"Great kit, great coffee, great adventures!"
HOW SENTIER's OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE FUELS THEIR BUSINESS
Words - Tom Duke // Photography Tom Aiton
Sentier is the latest in British automotive apparel with the spirit of the outdoors at its heart. Spearheaded by Sam Russell and Elliot Tricker, Sentier brings high quality designs to many other like-minded Brits.
What makes this duo such a unique proposition is the fact that they walk the talk. Here they are fresh back from a road trip to the Lake District with a Defender 110, “If we have an hour to spare, we’re going to go out. Part of the reason we started this is that our schedule is our own. If it’s a nice day we can go out for a ride, then start work in the afternoon.” Sam and Elliot have created a situation for themselves where they can feed their hobbies into their work. “We just want to make stuff that we would like to wear no matter what we’re doing - whether we’re underneath the Land Rover changing oil, cycling, riding a motorbike, or scrambling through the woods. It’s been wicked fun and it’s going well.”
“The main goal is to set up a warehouse and have it as a shop / workshop / cafe. Something like ‘The Bike Shed’ but on a much smaller scale. We’d want to do it on a B road, so people ride or drive to it because there would be good roads around it. [People could] come and hang out or there would be a workshop if people wanted to borrow tools.” It's clear Sam and Elliot have some amazing plans to grow Sentier into something bigger than t-shirts and beanie hats. “We brand ourselves as outdoor and automotive clothing, but we don’t tend to restrict ourselves to motorised stuff. We love cars and motorbikes but we both came from mountain biking and cycling.”
After we’d had a bit of a chat, we all clambered into the Defender and set off hunting some photo ops. I suppose it’s the first time I’ve really experienced a Land Rover off tarmac, it does it like it’s nothing. A normal car would be revving and spinning it’s wheels, there would be unlocked differentials frantically scrabbling with the front axle. The ups and downs would cause the car to beach, bits would come off. If I was to say ‘the Defender ate these tracks for breakfast’ I wouldn’t be doing the thing justice. A more accurate statement would be, ‘the Defender went down these tracks like it was on it’s way to breakfast.' I was completely smitten by how capable the Defender is, to see it make such light work of a track that a normal car could never go down.
The shoot quite quickly became a tremendous bit of fun and we ended up exploring a couple of green lanes - Sam was no chicken when it came to taking the Defender up on some pretty steep verges. On the way down the last one, the back end lost grip and we were already at what felt like more than a 45 degree angle. I thought we were going over at one point as the wheels slid down the bank - Sam was laughing (probably at me).
Sam’s white ‘02 Defender 110 van has been a mainstay of Sam and Elliot’s excursions. Owning and running a Defender wasn’t actually plan A. “Before [the Defender] I had a 1979 VW camper with a bay window. It was designed to be a project, my dad and I re-did it all. The plan was that by the time I passed my test I could have it has my first car. But I got to that stage and it still wasn’t running.”
Sam got the defender to help with bringing the camper back to life. “The idea behind the Defender was that I could carry my mountain bikes and any potential spare parts for the camper.” In the end, the Defender proved itself to be the noble steed he always wanted. I quizzed Sam over his choice of the van body over the ‘station wagon’ style. “It’s so practical. I’ve thought about changing it, but it was too practical to bother changing.”
The guys are about to swap their Mercedes Vito for an 80’s Dodge Spacevan, a move to reinforce their brand - there was even talk of installing a coffee machine in the back. Bringing great coffee to motoring events, there’d be queues for miles. I asked how their interests directly flow into their products. Instead of using focus groups or “the internet” for new designs, they take direct inspiration from their travels and turn them into new ideas. “We’d really like to do a range of tools you always lose, like a 10mm spanner or something like that, something really high quality."
What I think is interesting is how the duo make sure that they are staying true to their core beliefs. From our own experience with Spoke, when things aren’t working we’ve found that the best cure for difficult problems is going and reminding yourself what it’s all about. For Sam and Elliot: “It’s always on our mind. Even if we’re sat at our desk 5 hours into a working day - we’re always thinking about what we could be doing, which is going out doors or riding bikes. The influence comes from what we would be doing if we weren’t working. If we can do Sentier and combine it with what we like doing - that’s where it all comes from. The main reason we did [Sentier] was so we could do our hobbies for a job.”
Sam and Elliot are some of the most genuine people you will ever have the privilege of meeting. They don’t care for ‘BS’ and have a very direct approach with their business. They don’t just rely on web sales, they go out to events and shows and get involved with the community. “We do a lot of the car and motorbike shows, Silverstone classic and things like that. We try and go out every week - we go to most of the bigger ones.”
Keep an eye out for Sentier, maybe even do yourself a favour and pick up one of their T-shirts. I know I’ve got my eye on on a hoodie and a beanie hat.