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Introducing Mutant bouldering mats
05, Feb, 2014
With UK production facilities customised bouldering mats is now a possibility
It appears we joined a discussion last night, that we never intended to instigate, regarding the visual identity of the latest batch of our bouldering mats to come out of our workshop. We have a very similar manufacturing set-up to Organic and, like them, we are using this small, versatile model to our advantage in our quest to retail what we feel are the best mats that we can make. We are a tiny player in the boulder mat market and over the past couple of years we have been looking at ways we can best use our strengths to differentiate ourselves from larger, more corporate brands.
Step One: Quality First
Ever since we made our first mat over 10 years ago, we have never scrimped on the quality of the foam used inside our mats. After an initial period of UK production, we chose to have our shells made in China, although we have never brought our foam in from there. Our original low pricing was gained through our retail model; not through lack of quality. However, low prices led boulderers to believe our quality was less than par. This was compounded further by brands selling lower quality mats at sometimes ridiculously low margins; relying on their brand reputation in other areas to instill trust in the product in return for the PR exposure the mats gained them.
Step Two: Open Our Own Workshop
In late 2010 we decided to concentrate all our efforts on making the best pads that we could in our workshop in the UK. We felt this would mean that we would be in control of everything: we would not need to worry so much about order minimums, instead we would be able to put all our efforts into making our production sustainable and, more importantly, we could have fun! So this led to us employing 3 more climbers (who also boast impressive sewing skills) in our workshop to make our mats.
Step Three: Visual Identity
For the last 2 years we have been making designs identical to the ones that we had originally planned to have made in China. We have very few comments on the styling of these mats however we have been continually asked by our customers for mats with greater individuality. As a small operation, not bound by order minimums, we thought (maybe naively), “no problem, let’s see what we can do”. Our original plan was to offer to make pads in whatever design a customer wanted but we struggled with the economics, administration and logistics so instead we decided to make batches of some geometric designs that made best use of the fabric ie minimising wastage. Hence the Mutants were born. They focus on our strengths; making small batches of 10 to 20 identical multi-coloured mats. OK, the colours of the panels change but the basic design is the same throughout the entire batch.
It was never our intention to upset anyone and looking at things I can understand why a few people feel there is a visual conflict with Organic’s mats. Organic have been making custom mats for longer than anyone; they have probably made every style possible. DMM make solid red mats; does that also mean Alpkit cannot make a red mat? Let’s get real!!
There was never a master plan to copy Organic (or any other company for that matter). These similar manufacturing styles will unfortunately naturally lead to clashes in visual appearance. We are not in this industry to p*** folk off and we know, that to push the industry forward, we have to work alongside each other with mutual respect. I have spoken to Josh from Organic via email and hope to resolve any ill feelings as quickly as possible. We will not stop making more uniquely-designed, multi-coloured bouldermat covers but we will try to limit the use of irregular trianglular elements in our future designs as I feel this is the most visual USP of Organic’s mats.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy article. For me, and for the Alpkit brand, the discussion is over in the public domain and I will not be writing any more on this on our website or social media.
Checkout previews of products we have coming out of the pipeline