THE MOUNTAINS MARCH OVER ME is certainly one of the most beautiful projects I have been or will ever be a part of. All of my heart is here on display. Filmed last spring in the Sierra Valley and up over the Yuba Pass, this 8-minute film is a deep dive into my work, the nature of my love and the focus of my passion. Calle Stoltz @calle_stoltz, Robert Andersson @doprobertandersson, Mats Andersson @mats_arne and the team at both INDIGOFERA and REDWING have pulled off a miracle and I’m forever humbled and eternally grateful. This project was born in love, friendship, a spirit of adventure and a genuine kinship with the natural world. In the film, I am wearing selections from the FORESTCITY collaboration that I conceived with http://www.indigoferajeans.com. I am also wearing the “Obi” hat profile by @havstadhatco, the Coyotethunder Field Bag by @kamenroad, and the #climberboot by @redwingheritage – tools I never leave home without. I am thrilled to share this with you and am looking forward to your reaction. @indigoferajeans #californiafieldatlas
Behind the Scenes
There are some relationships that not only define your life but are open enough and elastic enough in just the right way to forever resist stasis and always surprise with freshness. When you find them, these treasured avenues of inter-personal connection, the life you know from there is effortlessly collaborative. Communication in these relationships is adaptive, rising from a true voice that is accepting, critical and caring. These relationships burn with an original fire that will burn for at least the rest of your life. These relationships maybe your family, maybe not, maybe your career, maybe not, probably not your job and probably not your hobby. I’ve got fewer relationships in my life like this than I do fingers on one hand — and I am damn lucky. I’ve got my immediate family, I’ve got my publisher, I’ve got a few friends I’d take a bullet for, and I’ve got Indigofera.
I met Mats Andersson, founder and lead designer of INDIGOFERA (@indigoferajeans), about five years ago at a tradeshow in NYC – he was attracted to my art as much as I was attracted to the character of his style. A uniquely deep and creative kinship quickly bloomed. INDIGOFERA magnetically drew me into its oeuvre with unparalleled quality in architecture and classic engineering, presenting a wardrobe always elegantly lined, economically aesthetic and tough as dirt. Our first collaboration launched in the Fall of 2017, the same month as my first book, THE CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS, was published. The title of that first capsule collection was THE CALIFORNIA HIKING SERIES and was built around my life: a naturalist-painter and a backpacker of California’s backcountry. The keystone piece, the California Hiking Jacket, a white linen sport coat, was INDIGOFERA’s first shot at such a traditionally stuff garment but was unique in that among other innovations, had side-slits for a backpack belt to fit through under the buttons.
Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself on the rainy, Swedish coast — the whiskey bottle had long been emptied but it was still going to be a few hours until we were going to stumble to our tents. The rain came down hard on our tarp while the four of us huddled around the lantern as I tried to capture the ideas, scratching notes through was to another fruitful and creative night. That night, we had found our vision and it was clear that this new collaboration between me, COYOTETHUNDER and the gentlemen of INDIGOFERA was going to be way more than just art on garments as some kind of graphic decoration – this was going to be about adventure, and this was going to be about fun. Sleepless and high from the insight, the possibility and the outpouring of expression which echoed in our booming laughter, now a troop of old friends, we were drawing a new map to a definitive, career-marking project on a sojourn we’ll surely remember for the rest of our days. The whole road trip around and across the Southern Swedish summer had been set up to be conducive for exactly this type of vibe: from cabins deep in the dark spruce forests to campsites on the windy bluffs above the Baltic coast, we explored remote, Scandinavian haunts where we would feel free to whittle and milk the night for all the laughter and good company it could afford. Our main focus, the whole goal of the epic trip, was to design a collaborative capsule line of rugged men’s apparel, a series that could capture and reflect our own lives and our long friendship.
Whatever the second incarnation, the second series was to be, we knew it would only be made clear after long strategy sessions – not conference room, design sessions, but gatherings around campfires walks through forests followed with cold beer and hot food. “What this collection will rely on is more cowbell.” Referencing the classic Saturday Night Live sketch, Mats explained this to me on a sunny afternoon hike down some rocky cliffs on Sweden’s west shore, the day after I arrived. He was making a reference to that classic Saturday Night Live skit. “Obi, you have a weird job: you do it in the woods, painting, and mapping, and yet you also have a city life. It is unique. You live your life from trails to cocktails. In the Forest and in the City.”
“Let’s call the collaboration FORESTCITY.” I chimed in. “Good for both. Simple and evocative. Honest and novel. What we’re describing is my uniform. I need one outfit in my life.”
After a few more days of rambling, we made it back to INDIGOFERA headquarters in Stockholm, where we spend the remainder of my time in Sweden at the studio. Mats there explained “Every brand is now expected to do collaborations, but really, the emperor has no clothes. Most brand collaborations are largely superficial. Superficial to such a degree that they can hardly be called collaborations at all.”
By the time I had to say goodbye, I knew what we were making was interesting enough that the process itself, regardless of the final product, had changed me. The trip. The whiskey. The friendship, all coalesced in me as something great. Something bigger than we could have ever done on our own, something truly representative of potential – the very heart of collaboration.
Portfolio 001: The accessories – EYE OF THE FOREST BLANKET, bandana and patches
“The Eye of the Forest” design by Obi Kaufmann, produced by INDIGOFERA. now available at http://www.californiafieldatlas.com. Price includes tax, domestic shipping and a signed copy of the California Field Atlas. The mastery with which my work is translated to this high-quality, 100% Norwegian-wool textile is incomparable. The blanket does it for me aesthetically as well as functionally. I’ve used it a few times instead of a sleeping bag on summer hikes. Swipe to check out the original painting. I only have a few and am very proud to offer it here. @indigoferajeans
Portfolio 002: The Parsons Jacket
Portfolio 003: Vest and the Granite shirt – inspired by the moss and pink granite of Sweden’s west coast
The Wendell Pant – named for and inspired by the agrarian, American author Wendell Berry, here shown at his writing desk in the 1950’s.
The FORESTCITY collection is currently on sale in North America and Europe including these excellent stores: HEPCAT (Malmo, Sweden), STATEMENT (Munich, Germany), BLUEOWL (Seattle, USA), PONCHO AND LEFTY (Sweden), STANDARD AND STRANGE (Oakland, California), BURG & SCHILD (Berlin, Germany), JAMES DANT (Indianapolis, USA), DENIM HEADS (Prague, Czech Republic).