Baro Drywear: Our sit down with Tyler Quarles

When I sat down with Tyler Quarles, co-founder of Baro, we hit it off straight away – not only because we have mutual connections (Vancouver is a very small world, especially when you have both worked in the apparel industry), but because of his attitude towards sustainability in business. 

Baro (pronounced “bear-oh”) was created by co-founders Tyler Quarles and Mike Cerka with the purpose to bridge the gap between mountain life and city life. Its outerwear is designed and tested here in Vancouver specifically for people who believe technical performance should not be a compromise of style and vice versa. 

Sustainability has been an integral part of Baro’s DNA from day one – their multi-functional garments are created with a ‘fewer better things’ mentality. Because who really needs different jackets for wind, rain and snow? (We get it all here in Vancouver, mixed in with the odd few weeks of summer). Their latest collection is made with up to 80% recycled materials including plastic bottles and nylon manufacturing waste – who knew waste could look great AND perform so well?!

We’re not chasing trends or trying to be fast, we are actually trying to be slow

Why Vancouver? What makes it so special here – it seems to be a mecca for technical apparel and sports brands? 

For a city that seems to never play itself in films, Vancouver is a major character in everything I do. My family moved here from Montreal back in the late 80’s to start a Snowboarding and Windsurfing store. Being raised in that environment was a pretty special opportunity and shaped how I view technical apparel and design. Everything we sold and supported in the shop was to help you stay outside longer for one more lap, wave, a run with friends.. The pursuit of fun! To be elsewhere just seems further from the action. I love the idea of how a technical product can make your day better.

Vancouver attracts individuals who are first and foremost looking to be outside and spending time in nature. They way they are doing it is either through a job that allows them to do that or by wearing gear that allows them to do that in this climate. 

We are so ingrained as humans with the capitalist cry of “make more money / do it bigger / do it cheaper!” How do you stick to your principles and have you ever faltered?

We’re a small brand that isn’t beholden to investors or VCs so our business and production goals are more nested in what risk we personally feel comfortable with and ensuring each of our decisions holds true to our values. We put a lot of value in the relationships with our vendors and understand first hand how cheaper isn’t always better. I think the only times we’ve faltered on this would be if we tried to develop a style that we didn’t 100% back but felt we needed to in order to hit a market or a trend. Once we got that out of our system, it’s made it even easier to stay on track. Hedgehog theory style. 

We never set out to have to keep the machine going. We base a lot of our decisions are based on gut feeling, not on data or trend forecasting. We’re not chasing trends or trying to be fast, we are actually trying to be slow. We consider the environment and our customer pockets too. We understand the importance of parting with hard earned money to invest in pieces that will last for years to come.

How do you choose your staff members – do you look for those who have the same values and goals?

Our whole team could fit in a Mini Cooper (and has on more than one occasion) so we’re pretty nimble. However, one surprising consistent element with everyone who has worked with us over the years is the shared value and joy of getting outside to surf, skateboard, and snowboard. Our best boardroom meetings happen on a chairlift (laughs)

If I gave you a magic fairy wand and you could magically change one thing in your business, what would it be?

I would wish for better development & production timelines. As a graphic designer, I’m used to fairly immediate results when throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Things take a little longer with garments and it can be hard to stay in that flow state when working through development concepts. I would love to not have to plan so far in advance to create products. Lead times strip away the magic of the initial groove at time of idea. This is another reason why we don’t chase trends.

Sustainability is a word us humans use to communicate our efforts to relearn living in balance with our ecosystem

Have you ever cried at work?

Both happy tears and stress-enduced tears, yes. Once when we were at Vegas trade show and a major department store Buyer came by our stand and there we were, not knowing who they were, casually eating tacos. I guess you can say that what you see is what you get with us! 

On the contrary, having very real conversations with our vendors in Asia around late Dec 2019, who are extended family to us, was tough. At that time they were living through the toughest times of COVID-19 which was so hard to see.

If you could go back in a time machine (a la Back to the Future) and give yourself some advice as you were setting out, what would that be?

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would approach product development differently. I would develop and test our product as much as possible and bulk produce as little as possible. 

If you had to explain sustainability to an alien, how would you?

I’d say “Hello Alien, nice to meet you. On Earth, every creature lives in balance with the ecosystem it calls home. Humans haven’t lived in balance with their ecosystem for a very long time and some humans have realized that if they don’t change their ways, they won’t have an ecosystem to call home. Sustainability is a word us humans use to communicate our efforts to relearn living in balance with our ecosystem.” 

How do you recharge?

Time outside, preferably standing sideways on a snowboard or surfboard and most certainly with friends. I’m also lucky to have an amazing fiancé. Our times out walking our dog, Frankie, always bring a smile to my face. A dance floor and a good tune too!

What do you think post COVID-19 business life will be like?

I think we’ll have more people seeing the bigger picture of what we’re doing to ourselves as a culture and a planet; Questioning if we’re on the right path and making more human-based decisions. At least, that’s what I’d like to see. I think we can all agree that our time outside is precious and hope we can protect that as much as possible. Oh, and hopefully less time doom-scrolling on our phones! 

What is next for Baro? What can we look forward to seeing from the brand? 

We have some new categories coming on the horizon. Specifically a garment care system that I’m really proud of. We’re also increasing our commitments to sustainable practices both in production, development, and in other parts of our business. Exciting times. 

A very special thanks to Tyler Quarles, co-founder of Baro.

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