Jeanine Pesce of RANGE and Post-Pandemic Culture Forecasting

One of our good friends in the outdoor community is the one and only Jeanine Pesce, founder and creative director of RANGE. We picked her brain on topics ranging (get it?) from West Coast work vibes to trends in Normcore footwear, as well as the need for messy moments in personal feeds.

Here at Vanish, we’ve been huge fans of RANGE for some time. For our readers who may not be totally familiar with your magazine and consultancy, can you give us the quick skinny on you, your team and what sets you apart?
We’re a female-founded team of multifaceted creatives specializing in trend forecasting, strategy, and content creation. We all hail from different backgrounds but the common thread is a deep-seated love of the environment and an extensive understanding of the complex relationship between fashion and the outdoor industry. From a positioning perspective, our method is informed by closing the loop on people, product, and planet. 

Over the years, we’ve produced group art shows for Subaru, built out brand activations for Otterbox, led seasonal product and color development for Danner, produced brand books for The North Face and worked closely with Merrell, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, adidas, Teva, Reebok, Levi’s and Nike on content and strategy. We also produce The RANGER Station for Outdoor Retailer and just rebranded and redesigned all the turnkey booths in Venture Out. Our clients predominantly fall into the footwear, apparel, and outerwear category, but we’re starting to expand into non-endemic industries interested in becoming more sustainable and purpose-driven. 

We’ve published 11 issues of RANGE Magazine, all dedicated to the culture of the modern outdoor movement through the lens of good design. We like to say RANGE is an evolving medium and we’re flexible in an industry that is often rigid. We’re set up so the magazine can easily pivot to a podcast, digital experience, or pop-up depending on what we’re feeling inspired to create. 

You recently moved from the East Coast to the West, which have completely different vibes for so many reasons? Has this change altered the way you do business or how you approach creative challenges?
I am so tri-state area it hurts. I was born in Brooklyn, went to high school in Jersey and college in Philly. My husband and I have actually lived out West twice now, first in California for seven years and, as of last April, Vancouver, British Columbia. I just can’t see myself anywhere else; as I get older I genuinely feel more at home on the West Coast. The pace is much different and the hustle is less palpable. I have a healthier work-life balance and definitely more professional boundaries when it comes to my free time. I get outside everyday. Whether it’s a quick hike or driving up to our local mountain to take a few runs, my life revolves around access to the outdoors and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Much like RANGE, the Vanish community thrives on this concept of design intersecting with adventure. How do you think that the intersection of design + adventure, can help us in the midst of this COVID-10 crisis right now?
While everyone is doing their part on a personal level by practicing social distancing in an effort to #flattenthecurve, some outdoor brands are going above and beyond to support the fight against COVID-19. Canada Goose has opened two production units to make 10,000 scrubs and gowns donated to hospitals. Chaco is repurposing its Michigan factory, as well as its mobile factory repair bus, to make masks instead of footwear. KEEN donated 100,000 pairs of shoes to the workers and families of those on the front lines. Flowfold is using its Maine production facility to make face shields for health care providers in its home state. The list goes on and on.

The outdoor industry has been mobilizing around global issues like climate change for decades, advocating for public lands and conservation while providing relief from natural disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes, and forest fires. Today, however, we face a different challenge, one we’ve never experienced. It will take resilience, resources, and community to rally against this global pandemic. Not only is the outdoor industry uniquely qualified to lend a helping hand, it knows a thing or two about making technically-proficient products meant to keep people safe in extraordinary conditions.

In your opinion, what brands out there are taking this concept of the intersection of design + adventure from a product perspective and doing it best?
Outdoor brands have historically struggled with the “design” part of the equation in terms of look and feel. They certainly know how to build products for the adventure, but as soon as they get off the mountain things get questionable. That being said, there are a handful of brands delivering both form and function. Some of my perennial favorites are And Wander, Snow Peak, Veilance, and Goldwin. I love when traditional outdoor brands like The North Face get really experimental with collaborations like their recent partnership with Braindead and the Black Series capsule collection, which they launched at PFW. I’m really impressed with Noah and its mission to introduce sustainability and considered consumerism to skate and streetwear. You don’t see a lot of brands in that space who are members of 1% for the Planet and promote conservation and humanitarian efforts around the world.

Here in NYC, prior to being quarantined, we started noticing an interesting trend… the resurgence of Crocs as an up and coming street style staple. You seem to be an ardent supporter of this trend. Why this resurgence? What’s this trend trying to tell us?
It’s definitely influenced by the Normcore trend, which is a subversion of preconceived ideas about style, i.e., what society deems fashionable and/or youthful. It also represents an underlying, satirical commentary on American popular culture, which I find fascinating. There is something very Tiger King about Crocs. In addition, part of fashion’s new-found infatuation with these mono-material clogs simply comes down to comfort. Streetwear and street style was originally championed by Gen X and older Millennials. 

For the most part, both those cohorts live in the suburbs, have families, and are semi-retired from city life, so they’ve placed an inherent value on durability, ease of use, and price point. Plus, they grew up watching Seinfeld and The Simpsons, so they are masters of unspoken irony and what’s more ironic than a molded, foam resin shoe in Realtree camo? I’d also like to report that in the similar “ugly” shoe vein, sport sandals paired with funky socks are also here to stay. 

What are other significant trends in the outdoor, design or product spaces that we should all get ahead of?
If and when we come off quarantine, I think people are going to be hard-pressed to part with their cozy, matching sets. I would put stock in knits and commercially banal basics. My husband recently broke out a pair of Ugg boots to wear with his heather-grey Champion sweatsuit during Zoom calls and everything immediately felt right in the world. Live-streaming, Tik Tok, and meme culture will inform everything going forward, even on a corporate level. So we’re going to see the end of perfectly polished, curated feeds, especially when it comes to product and storytelling. People want real, messy moments because that’s the universal narrative we can all relate to right now. Content delivered at the speed of culture.

Throughout history, clothing has been adopted by activists [from the Suffragists to the Black Panthers] as a form of protest. I have a feeling we’ll see some kind of survivalist-chic-meets-Extinction-Rebellion trend emerge as backlash to both the global pandemic and climate change. Durable, long-lasting, utilitarian pieces that can function in a variety of environments. I think that’s why we’re seeing so much overt ingredient-branding emblazoned on techwear and streetwear right now. Consumers want a GORE-TEX® and CORDURA® level of confidence with every purchase they make. They want to know their jacket can withstand the potential impending apocalypse, whether natural or man-made. 

Finally, besides scoring a new pair of Crocs, what should our audience’s next purchase be?
A go-bag by JUDY. Seriously. 

Editor’s Note: Be on the look out for more incredible insights and great commentary from Jeanine and the RANGE team here on Vanish.