BGBS 058: Kris Fry | Smartwool | It’s an Experiment

BGBS 058: Kris Fry | Smartwool | It’s an Experiment
July 26, 2021

BGBS 058: Kris Fry | Smartwool | It’s an Experiment

Kris Fry is a brand pro in love with the magic of ideation and storytelling, armed with the awareness that nothing is more powerful than a well-planned strategy. He is currently the Global Creative director at Smartwool, but has had the opportunity to lead concept, design, and experience for incredible brands like Oakley, Wheel Pros, HEAD, SCOTT Sports, Coors, Eddie Bauer, Punch Bowl Social, and The North Face.

As you’ll hear in the episode, Kris is fascinated by finding the connection points between consumers and branding in order to find the right brand message that inspires consumers beyond just purchase, to join a community. Our interest in where it all began lead Kris down the path of explaining a world of self-expression, liberation, and rave-style jeans—otherwise known as skateboarding culture—which was pivotal for introducing him to brand expression and has remained an underlying current of inspiration to this day. We go along with the journey that enthralled Kris with the blend of visual language and storytelling, eventually leading him to an opportunity with Smartwool that he wears proudly today.


[10:07] That balance of branding and consumers and how they interact is one of the greatest sociology experiments that I just love and nerd out on and I find it fascinating, like it’s an experiment—this interaction and this back and forth. Sometimes breaking out a little bit of a crystal ball and doing some guesswork, having some data to throw in there. [Those] foundational elements help guide the creative to come up with that brand-right message that just connects with people and hopefully inspires them beyond just purchase. It inspires them to join a community.

[10:49] One of our main goals is to get people outside. It’s not about what you do outside or how well you do it, we just think there’s this beautiful inherent thing about nature.

[12:02] There’s just so many powerful elements that I think brands have a responsibility to really drive with consumers. I think there’s a lot of brands doing some really cool stuff and activating in cool ways and opening up conversations and exposing communities to things they’ve never seen before. I think brands are inspiring.

[14:06] I think skateboarding and finding skateboarding and that community for me, essentially changed my life and made me really recognize brands—what they stood for. And I started to kind of badge and, with the little money I had, could adopt these brands, because they meant something and they said something about me. And so I might not have recognized the power of them then, or that I would want to pursue that as a career, but art has always been a part of it.

[18:17] Another thing that I’ve always loved about skateboarding is they always find a way to get back underground and come back out with a new look, feel that’s unique to the culture in that moment, and I can’t think of another sport activity or movement that has been able to do that decade over decade over decade.


Instagram: @kfrydesign

LinkedIn: Kris Fry

Kris Fry: Smartwool


Podcast Transcript

Kris Fry 0:02
Every generation a parent’s right is trying to just not do what their parents did them. And I think for me, I’ve come to a place where I haven’t felt that shame in a long time. That a lot of that is who you surround yourself with and things that you do that make you happy and build confidence in who you are as a person. And that’s kind of been me like I’ve had to find a sense of worth and confidence in myself and value in myself that you know how to use quite a bit to get out of that kind of shameful feeling. But, you know, design and art and those things, music, especially like, those are all things that I think have really helped me figure out who I am. And you know where I want to go.

Marc Gutman 0:52
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Backstory Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big back stories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby got backstory. We are talking to Kris Fry, global creative director. It’s Smartwool. And before we get into my conversation with Kris, if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate review us over at Apple podcasts or Spotify, Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. Better yet, please recommend this show to at least one friend who you think will like it. It may be even one enemy who will like it. It’s time we bring the world together over the common love of the baby got backstory podcast.

Today’s guest is Kris Fry global creative director at Smartwool. And I’m gonna let you know right now, we don’t talk a whole lot about Smartwool. That’s because Kris took the conversation in a wonderfully raw and fascinating direction. Kris has had the opportunity to lead concept design and experience for some incredible brands like Oakley, wheel pros, head, Scott sports cores, Eddie Bauer, Punchbowl, social and the North Face.

He is currently the global creative director at Smartwool, which is part of the Vf Corporation. And as you’ll hear, he describes himself as a freelancer, a failure startup and an agency executive. He’s worked brand side agency side, and more often than not somewhere in between. Kris says in his words. I’m in love with the magic of ideation and storytelling, but also believe that nothing is more powerful than a well planned strategy. This is a brand pro and marketer after my own heart. I’ve known Kris for years, we’ve worked together in the past. And I didn’t know about 95% of what he shares in this episode. In this is his story.

I am here with Kris Fry, the global creative director at Smartwool. Thanks for joining us, Kris. Really appreciate it. And as we get into the episode here, like what is a global creative director, it’s Smartwool. Like what does that mean?

Kris Fry 3:49
Thanks for having me. Great question. Well, essentially, I am a creative director at Smartwool. So I essentially drive all of the marketing materials, marketing materials, storytelling efforts, branding, really kind of drive the purpose and values of the brand globally. As you know, our brand is mostly us focused and based, you know, we are growing in some key markets, specifically Canada, Europe, em EA. And so my job globally, is to make sure that the brand is not only consistent, but compelling in all of those regions, and work with kind of different marketing teams within the regions to kind of help them you know, keep consistent and make sure that kind of those brand values and that purpose for the brand is really driven home at every communication point.

Marc Gutman 4:40
Yeah, and just so our listeners know, and I’m sure about 99.9% of them are familiar with Smartwool but in case they’re not, I want you to give us a little kind of blurb on who and what Smartwool is.

Kris Fry 4:55
Awesome. Yeah, so Smartwool is a apparel company. So started in the sock business, they were the first ones to make merino wool based performance socks in steamboat, Colorado. And for 26 years, they have been kind of crafting and re crafting and kind of growing into other spaces like apparel and accessories, and really kind of taking this merino wool expertise and this knitting expertise that came from socks. And then growing that across many categories, base layer, mid layer, finding every kind of which way you can twist and knit wool.

Marc Gutman 5:35
Yeah, and you know, that makes me feel dated, because I remember when Smartwool was like a new novel thing, you know, and Brian, Marina Marino sport socks were like, this, this crazy new concept. And now here we are 26 laters, I haven’t realized it’s, it’s been that long. And let’s get back a little bit to this description of global creative director. Because before we move past that, I really want to define that a little more like, what’s your What are your days? Like? I mean, are you sitting around? Is that the way that I like to imagine the fantasy that you’re in some studio? And you’re splashing paint? And you’re ripping up paper? And you’re, you know, mocking up things? Or is it? Is it something completely different than that?

Kris Fry 6:17
Well, I’m gonna be honest, some days are like that, for sure. You know, ideating generating ideas comes from all kinds of different spots, right? Whether that be gathering inspiration from books, but my main objective is to lead a team and inspire them. And to help them solve larger brand problems.

