Kelly Wehner and Jenny Czinder are two legit biker babes. After becoming friends and riding together for the last few years (including the annual Babes Ride Out to California), Kelly and Jenny grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of stylish and functional riding gear for women. Though it took a few years, they did something about it and are now the proud designers / entrepreneurs behind Strange Vacation.
Though I’m terrified of motorcycles myself, I greatly admire those who can move past the vulnerability of being exposed on such a powerful machine and appreciate the exhilaration I can only assume comes with riding. I’m also a huge fan of the look and fell in love with the pared down no-fuss design of their Original Motorcycle Jacket right away. Arguably a fashion staple as much as functional gear, I love how Kelly and Jenny stripped their motorcycle jacket down to it’s best elements (goodbye, useless belt!) while working with domestic producer, Vanson Leather, on manufacturing.
I had to know more and was psyched when Kelly and Jenny agreed to an interview about their fledgling line. Read on to learn how they got started, what their biggest challenge has been, their dream ride and more …
VGS: Who is Strange Vacation: How do you know each other and how did you decide to work together?
SV: Strange Vacation was founded by Jenny Czinder and Kelly Wehner. We met in San Francisco about 8 years ago. At the time Jenny was living in SF and Kelly was down visiting a mutual friend. We didn’t become close friends until Jenny moved to Portland a few years ago. We decided to work together because we share similar passions, we both saw a hole in the motorcycle market & we both have the amazing trait of being total weirdos!
VGS: Strange Vacation came from your frustration at the lack of stylish motorcycle gear for women, what was the process of getting your idea off the ground?
SV: We had the idea to start Strange Vacation about 3 years ago, but we both had other full time jobs that took up the majority of our time so the process was pretty slow to start. We basically just started asking anyone and everyone we knew with experience for advice or recommendations regarding starting a business, manufacturers, lawyers, etc. This was new territory for both of us on many levels so there was a lot of baby stepping and trial and error. It’s been a roller coaster ride but through all of it, even the frustrating moments, we have and are still, learning so much about what it means to run a company like this, as well as learning a lot about ourselves and what we’re capable of. I don’t think either us ever imagined ourselves doing anything like this, but look at us now…we’re in the thick of it and having a great time!
VGS: Tell me about your designs, how much is form and how much is function? How do you make the two work together?
SV: Our designs are an even fusion of function, style & form. We feel that often women’s product tends to lack the functionality of men’s product in general. If it is focused on functionality, the look of it is totally off. Our goal is to consistently create a hybrid in the core of our products. We want girls to be stoked to wear our shit when they aren’t riding. When they are riding we still want them to look awesome, but also be comfortable and protected.
Our balance of form & function work together because our design aesthetic is based around minimalism. We will never make over designed product for the sake of looking functional, but not actually being functional. In many instances the functionality informs the style of the jacket. In our case we have a limit on going overboard. We include essential functional features which creates a simplistic look. Being forward thinking about our trims, materials, fit & silhouette adjustments are where the balance of style plays into our core items.
VGS: Tell me about your collaborations with Vanson and Columbiaknit … Was it important to you that the clothing be manufactured in the US?
SV: The partnerships we have with Vanson & Columbiaknit are essential to the brand. Supporting US manufacturers is extremely important to us. The core of Strange Vacation is based around that concept. That does not mean we aren’t open to working with manufacturers outside the US on our fringe pieces, but for our foundation pieces we are in love with the idea of continuing our partnerships with these two factories. The quality of workmanship, materials, machinery & people are all mind blowing. Each of our pieces literally comes with a little bit of history. Beyond all of that, Vanson is a leader in the motorcycle world. If anyone knows how to make protective gear, it’s them.
VGS: What about ladies who don’t ride but love the look? Is Strange Vacation for them too?
SV: Strange Vacation is absolutely for all ladies! The ladies that ride motorcycles or mopeds, or prefer to simply be a passenger, or have no interest in two wheels and just love our product. We offer a great range of product at different prices because we want everyone to be able to be a part of what we’re doing.
VGS: Strange Vacation was three years in the making, what was your biggest challenge along the way and how did you overcome it?
SV: The biggest challenge at first was putting in enough time to make it actually happen. We had full time jobs that took all our attention and so for awhile it felt like Strange Vacation was going no where. Once things started to take off, a little over a year ago, the challenge became taking everything in stride, not getting too overwhelmed and just trusting that everything was and is going to work out the best way it possibly can!
VGS: What was your biggest inspiration while creating Strange Vacation? What is inspiring you now for the future?
SV: Our biggest inspiration in starting Strange Vacation is the women who ride, and the simple lack of rad apparel for those women. We’ve also been super inspired by other women in the world who have started their own businesses of all types. We never really saw ourselves doing anything like this, but now that we are it’s been one of the most empowering, fun experiences for both of us. Our inspiration moving forward is to continue to provide apparel that is as functional as it is stylish but we’d really like to push that balance and take things to a stranger place though one that’s still sexy.
VGS: What is your ultimate dream ride? Which Strange Vacation items (current or planned) would you take with you?
SV: The ultimate dream ride would be one that didn’t have to end. A continuous tour of all the roads there are! For that we’d bring everything we currently make, and if there’s something we need that we don’t already or can’t find then we’ll start making whatever that is, too. We wouldn’t bring Strange Vacation product with us just because we made it and love it, but because it all works, fits and looks how we want.
Product photos: Molly Quan
Shop Strange Vacation for yourself or the badass lady in your life and follow @strange.vacation on Instagram for inspiring shots and news on new items as they hit the shop.