A “Family” StoryIt's a Family Affair

Through our conversation with the Yamai family,
we discovered that “the family” has been central to Snow Peak
since its inception and remains so today.

FIELDWORK is a site for carrying out field work, not only for Snow Peak Apparelʼ s future staff, but also customers, and everyone involved with the brand. 2018 marks the brandʼ s 60th anniversary. On this occasion, we asked Founder and CEO Tohru Yamai and Creative Director Lisa Yamai to look back at the origins of Snow Peak.

Lisa Yamai
I rarely get to have a discussion like this with my father and CEO, but Snow Peak has been in my daily life from the day I was born. This means Iʼ ve been involved with the brand for 30 years. The company had been a wholesaler, and fishing, rock climbing, and mountain climbing gear manufacturer, and about a year before I was born, my father started new camping gear business project internally. So, since I was a child, every holiday would be spent testing out fatherʼ s newly developed camping prototypes and samples as a family. Snow Peak has been a given since I was born. It wasnʼ t really even about a family business. Camp sites were simply a part of our familyʼ s everyday landscape.
Tohru Yamai
I got married when I returned to my hometown in Niigata. Very soon after that, Lisa, our first child, was born. After Lisa, we had three siblings about three years apart. The Snow Peak gear was developed in the various stages of our childrenʼ s development. For example, when Lisa was about three, she was rambunctious, and when we put her in an adultʼ s chair at camp, she would start thrashing about.
It was the red folding chair.
The chair and table heights didnʼ t work for children. So, out of necessity, we developed the FD KIDʼ S chair for Lisa. I hope this isnʼ t redundant, but we reexamined the frame structure to withstand Lisaʼ s wildness. Snow Peak gear really developed in this way based on the growth of our family and different life stages we found ourselves in. So Lisa is one of the people with whom we created the concept of “family camping.” Then, consequently, various businesses pertaining to the “auto camping” concept, which I launched as the second-generation CEO of the brand, and the apparel, that Lisa launched as the third generation creative director of the brand, were added.

SnowPeak gear evolved with the growth and various stages of the Yamaifamily.The FD KIDʼ S Chair was developed to respond to a young Lisa thrashing about on their red folding chair.

The history of Snow Peak is our family history

There was a period after I graduated high school, when I moved to Tokyo and stopped camping altogether. I think it was because camping wasnʼ t so much an interest as it was simply a part of life. When I moved away from my family, it was natural that I would stop camping. I was going to school for fashion design, so thatʼ s where my attention was directed at the time. After graduate school, I worked at a runway-presenting brand, but I found it exhausting to be in the fashion industry. I liked making clothes, but was having difficulty with the industry. Iʼ d never asked my father for advice about life or the future, but I suddenly thought of him and called. I wasnʼ t calling to ask for a job at Snow Peak. I simply wanted to ask for some grown-up advice. But he said, “Maybe thereʼ s something you can do at Snow Peak.” I gave that some thought, eventually some specific ideas began to take shape, and I decided to join the company. I then prepared a resume and applied just like anyone else and joined the company. I felt it may have been fateful because I was the exact age father was when he launched his new camping business.
Thereʼ s probably a very wide range of ways through which one could do apparel. One can make basically any kind of clothing one wants. I thought it might be easier to do something notable that offers a new sense of values if Lisa worked in a field with some restrictions, rather than in runway presentations, which seems like a small world, but is also almost limitless. Lisaʼ s brand concept for Snow Peak Apparel “HOME ⇄TENT” is very Snow Peak. I mean, I thought it was a concept that only Snow Peak could realize. So we launched the brand in AW2014. The collection comprised pieces that could only have been produced with Snow Peak DNA, so I was very pleased.
Ever since I started considering what I could contribute to Snow Peak, I thought exclusively about how clothes might persuade city dwellers, whoʼ ve never camped, to go out into the natural environment. My answer was the theme of making clothes, which you could wear in the city, go out to nature in, camp in, sleep and wake in, and return to the city in. After this theme was realized as products, it was introduced in the American media as “future Amish” clothing. Honestly thought never occurred to me, and weʼ re not a religious organization, but I was very moved that a Snow Peak concept was accepted overseas as a kind of ethnic form, especially since the foundation of the apparel is what Snow Peak has built over the years.
At the base of all Snow Peak businesses is the theme of “recovering humanity.” This is a thread that runs consistently through everything we do, from camping, urban outdoor, and glamping gear, apparel, and regional revitalization. Until about five years ago, however, we were mainly limited to supplying camping goods as a way actualize that theme. The Japanese camping population is only about 8 million. That means that even if Snow Peak had 100% brand share, weʼ d only reach 6.5% of the national population. Recovering the humanity of the other 93.5% of the population is also a very valuable theme and I think apparel is the most effective way of reaching those people. Snow Peak apparel can be worn as daily wear by non-campers. Therefore, it has the potential to reach the most people out of any of the services Snow Peak offers.

