Stepping Swiftly with Freeman’s Collective

Founder and Creative Director Aris Ford Discusses his Passion for Adventure

Written By: Lyndsay M. Marvin Freeman’s Collective

The Expert: Aris Ford
Credentials: Founder and Executive Creative Director of Freeman’s Collective
Current Project: Road Trip Guide for Redwood National Park

Most of us are familiar with the term wanderlust; that strong desire we have inside us to travel. Some have it, some don’t. One man, Aris Ford of Orange County, is so full of wanderlust that he created a company centered around it: Freeman’s Collective. It’s part guide, part lookbook, all feeding into the creative community.

Q: What is Freeman’s Collective (FC)?

Aris Ford: Freeman’s Collective is a creative commune, meaning we are a group of artists and craftsmen that have come together to create pieces of art that reflect enthusiasm for adventure, travel, our outdoor experiences and the active lifestyles that we live everyday.  

Q: What is your role at FC and what does that entail?

AF: I am the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Freeman’s Co. My job entails sculpting all creative facets of the company from curating our social media channels, copywriting our Road Trip Guides, developing our e-commerce website and user experience, to creating our action sports videos. I help insure that our brand voice is consistent and brand strategy remains on point.

Q: What inspired you to create FC?

AF: I was backpacking through Australia in 2011 and started a blog about my travels while diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It ignited my passion for travel, adventure and writing. When I came home, I continued the blog and printed a few t-shirts for myself and the friends that I took camping or hiking with me. Eventually, the business was born from the community that continued to grow and engage with us.

Q: Your mantra is “Every Adventure Begins with One First Step. #StepSwiftly.” What does that mean?

AF: It means everything to us. It serves as a call to action to our community, a hashtag for our social channels and a value that we all strive for. It’s a play on the proverb, “A journey of 1, 000 miles begins with one step” and it’s used as a tool for inspiration. It is pivotal to our belief that no matter who you are, where you are in life, what your physical condition is, the most important thing you can do to change your life’s course is taking that first step in the right direction.

Q: Where is your all-time favorite place to visit and why?

AF: Big Sur. No question. There’s really nothing like it. It’s full of micro-ecosystems, meaning when you go backpacking, you can start in the mountains under California coastal redwood forests, climb onto arid ridges of sage brush, drop into valleys with streams and oak, then end where waterfalls break onto pristine beaches. It’s really got it all and why it inspired our first collection, the Big Sur Collection.

Q: What kinds of products do you create and sell?

AF: We sell leather goods, clothing and accessories. Our best sellers vary greatly from Big Sur Blankets and Beanies to premium 5-panel hats and Hawaiian Snapbacks. Clothing is always a popular item for us and the new leather goods sell just as well.

Q: Which product, in your opinion, is the number one thing every traveler needs?

AF: The Big Sur Blankets are a surprising pick for me because until I actually took one on a camping trip, I never realized their versatility. [They’re] great for warmth, obviously since they are blankets, but also great for shade or throwing on the ground when I need to lay gear down. I recently got a backpacking hammock and now I don’t go anywhere without both of those packed. We recently launched a spectrum of colors for them too, so there are lots of options if you are interested in getting one for your next adventure.

Q: Where is one place you have not yet been, but are dying to go?

AF: The Mighty 5. I’ve yet to visit any of the national parks in Utah and I’m dying to get out and hike, climb, and camp them. My partner Spencer actually lived in Moab for a while, climbing and working at a hostel. He’s got tons of stories and it makes me want to visit as soon as I can.

Q: What was the craziest, weirdest travel experience you’ve had?

AF: Backpacking solo in Australia was by far the craziest experience. I had the chance to dive the Great Barrier Reef on a live-aboard, but made a stop in Cairns to visit Gilligan’s. It’s a hostel everyone kept telling me to stay at if I wanted to have fun. They were right. I bunked with ten other international travelers. I had the time of my life floating in a pool with a floating keg, swim up bar, and a D.J. under a giant tree. That’s all before I got on a boat and spent the next week diving one of the seven wonders of the natural world. I’d finish diving for the day, go to sleep, and wake up on a different portion of the reef the next morning. When done for the day, we’d have beer on the roof deck and sing songs under the stars. It was a hell of a trip and I highly recommend it to anyone going down under.

Q: What is your vision for FC?

AF: Our one-year plan is to get into local stores and online retail. There’s a big push for content in the next 12 months and it’s where we really want to grow. Video will play a big role in our communication as well as social media and we hope to really grow these channels this year. In the next 5-10 years the sky’s the limit. I’m willing to take it as far as we can go.

Q: You meet someone who’s never traveled: what reasoning would you give them for why they should?

AF: I think everyone should travel because it opens your eyes to culture and other views of life. It’s an immense opportunity for growth and a wonderful way to learn from experience. It sounds cliché, but you really find yourself when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Travel will do all of that. Plus you’ll get to meet amazing new friends and explore far off places.

Q: What are three things you’ve learned since traveling?

AF: 1.) Things don’t always go as planned. Roll with it. 2.) If you’re too tired to do more, do it anyway. You’ll regret not going the extra mile. 3.) There’s nothing like the freedom of the open road.

Q: Is it true what they say, that the West coast is the best coast?

AF: Yep. There’s nothing like the Wild West coast.

Native Knowledge: A portion of Freeman’s Co.’s proceeds goes to the National Park Service.

Two Major Projects:

  • Road Trip Guides
  • Big Sur Collection

Five Key Players of Freeman’s Co:

  • Aris A. Ford – Founder, problem solver, and wearer of many hats
  • Ronnie Snow: Accounting and finance
  • Spencer Berkley: Operations, manufacturing and sourcing for products
  • Matt Fairfax: Lead videographer
  • Stephen Smith: Still photography
  • Dimitri Koutroulis: Design intern, photography

Freeman’s Collective

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