Designer Tents Bring Cool to the Campsite
Entrepreneur: John Harris, founder of FieldCandy, a U.K.-based brand of designer tents with offbeat graphics such as a block of cheese, floral and galactic motifs, leopard print, bubble wrap--even a time machine.
"Aha" moment: Harris, formerly a furniture designer, and partner Rhona Carr had retired in Italy. "We had a lovely life--and hated being retired," he says. "We both missed working and having something to get up in the morning for." On a trip to an exhibition for outdoor recreation, the two discovered an entire hall devoted to tents--all the same, all utterly boring. "There was certainly nothing designer-y, feminine or sexy. It didn't exist," Harris says. "It was very much a product for guys with tattoos and canoes who go into the forest and shoot deer. We wanted to change that and make it a fashion product."
Field test: Harris and Carr spent a few years researching their idea, dreaming up designs and learning to print graphics on tent flysheets. With an initial investment of about $400,000 of their own money, they launched FieldCandy in November 2011 with 40 unique designs. Within a few days, international design blog The Cool Hunter featured the company on its homepage; from there, word spread via the internet.
Fresh air: FieldCandy enlists a variety of illustrators, photographers and fashion and graphic designers to come up with prints. Among those who have contributed are Terry Pastor, known for his album artwork for David Bowie; Philip Gatward, photographer for Nike, Coca-Cola and Heineken; and fashion brand Basso & Brooke. Harris, who wishes to "attract different designers from around the world to have different cultures of designs, different styles of designs," fields requests from 30 to 50 artists each week.
Rugged outdoors: "FieldCandy tents are fun. But they're serious, too," the company's website proclaims. Made in Derbyshire, England, the A-frame tents are constructed to withstand extreme weather conditions. They feature an inner lining of 100 percent cotton (instead of traditional plastic), extra-strong pegs of hardened aluminum, heavy-duty zippers--even lockable storage pockets. "Our principle in business is doing whatever we do to the best of our ability and executing it with a bit of panache rather than the same as everybody else," Harris says.
High stakes: The printed tents, available at FieldCandy.com, range from $600 to $900 (basic solid colors are $400). FieldCandy sold 1,200 units its first year, mainly to customers in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Germany, the U.K. and South Korea. The company also creates promotional tents for brands such as Sony, Orange and various book publishers.
Glamping it up: FieldCandy aims to become an international lifestyle brand. The company is unveiling designs from tattooist Saira Hunjan, who has worked on the likes of Kate Moss and Jude Law; British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes; and Lee Clow, the U.S. creative director responsible for some of Apple's most famous ads.