I also worked very closely with the head of global marketing, to really kind of define the strategies, that kind of, you know, the strategies that essentially kind of define only the campaign’s but you know, all of the kind of go to market product stories that we’re going to tell seasonally. And so I work quite a bit with the product development team, as well, as our design directors suggests who really runs kind of the product design program, she’s essentially kind of my, my peer and partner in crime to really kind of, at every angle, make sure that the aesthetic of the brand is coming through storytelling, those kind of bigger product thematics, and consumer insights, how they’re kind of really driven into the product, as well as into all of our marketing efforts. And then, yeah, so a day like today, you know, I’ll start off with a, you know, kind of a team leadership meeting, I guess, with, you know, a group of folks that I brought on to kind of help work on the team in a different way.

So writers or directors, designers, and then you know, might slide into a strategy meeting, to really kind of define how we’re going to be brief certain projects, and, and then I still take a pretty hands on approach to the work. So sometimes I’m, you know, blocking out a couple hours on the calendar to, as you say, like, rip up paper, get creative, get inspired. And then yeah, sometimes, you know, it’s a larger leadership things. Right now, we have some kind of fundamental brand things that we’re developing, specifically around kind of identifying our design target, who they are, what motivates them, and really kind of trying to drive this idea of being consumer and digital first, for smartwatches. Right?

Smartwool is a brand that has largely been wholesale driven, and just with the changes, you know, even before COVID, right, the world of wholesale is changing. And so we’re trying to identify ways to really support our wholesale and specialty partners, make sure the brand and that brand love is being generated and resonated from those partners, as well as taking an active look at strategically, you know, how we, how we bring more digital activations to life so we can really grow our brand and bring, you know, new consumers to it.

Marc Gutman 9:03
And so you and I have talked about this before, you’ve mentioned it several times, just in that last, that last reply, talking about brand and brand aesthetics, and storytelling, and so you know, that those are all topics that are near and dear to my heart, like, like, what why is it important that your almost entire focus is is on that, like, why does that matter?

Kris Fry 9:23
I think there’s, for me a bunch of different reasons, like I think, I don’t know, I think brands have an opportunity to, to do some pretty powerful and meaningful things beyond just selling products, right? I think there’s opportunity, especially with, you know, culturally, the sea change that is happening, for brands to have a point of view, right, and I think to to become more than just kind of valuable products, right, and, and stories are really kind of the key driver for the for identifying kind of those connections. points with consumers, right. But I do think it’s, you know, for me, I don’t know the brand, that balance of branding and consumers and how they interact, I think is like one of the greatest, like sociology experiments that I just like, love and nerd out on. And I don’t know why. But I find it fascinating, right?

Like, it’s an experiment like this interaction and this back and forth. And sometimes breaking out a little bit of a crystal ball and doing some guesswork, having some data to throw in there that’s, you know, foundational elements to help guide the creative, to come up with that brand right message that just connects with people, and hopefully inspires them beyond just purchase, right inspires them to, to join a community and for smart goals, specifically, right, it’s one of our main goals is to get people outside, right? It’s, it’s not about what you do outside or how well you do it, we just think there’s this beautiful inherent thing about nature. And our products, you know, not only provide protection, but they also provide comfort. And hopefully those things, you know, are we like to say like, our main job is essentially to ignite transformative moments for consumers, right. And that come through in product and our communication. And to me, that’s why branding is important, because it sets a path and a tone that everybody can rally behind. And hopefully, our customers and consumers feel that, you know, there’s nothing like throwing on a snappy new pair of socks. And you know, when you pull that toe over, and you snap that Smartwool logo over the toes, that to me is a transformative moment, right?

You, you feel all of the innovation that went into the sock that you may not be able to see, you feel the power of natural materials. And, you know, that should give you this sense of you’re taking really good care of your feet by making you know, this purchase from this fun loving brand. Right? So very long winded answer to your question, as usual. But I don’t know, there’s just so many powerful elements that I think brands have a responsibility to really drive with, with consumers. And, and I think there’s a lot of brands doing some really cool stuff and activating a cool ways and opening up conversations and exposing communities the things they’ve never seen before. I think brands are inspiring.

Marc Gutman 12:23
And I couldn’t agree more. I mean, you describe yourself as nerding out on brand and the social experiment. I agree. I think it’s just this incredible dance, it’s always changing. It sometimes is maddening. It’s so fickle. But that’s what I think also keeps us coming back for more. You know, it’s never it’s never static. And so where did you grow up?

Kris Fry 12:43
I actually grew up in Littleton Colorado, not too far from home. Yeah.

Marc Gutman 12:48
Colorado native, we don’t we don’t encounter those very often, not just on the baby gun, podcast, but just in, in real life, except this next generation, like all our kids will be the Colorado natives. But as you’re growing up there in Littleton, Colorado, I mean, did you know that you were gonna be drawn to this, this idea of branding, and even in a broader sphere, being a creative?

Kris Fry 13:12
I don’t think I knew about, you know, or wasn’t, I wasn’t really attracted to brands or branding, until maybe, I’d say high school, junior high school level, right? Like before that, you know, didn’t matter. It was just whatever I could throw on and go ride my bike, and get outside. But being a creative for sure. I was always into art, and drawing and painting, you know, in junior high moment was like, I always mean, my buddies always talk about like, junior high, I feel like is used to be this defining moment where you’re either going to be go down a good path, or a bad path, right, and start experimenting a little bit like that seventh to eighth grade. And I chose, you know, to try some some things in my life at that moment, right.

But I was also introduced to a totally different world that took, you know, drawing and painting to another level of expression, right? music changed, art changed. And I think skateboarding and finding skateboarding and that community for me, essentially changed my life, and made me really recognize brands, what they stood for. And, you know, I started to kind of badge and, you know, with the little money I had, right could can adopt these brands, because they meant something and they said something about me. And so I might not have recognized the power of them then, or that I would want to pursue you know that as a career, but art has always been a part of it. Being creative has always been a part of it. You know, Music has always, you know, been a key part of my life. I’m a failed musician many times over, right? Like, I would love to be able to play the guitar. I’ve tried many times and failed, right? But it’s something that’s always been like a underlying current and powerful inspiration point. forever.

Marc Gutman 15:01
Well, and you and I share that in common. I have multiple guitars that I’ve purchased throughout the years that I’ve, you know, that I’ve started playing never successfully as well. And I’ve got a nice little collection. So we got that going. And as well, and I don’t know if this is my bias, I don’t know if it’s who I tend to No, but there really does seem to be this interesting thread through the creatives that have been on this show that have all have gotten to a really great point in their careers where they were really inspired and informed by skateboarding. And then, you know, in another layer of that being music, that’s come up a lot, too. But I mean, what do you think it is about that skate culture that lends itself to being this this foundational, either community or just inspiration for for creatives, especially those, you know, if our generation?

