The Encampment Company was started in 2015 by me, Mike Ranta, and my best friend Matt Baker. Besides the self-serving reasons that anyone starts their own business (no boss, working on your own time, never wanting to punch a time clock ever again), we both really wanted to make something that we were proud of. We feel that we have made something really special because we have stuck to that one idea, we are proud of everything we produce.
When we started the business we didn’t think a lot about what that meant, to be proud of what we were wearing. To us this has come to mean that we are proud to tell you about the fabric, we are proud to tell you about the fit and the style. We are especially proud to tell you where it was made and who made it, which was something that we didn’t feel proud of when we looked at the clothes we were wearing when we started this company.
We chose to focus on outerwear in the beginning because we both had a lot of jackets in our collection, but we weren’t really trying to collect them. We realized that we were just trying to find the right jacket and hadn’t found it yet. So we decided we would do it our way.
Matt is the oldest of four brothers. He grew up here in Wyoming and after graduating high school joined the Marine Corps, spending four years bouncing between home and Iraq with an infantry unit. No matter what, Matt will always be an artist to me. I think he sees the world as one big illustration in-progress and that he’s just picking small parts to show people. Matt dresses nicer than I do, he always looks sharp and clean. He spent so long overseas in the ditch that I think he probably changes his socks at lunchtime just because he can.
I grew up moving around from San Francisco to Oakland, Phoenix, and finally Wyoming. Later I went to college and got a degree in something I want nothing to do with anymore. After graduating I started riding trains around the United States. I didn’t do it for any one reason in particular, I just decided that it seemed like it would be a better idea than any of the other options I had at the time. I sold everything I owned other than a camera and some essentials and that was that for a while.
Matt and I grew up very far apart but we both grew up in families that appreciated and respected the outdoors. A lot of our drive to make better clothing comes from knowing what it’s like to have something fail on you when you need it most. Whether it’s a strap on your pack failing in the middle of nowhere or a rip in a poncho in a rainstorm, you should be able to rely on your belongings. We don’t make packs or ponchos (yet), but we wanted to make something that could hold up to regular use. I think both of our backgrounds pushed us in that direction.
I started learning to design men’s outerwear in 2015 and went through an unmentionable amount of patterns until we started to feel that we were on the right track. We knew that it didn’t matter if it we were making jackets out of gold, the way that it fit was just as important as the manufacturing or materials. I jokingly told Matt that we named the jacket style “30-30” because it took 30 bad patterns and 30 good patterns just to make one single great pattern. You can’t pattern one size that fits everyone, but we were able to find a space that we were comfortable with.
At the same time as designing we were acquiring old sewing machines and refurbishing them. Since we were funding everything out of pocket, we couldn’t afford to buy anything complete. I would call old upholstery shops in town and ask what they had laying around. After two years we had twenty machines, all back from the grave. Some are old and cool, some are just really old.
That about brings us up to date. We are truly proud of every square inch of fabric that comes out of our shop. We really are a small brand, just two guys making outerwear in a warehouse in Wyoming. It’s what we like to do.
The encampment Co.