The “LOCAL WEAR”project launched in April 2018

Wearing the local

This year is Snow Peak Apparelʼ s fifth year, and we launched a new project called “LOCAL WEAR” in April. The first iteration will be based in Sado, in our hometown Niigata. Japanese object-making, when followed to its roots, often originates from nature and natural resources, such as local spring water. In recent years, Japanese manufacturing and industry has operated without any concern for sustainability. Increasingly, Iʼ ve felt a sense of crisis that if this continues, manufacturing from Japanese resources will become impossible. I launched the “LOCAL WEAR” project because I want to pass local object-making techniques onto future generations in Japan, disseminate them globally, and explain essentially why they survived as superior methods. I donʼ t think there has been an approach like this, where consumers would connect to a local through clothing. In the realm of clothing, food, and shelter, “ clothing” has been left behind. Only Snow Peak could convincingly propose the concept of “wearing the local” and offer clothing thatʼ s intimately connected to a local region.
Snow Peak itself was made possible by using the platform of design to translate the techniques of the many small factories in a place called Tsubamesanjo in our hometown into the outdoor lifestyle and values. As a result, fans of the outdoors became familiar with and started to visit Tsubamesanjo as a production site. Snow Peak is a “local-to-local” brand. It directly connects regions to regions and people to people. The brand sees Tsubamesanjo, Tokyo, and oversea regions as local sites. Our stance is unwavering. As a part of the “LOCAL WEAR” project, we will also conduct local work experience tours. Taking consumers of “LOCAL WEAR” to the sites of its production is an approach that other existent apparel brands have not taken. There are things such as cultural climates, ambiance, and peopleʼ s emotions, which one canʼ t experience without actually visiting a place. And those things are what matters most.

Then as now, the base of Snow Peakʼ s business is the values of the outdoors person.
Our employees,who share these values, are like family.

The things Snow Peak can do because of its 300-persons family

I think Snow Peakʼ s DNA definitely exists inside our co-workers and staff too. The most basic hiring criteria is that the applicant like camping and be a fan of Snow Peak. Many of our employees, however, interpret the brand in their own way to improve our business and propose new business opportunities for the brand.
Of course, itʼ s important to collaborate on creative projects with talented people outside the company as well, but then as now, the base of Snow Peakʼ s business is the values of the outdoors person. Our employees, who share these values, are like family. We continually hire new graduates, so the average age of our employees is about 32. We have over 300 employees globally, so weʼ ve grown into a very big, young family! In the outdoor lifestyle community, thereʼ s still a strong sense that as time passed and civilization evolved to greater sophistication, something important was lost. We believe that the outdoor lifestyle and its values have the power to invigorate people, companies, and societies. Thatʼ s why we want to continue satisfying those needs with our greater family, the Snow Peak Group.

photography : Great the Kabukicho
Edit : Kei Sato