Kris Fry 15:57
Yeah, I mean, for me, it was this idea of self expression. And just, I don’t know, being a totally unique individual, like I felt that come through with, you know, every one of my favorite skateboarders, every one of the skateboard brands, right from the artists, they chose to do the graphics to the colors to the way they treated the logos, right. And that attitude was something that me and my group of friends tried to personify in our own way, you know, everybody had, like, intentionally was, you know, trying to cut their, their own style, right, like I came up in like the early 90s version of skateboarding, which was very much like, cut off ultra baggy jeans or going to thrift stores or buying, you know, 40 size pants when I was like a 28 waist, and they’re massive, but I would cut off the bell bottoms, it wasn’t quite like Genco like jinko level, you know, like the rave style jeans, but there was a DIY customization like, self expression, like, thing that just was artistic and kind of weird. And, and I think that also kind of alliance of the punk rock scene and DIY spirit of carving your own way, and having a voice and not being afraid to, to express yourself at that was very liberating, right? For me. And I don’t know, it was just super influential.

I think part of it too, was also, you know, what the environment I grew up in. Skateboarding was this pivotal thing that happened, and I got to experience and that was mine. And that was just a very different than what I had at home. Right. It was an escape for me, too. And I think, for me, that’s what it was, I know, for my group of friends at the time, right? Like, that’s what it was for them to. We had our we had our own community that we made, right, we could do, and talk and be ourselves and that little bubble, and it felt like a safe space. That was our stone, which I I really, you know, think is because of skateboarding.

You know, I don’t know if that was ever anybody’s intent that got a skateboard, but they’ve been reinventing it and doing it for decades, right, like, and that’s another thing that I’ve always loved about skateboarding is they always find a way to get back underground and come back out with a new look feel that’s unique to the culture in that moment, you know, and that I can’t think of another sport activity, you know, or movement that has been able to do that decade over decade over a decade, you know.

Marc Gutman 18:41
Yeah, neither can I. And so, then at that age, in addition to skateboarding, like how was school going for you? Were you a good student? Or did you have any sense of where you were going with yourself?

Kris Fry 18:55
Not at all. I was a terrible student. Some of it by choice, some of it by Yeah, most of it by choice, right? Like, uh, I gotta pick the things in the moments that I wanted to pay attention to. And you know, in high school in high school, kind of had my core group of friends and you know, we we were all into skateboarding and we kind of did our thing and I wasn’t very good at math or you know, proper English I’m still terrible with grammar thank God for copywriters. But um, you know, I think those are the things I just didn’t love and appreciate and I didn’t put a value set to them. But art I did write I took every photo photography class, every drawing class, and I did really well in those classes. Like my dad used to always be like, You’re like a half straight A student right? Like because I get perfect grades and all the art classes and then every other thing I was failing out of but you know, that was that. It was This was like, what I glommed on to, and I loved and again, I think a lot of it just felt like a, an avenue of expression for me more than anything, right. And I had some really supportive teachers in my high school that, you know, saw some talented me and nurtured it and supported it. And I just kind of kept on this art train. And, you know, I had another very influential high school teacher.

His name is Bill stout. He’s, he was just a rad Dude, I had him freshman year for I forget the name of the class, but English 101 or whatever. And, and he was so cool, because he got us into creative writing, in a very cool way, right? We’d have to write in journals. And at the beginning, it was like, Oh, God, here you go first. 10 minutes of class, right? You got to write in your journal and, and Mr. style was like, super into music as well. And so he’d always put on music. But it wasn’t just like, Oh, I’m gonna put on, you know, some top 40 it was like, he was he was playing Pearl Jam, when like, Pearl Jam was new. He was like, and so every kid in the class was like, Fuck, yeah, this, this is amazing, right. And he’s just was this cool, dude. And he, I learned a lot from him. And I actually had a chance my senior year, the only AP class I had was AP English. And Mr. style was like, I remember you from freshman year, even though you haven’t been that successful. Like, I think, you know, this would be a good class for you. And I love that class. And he changed the rules. And that’s what I loved about it, too, is it wasn’t about curriculum, to him, it was about my goal is to make sure that you are expanding your brain as a young man. And so he’d be like, I, I want you to do the curriculum stuff, you’re gonna get graded on it, for sure. He’s like, but what I really want you to do is read. And he had this deal. If you read so many pages, essentially, it would, you know, take over what you didn’t do in the curriculum.

And so I was like, This is amazing. And so I, I adopted reading, and he, he would, you know, do these kind of book report interview style things, but the books he was given me were insane books, like catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, you know, those kind of standard ones that are like coming of age, great stories, but then it got into like, I don’t know, cosmic Bandidos and some weird shit. And then he got me into the Basketball Diaries, and just some counterculture stories that were very real and gritty and raw, like, it was super inspiring to me. And it opened my mind up to like, things I had no idea existed, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t know if you’ve read the gym, like Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll. But like, they made a movie of it with Leonardo DiCaprio. But if you ever get a chance, go on Amazon order the book. It’s fucking astounding, like, what was happening in New York and his artistry and who Jim Carroll became like, it’s just like, I don’t know, it’s a period piece that is just iconic and resonates with me. But I don’t know, I think maybe that ultimately helped me craft this love of Art and Design and the visual language with storytelling, right like that. I would have never found that without Mr. Stout.

Marc Gutman 23:18
Yeah. And so at that time, I mean, did you have a sense of what was next? I mean, were was Mr. stau. And your parents were they like, Oh, hey, like, you should go with him? Or were they saying or what was your thought were we gonna do after high school?

Kris Fry 23:33
Yeah, I mean, Mr. Stout. He was the kind of guy that was like, he was kind of, like, I’ll support you with whatever you want to do, right. And I really had no idea that I wanted to pursue anything and kind of the, you know, advertising marketing, branding world. And all I knew art was something I was talented at, and wanted to pursue. I, you know, I ended up, you know, wanting to go to art school. My parents on the other hand, right, like they, I come from a pretty religious, strict religious background, that I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, essentially, until about my junior year in high school, and I decided I wanted to smoke weed and date girls and have friends outside of the church. And, you know, that didn’t vibe with my parents, too well, and so, you know, by that senior year, I was a bit at odds with them. And I had found all these really cool things and was starting to figure out who I wanted to be personally right outside of the parameters that have had essentially contained me since I was, you know, a young child. And, and so I felt like art school is like my thing, and they were supportive, for sure. Right.

