the hills. The bands we were into dressed like we did and that scene fed itself in an organic, grassroots cultural level. I remember traveling through the edge of the Peak District and realising my winter attire comprised of Danner boots and various bright goretex and fleece items, and yet I didn't look like a genuine hiker, more a ticket tout outside a Manchester gig venue. I tweeted the word Hikerdelic soon after and had a flurry of messages telling me to trademark it. Eventually we got around to taking their advice.In short, we grew up in a town which in one direction has loads of hills, and in the other direction has a culturally important city. The two collide in Hikerdelic.
Most people don’t know the affiliation between Proper Magazine and Hikerdelic. Is it challenging managing a media outlet, creative agency and also a brand? What does the structure look like in a multi-hyphenate work environment?
The lines between the things we do are rarely straight. Currently, we have a team of maybe 10 or 11 people who have an ongoing role in us making things happen. Some are based 30 miles away in a shared warehouse, a couple work on a freelance basis for specific things then there are five of us based in Manchester full time. We're fortunate to be in partnership with another business which has retail at its core, which helps us with the boring logistics and fulfillment with minimum fuss.
Proper is the heart of what we do. It began as a fanzine which was just a hobby initially. Neither of us had a design or journalism background, and I don't think either of us ever imagined we would make anything serious of it. But having met working in a dull call centre job, we hit it off and found we had some shared interests. That was the start of Proper as a fanzine, but 20 years later it's clearly evolved into something way more significant. The last 5 years have seen us turn it into a fully functioning business. We’ve learned a lot and met some great people.
Proper Magazine was ahead of its time covering brands in the outdoor lifestyle space for almost 20 years! Does it feel strange to see a spike in interest from consumers/readers particularly from the fashion space?
We’ve always tried to purposely remain as outsiders to what would be termed ‘fashion’. I guess being based in Manchester gives us that spirit. Being outside of London was always something that worked against us in the beginning, but we embraced it and made it our thing. These days, geography isn’t really relevant given everyone is online. I remember quite early on with the magazine we took a trip to London to meet what we viewed as serious fashion people. I expected to be a little intimidated, but the opposite was true. That was a landmark moment for us in realising our authenticity was a rare thing and everyone was winging it.
The trend for outdoors comes from somewhere else. For us, gore-tex outerwear was always popular. It’s a North West England thing, I think. There are vintage shops in Manchester like Bags of Flavor and Bionic Seven who have very specific sports casual stuff which has always looked great to us.
What are some of the changes you both have had to make during the pandemic now that we’ve moved in to a digital world?
It’s been a huge challenge. I’ve had to be a little more careful due to never having grown out of childhood asthma, while Neil has chosen to stay at home to stay extra safe himself. He’ll continue on that basis now, working on specific things for Proper while I steer things on Hikerdelic and work from the office with the lads.
Hikerdelic pulls references from an era in the late 60’s and 70’s (nature, psychedelics, music, world peace). It feels perfect in today’s political climate. Where these motifs intentional for the brand?
The short answer is not really no! All of those reference points of course are relevant to the brand but we try not to take things too seriously or be too contrived. I guess this goes back to how Proper began too, not wanting our take on fashion to be too earnest. Of course the outdoors and general cultural references find their way into the mix, but everything is just us being us in a way other people might like.
Collaborations and partnerships (Yogi Footwear, Barbour, Novesta, Gosha Orekhov) in addition to new licensees in Japan and NAM are some strategic moves made for the growth of Hikerdelic. What is the criteria for picking the right partnerships?
Good question. It depends on what we’re trying to achieve. For collaborations with other brands, it has so far been a way for us to release product we wouldn’t normally be in a position to. The fact we’re able to work with such revered and established brands is a bonus. With Barbour, we were up in the North East at their HQ interviewing their main man Ian Bergin about their International range. We took him some of our socks as a gift and he said “Oh we should do something together”. We were like “Of course we should”, secretly thinking this was some sort of dream we were about to wake up from. Neil did most of the driving of this collaboration so I can’t take any credit. It went down brilliantly and we’ve had conversations about maybe doing something again. Novesta and Yogi are both great brands who give us the chance to put Hikerdelic on the type of footwear that fits with our clothing. I visited the Novesta factory a couple of years ago. It’s in Slovakia, in a town where almost all the inhabitants used to work at the factory. They used to make iconic shoes for much bigger brands back in the 70s and 80s but now the factory has been repurposed primarily for Novesta. It was like a historical re-enactment, everything is made by hand using the same machinery from years ago. We don’t really have any specific, universal criteria to define who is right and wrong for Hikerdelic. It’s just like any other true partnership, where both parties get something fair out of working together and hopefully have some fun along the way.
Can you share your favorite milestones during your 20+ year career? Any changes you would have made?
18 years ago my son was born and that probably set me on a path. I became a full-time parent and it gave me some time to eventually gravitate towards doing what I enjoyed. I wrote a few articles for fanzines and that was the point at which I realised I wanted to do something creative. I’d gone from a dead end job to guiding this precious little human being and loving it. I knew I couldn’t go back to the 9-5 slog after that. Consequently we’ve since had another couple of precious human beings, and all the work I’ve done has been something I enjoy rather than something dull to pay the bills.
The second milestone was when I’d been working for Oi Polloi for a couple of days per week, writing content. At the same time I was accepted to study journalism with design at university, then in the week I was due to start, Neil and I went to London for a day to discuss working with someone on Proper. This guy was (and indeed still is) called James Brown and he founded Loaded Magazine here in the UK. Having grown up reading it we both had to pinch ourselves. We subsequently did a couple of issues in partnership with James and we’ll forever be in his debt for showing us the way forward. But as a turning point, that week a lot happened. Meeting James, starting a degree (for one day) and Oi Polloi asking me to work a couple more days per week. Something had to give so I gave up the education. I was already where I wanted to be and it was a turning point. And finally, five years ago we met a couple of guys who wanted to get involved with Proper, combining our freelance work with the magazine and using their experience in retail and working with brands. This led to Proper becoming an agency with its own magazine, website and audience, and a year or two later Hikerdelic was born. As I write this, we have a strong team working across a number of projects and it feels quite bizarre thinking back to when my (now adult) son was born.
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I think if things had been too linear and driven I wouldn’t have learned what I did. While things are a little more organised these days, I still like a little bit of chaos to keep me on my toes. Not too much though!