Interview founder & CEO Geoff Anderson
Why and when did you start GA
M: It all started when I was studying to be an airplane mechanic/engineer. In the spring break a friend told me that he was aware of a job opening as an apprentice in a fishing store. Despite my endless efforts to become an engineer I instantly decided to give this job possibility in retail a chance. I called them, got interviewed – and got the job.
During my years in retail I designed numerous products – everything from waders to carp rods. I got familiar with design processes and the many challenges associated with importing stuff from other parts of the world. During this period I also managed to establish a network of manufacturers.
The big change came when I started making clothing. It was 1998 and breathable clothing for fishing was a rare thing.
I myself was fishing like crazy, which included traveling to remote places where survival was part of the package deal. I realized even back then how bad the design was when it came to highly specialized clothing for fishing. It was so bad that I wanted to fix that problem.
I was very naive, thinking that it would be a “walk in the park”, designing clothing. However, I was soon to find out that clothing and fishing tackle are not at all comparable. I certainly made my mistakes, but I learned from them and was determined to succeed. In late 1998 I finally felt that I nailed it. I was ready to start my own brand. At that time everything coming from the US was deemed fantastic, so I figured that my brand name should sound American, yet with a Scandinavian twist. The name I chose: GEOFF ANDERSON.
The first product I produced was a breathable jacket. A jacket that solved a huge “problem” for our domestic sea fishing in Scandinavia. And it was quite obvious that it solved the problem, as it became an instant success, effectively kick-starting the brand.
The “Made in Europe” label, why make it harder for yourself
M: Well… Made in Europe is only a part of the business. I will put it like this: All development and sample production is done locally – specifically in Gdansk where I have both a pattern maker and a sample production facility under the same roof. And it takes me only 45 minute to fly in.
Some of the designs are simply too costly to make in Europe. Most of our manufacturers in Europe also own factories in Asia. That gives us the flexibility to delegate the time-consuming patterns to the Asian operation. Suppliers for zippers and other accessories are typically also local. So all in all we are very conscious about the “local trade”, as we feel it both makes sense for our future on earth but certainly also ensures that quality standards are as high as possible.
Back to your question: why make it harder… – because we need to. As a “small fish in the ocean” we have to be way ahead in design and quality to beat the “big guys”. But more important for an innovative company is that we need to make our products hard to copy. Unless we have 100% control of every single process going into our clothing – we will be eaten, either by the “big fish” or by copycats. If somebody wants to copy us – and succeed: – I promise them it will not be easy, as we always choose the harder way to obtain our goals.
Looking to the future ( what can we expect)
M: To make it short – we will do exactly what we have always done – fixing wrongs. We specifically design everything for fishing – sport fishing is in our DNA.
The code words are: “Warmth and waterproofness”, and to add to that – we do not start producing anything before we are certain that the product indeed fixes a wrong, and has the potential to become the best product in its field.
Looking into the future we have “set sail” for a further boost of becoming “greener”. We know that changing the world overnight is not possible – but we do add new improvements to the environmental side of the business all the time. Just to mention a few improvements over the past two weeks – we have had solar panels installed in our warehouse building, we have railed our latest garments from China instead of shipping them by sea, we have changed all plastic bags to recycle, and we have changed all our packaging to recycled cardboard. Our strongest and most important environmental goal is and will always be: making a long-lasting product that is so well made and functional that it make sense to have it repaired rather than disposed of. We still repair garments manufactured in 1998. And I think that says something.