They were glad I had chosen something. They wanted me to, you know, apply my art to the larger church group and help the church group lunch. You know, what’s their goal for everything and I wanted out, I was like, I gotta get the fuck out of here. So I applied to a ton of art schools, I ended up getting accepted to a few of them, including the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, and spent a summer went up there visited the campus, it was awesome. Like, I remember just being, you know, high school kid and walking through this campus and going down the stairwells, and they were filled with graffiti, and they’re like, Oh, yeah, this is like, the graffiti one on one class. And I was like, Oh, fuck this, like, this is this is it, you know, I mean, and I was there with my dad. And, and he was super into it. And I had, I had gotten a scholarship to go there and international students scholarship. And so I was primed and ready. But, you know, I was also not a very I wasn’t very good at the details when it came to that stuff. And so I applied, got the scholarship, and I essentially messed up my visas, and my applications for the visas.

And right before I was going to go there, I was informed that I had lost my scholarship. And, and I could apply again next year for the same scholarship and they would kind of happy and right now, I was pretty heartbroken at that point. And so I don’t know, do you want me to keep laughing? But yeah, I think at that moment, my biggest goals were to somehow find a way to make art as a job. And also, part two of that big goal was to get as far away from Littleton Colorado as possible, which Canada had all the right things.

Marc Gutman 26:44
So we’re gonna come right back to that, but I want to talk a little bit, I want to just learn a little bit more like you, you use the, the phrase or the term the description to Hovis witness. And, like, I’m sitting here thinking, like, I don’t really think I know, a fish, like, I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t describe that back to you. And so if you could like, like, just kind of give me the one on one, like, what is that?

And and how did that affect you is in your upbringing, and I also find it interesting as you as you describe this, that, you know, you spent some time talking about describing, being involved in the skate culture and, and, and getting into music, all these things, but yet you have this other influence from from your upbringing. And so yeah, if you could just kind of give us the one on one on Jehovah’s Witness and, and what it was like, for you growing up in that environment?

Kris Fry 27:32
Yeah, for sure. What’s the best way to describe it? It’s a, it’s a Christian based religion. And it’s a it’s a, you know, it’s a pretty large and growing religion, but essentially, the way most people would know by, you know, Saturday and Sunday mornings, you hear the kind of knock on your door, and somebody is, you know, trying to get you involved in reading the Bible, or having a study group or, you know, try to kind of get you involved in that religion, right. That’s the most common thing. And you’ve probably seen it Saturday Night Live, all kinds of, you know, any comedic effort, right. Like, that’s always the, the joke around Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But, you know, that wasn’t, you know, I grew up, I was kind of born into it, essentially, I had the opportunity to celebrate my first birthday. But one of the big belief systems that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have is around making sure that all of your kind of focus and energy is around paying tribute to, to God, that includes, you know, not worshiping yourself. So there was no birthdays, all common holidays were not celebrated. And, let’s see, yeah, it was it was essentially, it was cult like, in the sense, I don’t want to call it that, right, because I don’t really believe that. I think the people there, my dad is still participating, right? Like, they’re very kind of Christian based folks. And I think that they just are very disciplined in their belief system. Right. And for a long time, you know, was at odds with my dad, because I just didn’t understand it, you know, but for him, it was, it was his truth. And it didn’t work out for everybody else in my family, essentially. And I was kind of the catalyst for that change.

But for him, it’s it’s what he believes in and he loves and I’ve come to, you know, to terms with that, and we kind of have a agree to disagree, right. I think the the fundamentals of that religion are rooted in, you know, truly the teachings of the Bible, in the sense of kindness and taking care of your fellow man. And their approach is to try and bring as many people into that, you know, you know, into their community as possible. They do that by knocking on doors. But, you know, for me, it was always so restrictive. It was, I mean, we we would go, you know, knocking on doors Saturdays on Sundays, Sundays we’d be at church, we also would have church Tuesday evenings and Thursday evenings. And then mixed in there were, you know, Bible studies, and it was just, it was always, such as Groundhog Day, I’ll just call it right. Like, it was Groundhog Day, every day. But all based on on the same ideals and the same belief system.

And as I was, you know, getting into skateboarding, and all of those things, and developing friendships, right, those are all, no no’s inside of the church, right, you’re supposed to hang with your community, because everybody else outside of that has different views that potentially will drive you away from the church. And for me, that was always like, a weird thing. And it always, like, rubbed me the wrong way to a point that it created a created defiance in me, right. And it was a was a perfect storm of me, being at that age, and pushing back against whatever all the normal things you’re supposed to push back as a teenager, but also having this like, Governor on your life, your whole life, right. And I wanted to experience life, I, I wanted to experience friendships and adventures, and art, and music and culture and skateboarding and all of these things, you know, and they were the exact opposite of what my father’s house was supposed to be. And so for a majority of my high school life, I would probably say that I lived a double life, you know, I’d go to school, and I’d be one person with my friends and, and then I’d come home, and, you know, I would tamp all of that stuff down, you know, and it was hard.

And I remember, you know, we’d always dress up in suits and ties on Saturdays. And that was always like, the hardest day for me to remember, because my dad would be like, Okay, well, you know, let’s go get our community hours in and, and, you know, do right by the religion, and try and go knock on some doors. And it was a gut wrenching feeling for me to go into a neighborhood where I knew my friends lived, and to be there next to my dad knocking on their door. And I just remember being so anxious, right, like, just waiting, waiting for that moment where I make eye contact with somebody I knew from school. And then just thinking in my head the whole time of like, the, the teenage terrorism that was about to take place that on when I got back on Monday. And anyways, long story short, that I think that had a lot to do with. I don’t know, my, my love of, you know, skateboarding and the idea of a counterculture. And the idea of breaking free. Like, I don’t know, that’s why I like what I do now, because it’s on adulterated freedom. And I think there’s power in that, you know, sorry, I just took a deep. That was great. That

Marc Gutman 33:06
It must’ve, thank you for sharing that. I mean, it must have been really hard living with that, that secret that at any moment, like, you could get busted, I can only imagine it would even be intensified by being like, Hey, I’m this cool. Skate counterculture guy. And that’s a big contrast. Right?

