Behind the Scenes: Greenlite Heavy Industries
Urban cyclist gear that falls higher on the fashion scale than head-to-toe Lycra, and it's made in Seattle.
It's a one-man show by Michael McGuffin, who launched the label in 2012 after noticing a need for gear with functionality and design. Being the only employee means heading everything from designing to blogging to hand-delivering the goods himself. The only thing he doesn't do? Sew. Pattern making and stitching are contracted out to Matt Noren at Tarboo Inc; McGuffin discovered Noren via Internet and the two partnered up over a love for local, handmade clothing.
McGuffin works out of a bedroom-turned-studio in his house on the Southeast tip of Mercer Island, utilizing a Swedish fabric called Schoeller Dry-Skin to create trousers, three-quarter length pants, and shorts with fuller thighs and turn-up cuffs that reveal ankle reflectors.
Shop talk: Where do you go to eat or grab a coffee in the neighborhood?
Living in a city within a city gives me the option of hanging out at my local Starbucks (when I want to get out of the house, but need to get work done) or taking a quick ride into vibrant Pioneer Square where I typically grab coffee at Café Umbria. I recently discovered Cherry Street Coffee in Pioneer Square.
Riding my bike around town takes energy, and when I need a good lunch I usually head for Salumi, but if the line’s too long I’ll pop over to Bakeman’s for their open-faced turkey sandwich.
What is your earliest memory of designing?
My background is in engineering–I’m a structural engineer by trade–and for as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed creating something from its component parts. Essentially I’m a builder, whether it’s a cabin in the mountains, furniture for our house, a short story, or a business I like to dream up ideas and make them reality.
What do you do to get yourself in a productive headspace when you're feeling stuck?
Oftentimes I just have to walk away for a day or two to give my brain the time to figure things out. When it comes to new ideas I get energy from being out and about in Seattle; this town has such a cool vibe and the act of drinking a coffee while watching people go by provides me with a lot of inspiration.
Physical activity, especially when it’s done outdoors, really helps me to think clearly, solve old problems, and dream up new ideas. Whether it’s walking the dog, hiking, or riding my bike I typically spend about two hours a day outside doing something physical.
Five things you can't work without:
- I’m a bit of a Luddite and am computer challenged, but I love my Microsoft Surface Pro computer. Ninety-five percent of my work is done on this machine.
- My Nokia 920 Windows Phone. Whether I’m shooting, accessing my web site, checking emails, checking inventory/sales numbers, or even making an occasional call my phone is indispensable. I hate to sound like a tech geek, but when it comes to actually doing the nuts and bolts portion of the business, my phone is awesome.
- A cedar number 2 pencil from Field Notes (needle-sharp) and a Moleskine notebook. All of my ideas start out with pencil and paper.
- My trusty Bernina sewing machine. My sewing abilities are amateur at best, but I do enjoy knocking out prototypes of future projects.
- Willow. She’s my dog, and right now she’s asleep under my desk. She’s a good friend and always listens to what I have to say.
What is your favorite thing about your studio?
I really like the floor-to-ceiling tongue and groove knotty pine. There is a depth and warmth to this room that only craftsmanship and time can produce.
Where can we find your gear and where would you like us to find it in the future?
Locally my products are sold at Tarboo in Pioneer Square, Hub and Bespoke in Fremont, and at Veloce Velo on Mercer Island. The reality of crafting clothing on-shore from the best fabrics available is that the manufacturing costs are quite high, so I sell primarily online. I have, however, found that having a retail presence is essential in order to get real-time customer feedback. Sometimes you just need to know if people like what you’re making.