We've had a thing for Astis Mittens for a while now. Ever since Alps & Meters was on the back of a napkin, folks have mentioned to us that our brands are striking a similar chord in the industry; making quality goods that are inspired by tradition, and that break from the pack in terms of design.
We're big fans of their insanely warm mittens and gloves, and thought it was about time to catch up with the folks behind the Astis brand. Alps & Meters Founder Lou Joseph caught up with Astis Founder Bradford Peterson to talk tradition, values, and the all important work/ski balance.
Alps & Meters: We believe in simple, timeless, alpine traditions. What do you believe in and how are those beliefs expressed through the Astis products and your overall brand?
Bradford Peterson: At Astis, we have aimed to build our brand values on a very similar foundation to that of Alps & Meters. Astis believes in timelessness and simplicity and we have designed our brand and products on the foundation of these two pillars. We are dedicated to crafting our mittens with a sturdy, well-made and protective set of characteristics that will deliver significant longevity to our skiing, riding, and general outdoor communities.
Likewise, our team places great emphasis on quality, comfort, and durability and, similar to Alps & Meters, greatly appreciates the performance characteristics of natural materials. For example, Astis mittens are designed with rich, waterproof caribou leather that will stretch and conform to the hands of the user creating a long lasting custom-like fit. When married with technologies such as polartech linings and our wonderful signature beadwork we feel that we have a unique and meaningful offering that stands alone in the marketplace.
AM: Alps & Meters was born from a ski trip to Sweden and the discovery of a vintage ski sweater. Tell us about the inception of Astis Mittens.
Bradford Peterson: Astis was conceived as a result of two events. First, a close friend of mine was canoeing across Northern Canada and, while traveling, traded goods with the local Cree Indians. My friend swapped his Swiss Army knife for a pair of Cree mittens, which had been cut and sewn by the tribe. In fact, Astis means “mitten” in the Cree language. Eventually, I ended up spending almost 10 years of skiing while neatly protected by those handmade products. Although I had always found myself quite cold when on a backcountry ski excursion, the caribou leather mittens designed by the Cree kept my hands warm and offered quite a bit of dexterity not found in contemporary gloves on the market at the time.
Even prior to my friend’s visit with the Cree I had been thinking about a way to marry my passion for skiing with a business idea but it was the second event that forced me into entrepreneurship; in a fit of hunger my pet dog took hold of the original Cree mittens thinking that they were a toy or a snack. Knowing how much those mittens had meant to me, and how well they had performed over the past several years lead me to remake those high quality products for myself and that effort became the final impetus for the founding of the Astis brand.
AM: Alps & Meters makes first class, traditional alpine sportswear. Tell us what you make and why you make it?
Bradford Peterson: Astis makes traditional ski mittens and gloves inspired by the original designs and construction methods of the Cree Indians of Northern Canada. In our creative process, we try to remain true to traditional values of quality and durability and hope to offer skiers and riders a differentiated product that is well made and will last a lifetime. Unlike many other brands, Astis owns our very own manufacturing shop. All of our product patterns are first hand drawn by myself or another teammate and all of the leather at the start of our manufacturing process is hand cut. This high touch approach to design and manufacturing helps us to ensure maximum attention to detail and total quality. Likewise, at Astis we take great care to wholly manage our supply chain. In fact, we do not use 3rd party vendors, but instead we order all of our own materials to ensure that our quality standards are met at every step of the way on the production journey.
Overall, it takes some time to make each Astis mitten and although we have over 200 different types of styles with men’s, women’s, mid-cuff, short-cuff, and a variety of beadwork presentations we appreciate our method of making which still remains very intimate and small scale throughout the entire process from start to finish.
AM: What does “Tradition” mean to you and how does it influence your creative endeavors?
Bradford Peterson: Astis products were born from the timeless simplicity of an original Cree Indian mitten so in many ways our styles reflect those traditional methods of making; the hand made drawings of mitten patterns, the hand-cut leather, and the use of natural materials. Each of these elements of our product design and development efforts reflect a series of time-honored techniques that Astis has embraced and continues to revitalize with each and every product we create. Also, as passionate backcountry skiers, the Astis team appreciates authentic alpine experiences and continues to tour and make our way into the mountains throughout the winter. We find something pure about backcountry skiing that is different than the typical resort experience. In fact, our company motto, “Stay Warm, Stay Positive”, was produced as an outcome of one of our off-piste excursions. As backcountry enthusiasts we enjoy moving through the mountains under our own power and fitness and this traditional type of experience is much the same today as it has been for the past 50 years. During our brand and product development endeavors, we think quite a lot about the simplicity and timelessness of our hiking and skiing adventures and try to channel that positive, genuine energy across the spectrum of all creative aspects of the company.
AM: Alps & Meters’ Forged Performance product creation philosophy blends the past and the present. How does Astis strike an optimal balance between those two forces?
Bradford Peterson: Much like Alps & Meters' Forged Performance garments, our mittens combine rich natural materials with contemporary technologies such as polartech linings and waterproof finishing techniques to maximize product longevity and durability. Also, the wonderful beadwork that accompanies our designs is meant as a consistent appreciation of the Cree Indians and the rugged, durable atmosphere of Northern Canada from which Astis received its original inspiration. I have a sketch pad by my bed and often find that the designs for Astis mittens beadwork arrives late at night. I find that the wide variety of these ideas that come to me in the evening help to enhance the quality intentions of our products while delivering a beautiful sensibility to a product class that is usually stark and sterile. Overall, our hope is that our products draw the very best from the past and the present while taking into consideration new innovative advancements that will offer our community maximum protection, durability, and comfort packaged with artistic design work conveying a traditional product personality.
AM: Alps & Meters’ will be making a few last trips to the mountains this winter. We will be in Revelstoke, B.C. as well as Chamonix, France in March. How do you plan to spend the rest of the winter?
Bradford Peterson: Well, ironically, steering Astis has, in fact, made it more difficult to find time to ski. I think it will be some time before I am able to have a hundred day season again. However, most recently I was able to make a short hut trip in Colorado, which was wonderful.
Also, I am off to Aspen, Colorado shortly to conduct some ski testing on behalf of friends and partners; this will be a nice way to blend work and pleasure and I certainly don’t expect it to be the last days on the mountain this season. Even into April and May the backcountry should hold plenty of snow and I plan to continue those traditional adventures with my Astis teammates, friends, and family.