Kris Fry 33:24
Yeah, totally. I mean, I think that was it, you know, and I was never, at that age, you know, I kind of took it to the limit, I can take it to you. Right, like, definitely identified as a skateboarder identified with a certain group of kids. But, you know, there’s no way I was, you know, bleaching my hair, or no way I was, you know, getting anything pierced or, or going to, you know, a level of extremism, I guess, at that time. Um, there’s just no way there’s no way my I could handle the consequences that when I got back to the, to the house, and also the jig would be up, right. Like, it was one thing to wear baggy pants and a skateboard t that I picked up at BC surfing sport, that whatever had a funny character on it that, you know, my mom thought was cute. It’s another thing to come in guns blazing. And, and not have, you know, a job not not my dad would ever have kicked me out. But I, you know, I grew up as you did in that generation where, you know, corporal punishment and spankings were real deal. You know what I mean? Like, at the backside of mini wooden spoons and leather belts. And at that age, like, I was just trying to find my way. And so I was trying to find the best way I could survive to a point, you know, you know, it always bubbles up at one point, right? Like the, it always comes out, you know, and it took a while, you know, until I had some real freedoms in my own right.

Like I was driving, if I could, I had a job I could spend my money the way I wanted to spend it. And that’s when the the That’s also when cowboys from hell by Pantera was out and like, full aggression just was like, boiling inside of me. And that’s where, you know, the kind of first set of my push to my own kind of set of values and freedoms really, you know, came at odds with my dad’s point of view, you know, and my dad was a, he’s a very kind man still is to this day, right? And I can only imagine the torture, I put him through, right, because I think he was just like, man, I just wanna, I just wanna love you. And this is why I’m doing this for you and not blasting Pantera every night when I get home, and, you know, bring girls over and smoking weed and like, sure, fucking whatever, not a proud moment, but it was my moment.

But eventually, it essentially caused the collapse of, you know, my tenure as a job as witness, they have this thing in the religion where, you know, essentially, they call it being disfellowshipped. And so essentially, if you, whatever break the rules of the community, or if you’re identified as somebody that is, you know, not living up to the standards of their religion, and they just associate you, which is a weird thing as a 16 year old to think about, but that was disassociated, essentially, like, you’re allowed to come to the, to the church as much as you want and pray and work on being a better Christian. But nobody’s allowed to talk to you can’t can’t convene, you’re kind of the like, you know, the people, the higher ups are allowed to kind of talk to you, but it’s mostly about, you know, how you’re coming back to the, to the religion outside of that, like, I wasn’t invited to anybody’s family, barbecues or I was, I was at home, and you know, my family would go do that without me, which was fine by me at the time, to be honest. ,

Marc Gutman 36:57
Well it sounds a little heavy. I mean, was that was it fine? Or was there like some shame involved in that?

Kris Fry 37:04
I’m sure. Yeah, I’m sure there’s some deep rooted shame in me, right. But I don’t know. Like, I think I’ve now that I’m kind of in my 40s, I feel like I have a sense of who I am and what I want to be right. I have my own kids. And I think that shame as has helped me actually, you know, hopefully not fuck them up and protect them from making sure that you know, that they don’t feel that same level of shame, right?

I think that’s, I mean, it’s probably, it’s cliche to say, but it’s cliche, because it’s true that every generation of parents, right, is trying to just not do what their parents did to them. And I think for me, I’ve come to a place for, you know, I haven’t felt that shame, in a long time, that a lot of that is who you surround yourself with, and things that you do that make you happy and build confidence in who you are as a person. And, and, yeah, and I think that’s kind of been me, like I’ve, I’ve had to find a sense of worth and confidence in myself and value in myself that, you know, had to use quite a bit to get out of that kind of shameful feeling. But, you know, design and art and all those things, music, especially like, those are all things that I think have really helped me figure out who I am. And you know, where I want to go, you know, to me?

Marc Gutman 38:35
Absolutely, again, you know, thank you so much for sharing that. I think that, you know, I was gonna say, you’re worried about not fucking up your kids. It’s like, Hey, you know, newsflash, we’re all we’re all messing up our kids. So it’s how much and so we try to try to minimize that. So we’re doing our best we can, but

Kris Fry 38:49
At least it won’t be shame that I got them up another way, but

Marc Gutman 38:54
Give him a different emotion. This episode brought to you by Wildstory. Wait, isn’t that your company? It is. And without the generous support of Wildstory, this show would not be possible. Brand isn’t a logo or a tagline, or even your product or brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or company.

It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Wildstory helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve, so that both the business and the customer needs are met. And this results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again. And this is great for business. And that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about. Reach out @ and we’d be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.

You know, kind of coming back to Calgary. So in Alberta School of Art, you’d missed your deadline, you’d missed the scholarship. Did you end up getting to go there the following year? or What happened?

Kris Fry 40:12
No, I did not. So I decided All right, cool. Well, I’ll come back to Littleton and, you know, I’ll get a job for the summer, and then I’ll essentially reapply for school and go back to school. Well, that kind of didn’t work out because I started waiting tables. And I don’t know, like, if anybody’s ever seen that movie waiting with Ryan Reynolds, but like, every fucking moment in that movie is 100%. accurate. And I worked in multiple restaurants. And it’s literally the exact like, it’s, it’s so true, the characters are so true. But go watch Ryan Reynolds waiting. And that’ll kind of describe the next kind of year and a half of my life, right was waiting tables.

And, and then, you know, my mom happened to actually work. She was working at the energy group, back before they were owned by Omnicom. And they were essentially like, had two clients. And it was, who was it cooler, like, well, they had coolers at the time that they had, I forget another kind of client, right. But they were kind of this, you know, advertising agency that was originally built out of Coors Brewing. And then they kind of broke off and became a manager and their, their biggest client was coolers and my mom worked in the merchandising department, which is essentially like the crew that comes up with all the RAD ideas that are the giveaway stuff. So like, the inflatable couch that you got, after buying, you know, so many packs of Coors Light, like, so.

My mom was like, she was really creative. And it was awesome. And, you know, this was kind of her first, I guess, like, after having kids and kids going through school like job, right. So first, like a full time corporate kind of cool job, right. And so it was cool. So my mom actually got me a job at imager. And my first job at imager is they just built a new studio that was on the back of their building. And it was kind of separate from the main hub. And so they had all the art directors, writers, and kind of conceptual people on one side of the building, count people share that building. And then the studio folks that were doing all the, you know, CG stuff and all that kind of stuff. We’re in this back building. And this is my favorite thing.

There was it was maybe 50 yards across the parking lot. But they had decided that it was really complicated for people to run job jackets, this will date me a little bit, but job jackets, like in the advertising world, they’re these huge plastic jackets that essentially had the brief in the front sleeve. And then at this, at this time, everything was printed, right? So you’d have every round of revisions, all the notes, all the copy editing notes, and they’re all bundled together in this pocket of this like giant blue. I remember them being like powder, blue folders. And so my job, they gave me a pager, which was cool at the time, they would page me. And I would call and they’d be like, hey, it’s such and such art director, can you run this job jacket over the studio? And essentially, that was my job. But I ran job jackets all day back and forth between our directors and the essentially studio design team. But that’s when I found it.

