Interview by Kamila Beyssembaeva
Born in New York, brothers Seth and Casey Neefus traveled through the US following their passion for snowboarding before settling down in Portland and launching their own line of handmade leather accessories. Collaborating closely with their group of friends and artists, they design and create durable pieces, as “extensions of their lives,” with a timeless look for contemporary tech essentials. We talked to Seth to find out more about the birth of Red Clouds Collective
, how they balance their line with their art, music, and motorcycles, and what the Collective plans for the future.
How did the idea to create Red Clouds Collective come to you?
The desire to create something that was not out there was one of the first triggers that made me decide to do it. The other was working with my group of friends, and then just doing something for an active lifestyle, a real… a durable product. I really wanted to focus on materials and durability and the craftsmanship. And the aspect of something that is old and just timeless and made to be used with our more modern things such as for your iPhone. So basically to reinvent these beautiful, old products and make them for today and tomorrow. I saw that as something that was missing.
What’s your creative process?
Everything we make is for a reason. Sometimes the look and feel is inspired by what we already have, if we can re-use this leather or this fabric or these buckles. But ultimately the process is: we make a few samples with what we have around us. We look and critique. Where are the pockets? Is it too high, too low, too wide, not deep enough? We break it apart. Then we re-start with the bare minimum or at the highest expectation with every bell and whistle, we create something to hold. And then make it feel our own. Sometimes we create a product and we just can’t make it feel right and we just sit on it for months and months and one day something will happen where you pull it out of the box and it just hits you, exactly how to make it right and make it belong to our collection of products.
How do you source the materials?
We definitely need to have the most durable materials as well as the most comfortable, and [we need] the look to be timeless. So the sourcing really starts at the function. The leather is from some of the oldest tanneries in the U.S. and we buy it veggie tanned and we just know how to work with it so well. We dye the leather, we obviously cut all the leather, we treat the leather, we varnish the edges, we sew it, we just really know how to work with it.
Can you talk a bit about the group of people with whom you collaborate, your group of friends and artists?
They are the people that I talk about who inspire the products. I definitely take very seriously their opinions. It is a group of friends and craftsmen and artists that have really been around for all these formative years of creating who we are. And we open our doors to them to create products with us. We have events in our workspace and we feature their artwork every other month. We really try to give back in that way and have a huge celebration for these friends and artists.
Do you exhibit in your workspace as well? How do you keep a balance between your art and music and Red Clouds?
Well, I kind of open the doors for the workspace to be… to the collective more so than myself. Just because I will have an art show in there, I just wanna make sure everybody has a chance first. My art and music are very therapeutic… after a long workday to sit back and let your mind wonder and put your pen to the paper or pick up a guitar or sing. I feel that’s a nice balance to have because although we’re creating products with our hands and our minds it’s nice to have a release that’s only yours. And Casey, he’s the same way. He builds old motorcycles as well as plays music. He’s a great mechanic and craftsman.
Where does the name Red Clouds come from?
Well, that’s a good question. Obviously Collective is pretty self-explanatory. Before Red Clouds Collective was started, probably eight years ago, this group of people, including myself, we were living in a house together and we had a cat. The cat’s name was Chief Red Cloud. I didn’t like cats before that and it was the first one that I really… enjoyed its company. But one day I came home and it was on the back porch and it was breathing really heavy and there’s a pool of blood next to its mouth. And it had obviously been hit by a car but it struggled to find its way back to us within its last breath. So we called ourselves the Red Clouds in memory of this cool cat. And then when I decided to create the company, I had no other choice really. I tried to think of other names but when I realized I wanted to do it as a collective with this group of friends I had to call it Red Clouds Collective.
How would you like to see Red Clouds Collective evolve and develop in the future?
Well, I feel there’re a few different areas to cover and that we’re working towards. One of them is clothing. There are companies out there, that make really nice clothing, but it’s made for people who are… you know adults. Real adults. Like sixty-year-old men that are grown up. We have this desire to create for the younger generation of people who like to be outdoors and really put what they own to the test. We really want to create something that you can have, and then you can also pass down to someone to use it after you.