A year ago, two members of the Traveling Circus—filmer Shane McFalls and Erik Olson, who’s also profiled in November’s issue of POWDER—decided to find an avenue for their quirky creative juices.
The pair had always sought out the ridiculous—cutting pictures of morbidly obese cats out of the newspaper, decorating their house with Chewbacca cardboard cutouts, sketching two-headed monsters—and they saw an industry landscape ruled by safe, bland styles. So they created the Yoke Collection, which is as much a celebration of the weird in life and in skiing, as it is a clothing brand. They’ve been hand-sewing hats in their Salt Lake City basement, hunting through thrift shops for inspiration and bolts of fabric, drawing weird figures and messages on each receipt, and shooting videos with spoken-word soundtracks featuring David Byrne. On their first anniversary, Shane and Erik reflect on a year in the life of skiing’s weirdest brand.
How has the reception for the brand matched up with your expectations?
Shane McFalls: I read a funny comment online that we were “just another hipster beanie company.” People either get it or they don’t. When I was in Minnesota with Traveling Circus, I saw a kid wearing one of our hats for the first time. He was totally who I was hoping would be in to the brand. He was wearing fitted pants, no crazy rainbow block colors, skiing on Afterbangs—a total jib kid without the wild outerwear. Pretty much a younger version of us.
You guys sew your own painter caps. Why?
Shane McFalls: We’re both big into different kinds of old hats. Always checking thrift stores and whatnot. I was gifted an old minor league baseball team hat a few years back that I wore all the time. We used that hat and a few others as models for our own. Erik sews all the hats himself in our basement.
Erik Olson: The whole process was super tedious and I certainly had my doubts. I think being able to design your own product is essential for what we are doing. Hopefully we’ll be adding more and more things like the painter cap.
At the introduction of the line last fall, Olson proclaimed that you two were, “Two heads working together, plowing against the dense soils of the ski industry.” How far ahead have you two been able to plow? Does the soil seem more or less dense than you previously thought?
Erik Olson: I was having fun with words. We started Yoke as a creative outlet for ourselves and as a brand that could hopefully fill some of the void we see in the ski industry. I don’t think it’s any harder or easier then we thought. We’ve already been plowing for years.
What items have sold the best?
Shane McFalls: Both times we released painter caps over the summer they sold out within a few days. The Polar Vision hat sold out in a day; people were placing orders at like 3 a.m.
Were there any areas of the country or world that were particularly receptive to the Yoke Collection?
Erik Olson: Our international order volume is pretty impressive. It’s pretty funny how small we are and how spread out our product is in the world.
Shane McFalls: I think my dad has bought one of everything, so he’s holding it down for central New York. North Korea has been repping really hard, too. Shout out to Kim Jong-Il.
What’s in store for this year with the Collection?
Shane McFalls: A fall/winter collection release sometime in October. A hoodie, tee, and more hats. We are also releasing a mini-movie called The Fart of Life. We filmed some stuff last winter that never got released, so its all going in a short video this fall. I hope it’s our EP before the full album we film this winter.