That’s when I was like, so like, I don’t know, like maybe one day in between a lot of pages. I was like looking around, and I was like, wait a minute. Like, what do you guys do here? Like, what what’s going on here? And, and I saw like, and met and have a lot of people that were just super cool and nice. There’s a dude, Jason wedekind. I think everybody knows me. Like, these are rad dude. But he owns this print shop called gagis current design for him. Jason’s like, awesome, but he he worked there. When I was there, and he was like, one of the dudes that was like, always down to just chat me up, right? Like, I’m 18 something like that. Yeah. 1718 anyways, Jason was like, cool, dude. And he was he was doing he would do freelance projects for all these up and coming breweries and be like, yo, don’t tell anyone and like, I’d go to the printer and help him like, grab the whole product.

Maybe now it’s been so long, he’s not getting fired again. So, but Jason was rad but he exposed me to this really cool world of design and at that point, it was kind of still in its in like the starting phase. Right? Like we’re talking about Photoshop and illustrators, like, not very high on the version list, right? Like we’re definitely far from Creative Cloud like but, you know, watching I used to just sit in his cube and other folks, you And just rap and watch them design and watch them be able to like take their drawing or their concept or their idea and mold it and sculpt it and then use type and like, build cool shit like labels and advertisements. And I was like, Damn, this is badass. I, I had found my thing. And yeah, I was still like waiting tables at night. And then like running job jackets back and forth. But it was at this kind of integer group that I really and this is back, like, when integer was still pretty small. And that was very different.

It still had a bit of that Mad, Mad Men culture, right? Like it was also my biggest client was beer. And so they’d have these rad parties and like, big announcements, and it was just a bunch of really cool people. And that was kind of when it all clicked in. And I was like, I want to have a job. You know, as an art director, I want I want to do what these guys are doing. There’s some really cool people that really helped me get there. Tom pounders was another dude, legendary art director in Denver. And he was like, super old school ad guy didn’t really know how to use all of the computer stuff. He was drawing, right. And all of his concepts were illustrated and like, but he had really cool ideas. And I just remember sitting in his office and like, he just like blow my mind. And another dude, Matt Holly, who was like, killer designer typographers, or, like, I don’t know, things.

Like, there was just a ton of really good people that had no problem, helping me, Excel, teaching me the programs, showing me how things come together. I guess I was kind of like, whatever. The orphan of integer studios, right? And they would like all help me and teach me things. And it was really cool. And that’s what I decided that I wanted to do. And as I kind of moved up within the studio, right, like, they asked me to start doing, you know, studio production work, which at that time, they were still doing presentations on kind of black boards, right.

So my job was essentially to take the stuff out of the printer and build their presentations before they go pitch a client, right? So I got very handy with an exacto blade and a ruler and perfectly mounting all these artboards and then turned into like building mock ups. So hey, can you make us a 3d version of this, whatever? beard in dial display, right. And so I build it out of paper, and they take it to a presentation and, and then they started kind of giving me some projects to work on, like Junior art director level projects. And yeah, I did a lot of work on the zema brand, if you remember zema. Oh, yeah, totally. How could you not iconic, right. And I remember like, at that time, Shepard Fairey was like, all the rage in the skateboarding world. And I straight ripped off. Not a pixel for pixel. But I essentially have ripped off the idea of using stencils, right to create these zema out of home boards. And there was another woman there, Monique van Asch, who actually has a really cool studio in Denver now. And she was also like, so rad at like helping me but she used to give me projects to like, Hey, you want to do a flyer for this event going on? It’s Coors Light sponsored, and, and she’d be like, here’s your inspiration.

So she’d give me these, like mini briefs for these small projects that were just fun to work on. Because it was like, oh, cool, make a, you know, five by seven flyer, and you can use any style you want. And then she critique it. And I was just a really, at that time, it was a really cool place to like, learn from these, like, really talented people that were totally open arms in teaching me anything I wanted to know. And the only Crux was, you know, I didn’t have a college education. And I remember, they were like, well, you should just put your book together from all the projects that you’ve done over the years. And I was like, Oh, cool. So I put it together my book and I went and talked to at that time, I forget what his title was. But, you know, Chief Creative Officer, I guess it’d be the contemporary title right now. But I sat down with a gentleman and he was super cool, super positive about my work, he loved everything. And essentially, he was like, I can’t hire you. You need to have you know, I think you need some formal training and you know, foundational elements of design and, and, and art theory and all these other kind of things. And I was like, Oh, shit, I was heartbroken brain so sorry, I’m just talking Marc, so you’re gonna have to just tell me to shut up.

Marc Gutman 49:51
Never keep going and so what happened and you go to school, or did you tell that guy to to go pound sand?

Kris Fry 49:58
Well, I did tell him No, I didn’t. about pounds sand I was thankful for, you know, his critique and he kind of helped me lay out a clear path. And so I pivoted from there and was like, Okay, I’m gonna go back to school. And so I had some friends that were already enrolled in Montana State University in Bozeman. And I had some family in Billings, and my cousin went to MSU. And well, essentially, like, some of my best friends from high school are there and I, you know, I, I kind of was flying by the seat of my pants, because I was like, I just need to get a college degree so that I can get a job, you know, doing this thing that I love, right. And I didn’t really look too hard at the, you know, the programs that they had at MSU lucked out, and you know, they had a really awesome art program. And so I kind of enrolled and was, you know, starting to pursue a degree in Fine Arts. And it was going really well. I was living in Bozeman and taking advantage of all the cool outdoor things that Bozeman has to offer, right, like ripping Bridger bowl and riding bikes.

And essentially, it was like, there was, I think there’s six of us living in a three or four bedroom house and I since I was the last one to join, lived in the tuff shed, in the back of the house had a full size Malamute, and two large space heaters that got me through winters. And it was awesome because I, I built like a little loft in there and did art and worked on my stuff. And then as much as I could, you know, when snowboarding or hiking or was just outside, right, like Bozeman, at this time, Bozeman was still pretty small college town. Now it’s blown up and a little bit different, but it was it was a really cool place. And then one Christmas break, I came home, and I started working over the holiday break to make some extra money. And back to integer.

So the studio manager, Studer shoemakers awesome. reached out to me, I was like, like, you want to do work part time while you’re home from school and like you can whatever help us with some studio projects. And I was like, Yeah, totally. And I just got super into it. I was like doing cool projects again. And like, I don’t know, I really loved Bozeman, but I just like had this burning desire to just like, jump as hard and as fast as I could into learning what I wanted to do. And so I just never went back to school. I went back that summer, to see my roommates. And I essentially pack up my tuff shed. And my dad actually had a trailer so you don’t meet trailer at all back. And that was like living back at home and working editor and

Marc Gutman 52:55
Did they ever hire you full time there?

