Philip Curry entered the outdoor equipment industry because he saw a gap. Two decades later, he’s still taking gear design to places it hasn’t been before. Read on to find out a bit about his life, his philosophy, and why PVC foam has to go.
You’ve been in the outdoors industry for a while. Can you tell us your story?
I was a rebellious 15-year-old growing up in the city when I was introduced to whitewater kayaking and rock climbing. I fell in love with the healthy adrenaline that nature sports provided. In college, I started making rescue and freestyle lifejackets for my buddies and that become Lotus Designs- a company that I sold to Patagonia in 99′ when I was 27. After 3 years, no healthy progress had been made in lifejacket design or materials so I got back to work in 2002 via Astral and that keeps me very busy!
After selling Lotus Designs, you left the industry to travel. Where did you go and what did you learn?
I bought a Syncro VW camper, packed up our little family, and headed west! We were infatuated with the Kootenays of BC and we spent a couple winters touring in the high alpine Rockies. The lack of water and threat of forest fires drew us back to southern Appalachia where we bought a sweet little farm in a cove at the headwaters of one of my favorite rivers near Asheville.
Then you settled into biodynamic farming. What inspired that?
I love hard work, environmentalism, and esoteric thinking… Biodynamic farming was a fascinating way to practice all these things simultaneously. I was obsessed with it for almost two years, and was well underway creating a Community Supported farm when I decided to get back in the outdoor gear business.
Why did you jump back in to the outdoor equipment business?
I realized that I could do more environmental good, protect more soil and water, by getting back into equipment business.
In 2002, you founded Astral Designs. What were some of your goals with the new company?
My first goal was to remedy the industry’s grotesque addiction to PVC foam, and we accomplished that pretty quickly. Second goal was to steer the brand towards a high-volume commodity product where we can have more positive environmental impact. Shoes became that in 2012 and in the next 7 years, you’ll see us use this platform to offer consumers a clean environmental choice in footwear.
How do you approach gear design? How does the planet figure in?
We design gear for the elite pioneers in a sport, so function is always #1. Then we focus obsessively on materials and process, and finally we spend a lot of time on color and texture. The planet factors in at every stage of design in measure-able ways: weight, ingredients, source, toxicity, etc..
Except for the travel and farming break, you’ve been designing and selling gear for 22 years. What have you learned about the industry? People?
I continue to see a community of fun people with great intentions to do good for the planet and society. We’re all in the business of promoting and protecting Nature which is a really wonderful common ground.
What gear can you not live without?
Good timing for your Q…I just finished a month-long camping/surfing trip in NZ with my son and these were my 2 most beloved gear items:
~Western Mountaineering Versalite Sleeping bag
~Ultralight Java Drip by GSI.
You can find Astral Designs on their website – https://www.astraldesigns.com/
Their gear is also available from tons of retailers – use our Gear Search tool to find them!