Kris Fry 52:58
They did kind of studio production manager. And so kind of that job evolved into actual need, right? And so they had a lot more projects that they needed copying and mounting and building. And so I kind of turned it like they turned it into a job essentially, based on the needs. And at that time, they had been bought by Omnicom. I think my mom was still working the time around. Yeah, my mom was still working there. She’d been there a while. And anyways, like it was cool. I like was working in this hub of essentially, like art directors Central. And I was like, 21 Yeah, 21 I’d have to be and he was about that age, right. And so now I can actually take advantage of all those parties that I couldn’t before. And I was younger. And so it’s like this whole world, another whole world opened up. And then at that time, when I came back integer had landed on airwalk as a client. And Matt Holly was kind of the lead our director and then they had this new dude that had just moved to Denver named Jeffrey Bice.

He moved from California and he was like this. It’s hard to describe like he is just this fucking infectious, awesome, design focused. Dude from California that just like, kind of came in, it was a bit of a wrecking ball integer, right, like they were kind of developing this corporate structure. And he was this dude that was just like, like blow through barriers. He was selling these amazing campaigns for all these beer brands that were like lightyears ahead of other work that was being done. And anyways, for me, I really was just like, oh my god, Jeff, and I headed off and he asked me to do a bunch of projects for airwalk. And so I started doing a bunch of stuff for airwalk specifically on like the genetic skate brand, which is like a sub brand they had built at that time and Like, you know, Matt and Jeff kind of really encouraged me and I was really authentic to that culture and knew it really well and could help kind of bridge the gap from that, like, agency world to, to that airwalk endemic world and, and then, yeah, and then that’s when I met, you know, critical characters in my life that you know, as well. And anyways, so that thing happened anyways, that relation dissolved dissolved tre, like the airwalk couldn’t pay their bills to the agency, and so they essentially got fired by an agency. But that also created an opportunity.

Jeff, who I mentioned before, was asked to move in house to airwalk he offered me a job and I jumped at it. And yeah, at this time, airwalk was in Genesee, and I was the kind of in house graphic designer for airwalk and started working on all kinds of fun projects that were right in my wheelhouse and passion center, right, like airwalk, you know, at that time was not the iconic brand at once was but it was definitely picking up steam. They, you know, have brought on some critical players that became, you know, critical pieces of my life from that moment on, right. Mike Artz, one of them shared mutual friend of ours, right, like arts was the snowboard marketing manager at the time. My other really good friend Randy Kleiner, who was kind of the charge of snowboard boot and board development. And so that’s kind of where I started as a graphic designer was like, in this really cool, kind of fading iconic skates or skate surf snow, culture, brand lifestyle brand, right. And I was embedded in the brand world in a very cool way.

Marc Gutman 56:48
Yeah, then we know that, you know, Airwalk had a little bit of an untimely demise or a sudden demise. And so, you know, after that, where’d you go?

Kris Fry 56:57
Well, that, that untimely demise, I lived through that. I mean, essentially, a lot of folks unfortunately got laid off. And they essentially kept 10 of us to kind of push the business into a licensing model where they were essentially licensing The, the rights of the brand out and that’s where I really kind of developed a relationship with Randy Kleiner. And from there, you know, as we’re working on this licensing structure became collective licensing, which is another company which owned a ton of different brands, some snowboards a ton of different kind of Lamar snowboards.

They’re just buying up these really iconic action sports brands and then licensing them. But that’s where I met Randy, and a few other great folks, Mark Vitaly. And Jeff Bice was still there. And at this time, we were doing a ton of like consumer insights as a licensing brand. So we’re trying to identify trends that were happening in the marketplace around footwear, specifically sneakers, and so part of our job was to essentially do trend reporting. So they would fly us to Miami, San Francisco, New York, LA at this time, you know, sneaker culture was this very kind of small counter subculture that was just starting to brew, right. I remember the first time I went to New York and went to a life Rivington club, it was the small, no signage, place where you bring a doorbell somebody like flies over a curtain looks you up and down, checks your sneakers. And then they let you into this like amazingly crazy boutique selling retro Jordans. And then there were some other ones that were there like Dave’s quality meats and some of the iconic kind of ones. But there was a small bud of a culture that was happening on the coasts, essentially, that we were kind of influenced by and driving some of those things that were happening on the coast into these trend reports for all of our licensees in different countries to be able to say, Hey, you know, these kind of materials, these colors, this, this tone from an advertising perspective, is going to be a hit for you as you look at the whatever spring line of product and as you design for your audience, right.

So that was really cool, too, because it helped me really understand, you know, taking what consumers were doing, and how they were adopting things through products and retail, and then being able to take that and then break out a bit of a crystal ball and, and use it as a way to inform other designers on how to develop product and communications. And so from that came an idea as we kept coming back to Denver, that Denver might be ready for its own sneaker boutique. And so Randy Kleiner and I left, excuse me, airwalk and we started a little boutique here in Denver. all based around sneaker culture and marketing and design. And so we started off 10th and bannock. And it was intentionally this kind of off the beaten path, like up and coming neighborhood, in the golden triangle of Denver, and we were gonna sell a limited edition sneakers and create, essentially a culture around sneakers in Denver. That was fucking awesome. It was like the best time of my life, it was amazing. You know, it was hard. from a business standpoint, like Nike didn’t even have a rep in Denver at this time, right?

Like I was selling the type of sneakers that we wanted to have, and to be able to sell and to build this community around. But we have some other really cool brands. And we created this really cool cultural thing in Denver, you know, and we had really awesome friendships with like minded people, and that we’re also have kind of all these small businesses. And, you know, we used to throw parties, and we used to have an art gallery out front, which was really critical kind of marketing strategy for us, right, it was this idea of, well, we’re part of this first Friday movement in Denver, people are out looking at art, like, let’s bring this kind of lowbrow art style, to this sneaker culture. And let’s expose some of our, you know, some of the Denver artists that we love to our new store, and vice versa, the audience that is following them, well know that we’re here and probably find some sneakers that they want to pick up.

So we used to have these incredible art shows with, you know, some really fun, awesome artists and made some insane relationships and felt like, you know, we were contributing to a new culture in Denver. And it was probably the funnest five years of my life.

Marc Gutman 1:01:59
Yeah, but it also sounds like you didn’t make any money or didn’t make enough money. So what happened to that business? You had to wind it down?

Kris Fry 1:02:09
Yeah, I mean, we actually were successful grew the business. It was, it was good. I mean, I think, you know, for Randy and I, we were paying ourselves what we needed to survive, which is enough, because, you know, we have faith in what we’re doing. And eventually, it was gonna, you know, keep getting bigger, and we opened, you know, a couple different shops in different neighborhoods of Denver, specifically, I guess, I don’t know what it’s called now, but essentially, where the Rambo hotel is right now. Like 32nd on walnut. Anyways, that were that Billy’s hot dog is that used to be the second 400 locations were there, I don’t know, five years before that neighborhood fucking blew up. But it was cool. So we opened that neighborhood, we had a hole or we opened up that shop, we had a whole different style of sneakers there. And then we ended up closing down two stores and going to build a store off 15th and plat. This whole time, we were also doing, you know, tons of design work and marketing work and consumer research work, right. So essentially, our business attracted like the most exclusive social set in the Denver community. And so we had brands that would come to us and be like, Hey, can we do some, you know, product shopping with your crew?

Can we ask them, like they used essentially, as a laboratory for them to gain consumer insights based on you know, this, you know, new consumer type and this new trend in limited edition sneakers and streetwear. And it was awesome. So we’re doing all these insanely fun freeing projects and had this really cool business. But yeah, I mean, the economy took a dive, right? This was when the, the, I guess the ever the whole thing kind of went out. And, you know, Denver, you know, was just a beginning marketplace for this kind of, you know, limited edition culture. And so, you know, we, you know, weren’t able to convince people that they needed to buy $200 pair of shoes instead of pay their rent. And so we made a choice to kind of, kind of close it down. We, you know, at this time, I think I was about to have my second kid Sam. And, you know, we didn’t have an insurance, I had no adult things in my life at all outside of my children.

That was the only thing that qualified me as an adult. And so Randy, and I, you know, bittersweet Lee, you know, like, I had to kind of close her down, and I would say, you know, Randy took, took the brunt of it right as the kind of head business owner and majority owner and, you know, I thank him a lot for that. I mean, but he was also he’s older than me. So, you know, as my big brother, he, whatever helped guide that situation, and I believe it or not, when took a job at imager again. 30 time around. And let’s see how short Do you need me to be here? Mark? tighten it up.

Marc Gutman 1:05:06
Yeah, we do need to tighten it up. Yeah, you can just kind of bring me bring me up to speed.

Kris Fry 1:05:11
Alright, so here’s I went to integer for eight months, didn’t really love the culture didn’t feel like I was fueling ideas, the way I wanted to that time, I was kind of super corporate. And so at that time, you know, I got a call from my buddy Josh wills, and Steve Whittier at factory design labs. And so they asked me to come work at factory design labs, which was awesome, I was there. Six years worked on a ton of really iconic fun brands that became kind of the foundation of my portfolio and my knowledge set, specifically, you know, in the outdoor space, you know, the north face, we did a couple little projects for vans, but my main focus was working on the Oakley account.

And, you know, from there, like, I went from, you know, a senior art director to a VP, creative director, and that six year span and did some really fun iconic work with some really awesome people, you know, Scott sports, and then, you know, factory less like airwalk, he kind of went and had some issues and ended up closing down. And at that point, you know, after kind of running, running, you know, six years of laughs at factory, I was toasted, and didn’t want to, you know, work necessarily in advertising. And I was going to just freelance and so I freelanced in my basement for a bit, which was rewarding, but hard, and was also kind of working with capital goods as creative director on a few accounts, and that was, you know, about eight months, and I was still so burnt out, like, what happened at factory was really shitty for me, like I had to layoff a lot of people that I cared for deeply and valued.

And being put in kind of this VP, creative director role, just the stress and the amount of like, things I was exposed to, from, like the pressure standpoint, at that age, and at the same time being like, Oh, well, we didn’t get enough new business or whatever, we just this other thing happened, right, like having that, at that level. For me, it was difficult. And that shame thing, this actually might be where it comes full circle is really hard for me when it came to laying off my friends. You know, like, saying goodbye to people that I really respected for all the wrong reasons, right? That wasn’t their fault. And it was like a weekly thing.

And it became this like thing that just like, poisoned me for a little bit. I just felt so gross and guilty. And I blamed advertising for that. And so, I had always kept in good communication with Scott Bowers, who’s now it’s probably the VP of sales. And when he, when he called me, he was VP of sales and marketing. And he used to be a client at Oakley, and then worked at factory for a little bit on new business. And we’d always stayed in touch and and, you know, Scott reached out and said he had an opportunity to Smartwool and that was the past 10 minute version. Sorry. Well, I’m very long winded. That’s where I’m at now.

Marc Gutman 1:08:28
Yeah, and so what’s the future look like for Kris Fry, and Smartwool?

Kris Fry 1:08:34
I’m really kind of excited, I think, you know, it’s Marvel as a brand started out, kind of really around the product, and, and that merino wool performance sock, and that knitting expertise and, and I think it never really kind of did some of the foundational work that brands have had the kind of their disposal now, right around consumers and design targets and, and some of those critical elements that will help them you know, drive, you know, beyond just being product and being kind of a beloved brand.

And that’s what I’ve been spending a lot of my time really on is like helping develop those tools with the team and implementing them. And I think our future is super bright. I mean, I think we are primed for taking on the next 26 years with, you know, focus and a unique set of values and really kind of just driving our purpose though, to to an audience. You know, that’s, that’s growing, which I think is really cool.

Marc Gutman 1:09:38
And as we come to a close here, Kris, and I want you to think back to that. That version of yourself that was knocking on doors nervous that he might that he might see one of his friends and just get caught and kind of live in this double life and, you know, if if he ran into you today, do you think he’d say?

Kris Fry 1:10:02
I don’t know if he’d say anything. I think it’d be more of those like, competent head nods that like, quiet shared expression of like, I don’t know. Like I know what’s going on. You know, it’s that like, it’s a little bit of a wink. I don’t know if he’d have anything to say. I think he just be assured moment of understanding. Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

Marc Gutman 1:10:31
That is Kris Fry, global creative director of Smartwool. As you know, by now, I let Kris go on and talk. But only because I thought his shares in stories were gold. I couldn’t stop them. Not because I didn’t have the ability. But because I didn’t want to. I was so amazed by his journey. And wish we had about another two hours to talk to Kris. And I’ve already started talking to Kris about coming on for another episode. To get further into branding, storytelling and creative direction. Look out for that one. A big huge thank you to Kris Fry in the Smartwool team.

We will link to all things Kris Fry, also known as KFry, and Smartwool in the show notes. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at our best guests, just like Kris come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well, that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. I like big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny

Be The First
To Know

Sign up to get our best stuff: newsletter,
blog, podcast, and updates.