The RAL x POBS x Russ Pope Collection

SimWorks finds ourselves in the fortunate position of collaborating with our friends a good deal of the time on projects that we find compelling, and that serve to highlight the creative work of all parties involved. That emphasis on collaborative work is woven in to the fabric of who we are as a company, and it’s conveyed through the bulk of the products that we sell. We’ve never shied away from calling out our brand partners by name- instead hoping to pay due respect to the talented manufacturers and makers that we’ve had the good fortune of getting to work with. That’s true with the work that we do with Nitto, Honjo, Panaracer and MKS among others in the realm of core components that we offer, but it’s equally relevant in the soft goods, merchandise and art collective pieces that we’ve developed and sold over the years.

Today, SimWorks is pleased to release a small capsule collection of products that showcase some creative efforts from a couple of folks that we consider friends as well as collaborators.

Bob Scales and I overlapped for a couple of years at Chris King years ago, and I found in him a friend and a mentor of sorts. I could always count on him for a really solid music or film recommendation, some engaging social commentary at the lunch table, and someone I could be candid with about things going on at work at that time. He’s quick witted and self-effacing, loves his family and friends, and is a wealth of knowledge about a wide range of topics from textiles and sewing, to graphic design and gardening. He’ll often pepper in some anecdotes from early skate culture in California where he spent most of his earlier years. Somewhat of a renaissance man if I know one.

Bob has owned and operated a line of (mostly) men’s wear since 2010- eponomously called Product of Bob Scales, or POBS as it’s evolved to in acronymic shorthand. If I were to pluck a tagline from Bob’s own affirmation on the what and why of POBS being- Quiet Quality aptly characterizes the garments in these lines. Constructed of quality materials, meticulously crafted with flattering silhouettes and timeless style.

Bob has been selling his shirts at Circles in Japan for as long as I’ve know him, so that relationship with the larger Circles ecosystem stretched beyond the confines of discussing marketing plans and product timelines for CK’s products there in that market. A broader brush stroke and a worthy demonstration that he was more than a one-trick pony with his blinders on in the bike industry.

Bob had expressed an interest in trying to work with SimWorks and/or Circles on a project together for some time. He came to us about a year ago and pitched selecting a one-off fabric for lining our versatile WB tote bag from the RAL Loader lineup; something that he could put the POBS name on and have it stand out as a special and limited offering from us. To sweeten the deal, we opted to bring another friend and collaborator in to round out some artistic flare for the project, and reap the inevitable rewards of getting another rad person involved.

I probably became aware of Russ Pope through Bob- the timing on all of that is debatable, but Russ had been a SimWorks customer going back to before my starting work with them in 2019. His order history reflects his elevated sense of taste in some of the choicest cuts of Nitto produced goods that we offer. It was probably a water bottle and T-shirt offering that Russ designed for Chris King that Bob helped to get made and out the door that caught my eye a couple years ago and I started asking all the right questions. Bob usually has the answers to most of my questions….

Russ had spent most of the early part of his life firmly planted in the skate world, working in the early days of CCS and Small Room skateboards, and then going on to start some of his own successful brands, along the way lending his sharp eye, experience, and creative skills to some of the most successful and notorious small brands in the industry. During that time, he managed to establish himself as a gifted illustrator and painter. His work has been showcased in fine art galleries, as well as printed in highly regarded publications around the world. All of this experience has more recently opened up doors for him carving out a professional niche in roles as creative director, consultant and artist collaborator with some larger apparel and footwear brands; all while he runs his own skate brand called Transportation Unit.

The SimWorks crew had the pleasure of dropping in on Russ at his home in New Hampshire while we were on the East Coast this past fall prior to Philly Bike Expo. We got to hang out for a bit on a lazy rain-soaked New England day, check out Russ’ studio space and then buzzed in to Exeter for some friendly conversation over pizza and beers. Russ’ studio space is buzzing with tremendous energy and color. The influences in his life strewn and hung on the walls, propped on shelves and in corners offer a peak in to what resonates with the man. It’s a visual feast and offers endless inspiration and reference points for him to go about his work. Russ produces illustrations and paintings prolifically, approaching his art as a creative outlet but also as work and a muscle that needs to be flexed- lest not it atrophy. A curated collection of vinyl records, illustration and design books, cut flowers, an endless selection of pens, markers, colored pencils and inks; postcards and drawings from friends from all corners of the globe all add to the mosaic in his creative space that nurture his productivity and influence his unique style. It resonates in his work- which often depicts characters we can all relate to and recognize either in ourselves or someone we’re close with- passing their time in the simple pleasures of life; be it taking a walk in the city, pushing a skate board, pedaling a bike, or sipping a hot coffee.

Russ and Bob had been friends and acquaintances going back a handful of years and Bob had enlisted Russ to act as ‘Artist in Residence’ for some projects that he had going on this past year for POBS. It just so happened that the seed had been planted between SimWorks and Russ as well- going back to some of our own conversations about a desire to work together at some point. So the pieces fell in to place really organically and it made it a light lift to get everyone on board to pull together a collaborative effort focused on a small “capsule” of products that would all tie back to SimWorks and POBS, and have them each feature some of Russ’ art.

The final result is a limited offering of the RAL WB Loader, featuring a custom-milled crosshatched canvas fabric that Bob selected for the lining material. It adds a touch of sophistication and feels like an upgrade from the standard WB’s nylon liner. The bag adds an interior sewn pocket divided in to three spaces that would serve well to isolate a cell phone and a writing utensil, as well as a third larger pocket that could hold a small notebook, paper maps, a water bottle, or whatever else you might want to keep separated from an otherwise catch-all bag with considerable volume. On that pocket space is a graphic that Russ made, screen printed in-house by Bob himself at his home here in Portland, OR.

SimWorks was able to join Bob one evening to hang out, cook some dinner and watch that screen printing process first hand. My previous statements on the significance of creative spaces rings true for Bob as well. Out the back of his house is the POBS shed- a close hideaway for him to cut patterns for future garments, workshop some screen printing projects, and store some bikes and articles from a life well-lived. The influences are on display, ranging from classic automobiles and band art to haute couture. The recurring thread for most creatives seems to be the ephemera that fills their lives and helps to breathe life in to and inform their own artistic outpourings.

We had a lot of conversations about the logic behind selecting the WB Loader for this particular collection and those conversations kept coming back to utility and versatility. SimWorks operates almost entirely in the bicycle realm, but WB is a bridge to so many other worlds. While the bag is sized to fit in a standard Wald 1372 Basket, and makes for an outstanding foundation piece for cycle commuting or even “basketpacking”, the bag shines bright off the bike as well. It’s a worthy companion for trips to the grocery store, a bug-out bag for an impromptu road trip or a capable airplane carry-on for a long weekend. Anyone with a life on the go that needs a handsome, durable, weather-resistant catch-all bag can find a multitude of uses for the WB Bag.

The other pieces in the collection share that versatility thread. Russ’ casual and irreverent style are on full display in both. The colors look great together and whether you’re just trying to replace some old worn out and scuffed up bottles with handsome new ones, or you’ve got a collection that they’d fit in- they’ll stand out on your bike or on your desk at work.

The bandana can serve as a pocket square, a handkerchief to clean some snot off your toddler’s face, or soak it in a cool Cascadian creek and tie it around your neck for some shade and relief on a punishing, sun-exposed bike ride or hike in the high country. Unfolded in full splendor, it’s bound to be a conversation starter.

So that’s the RAL x POBS x Russ Pope Collection. It’s the culmination of a conversation that started over a year ago, and one that all parties involved felt motivated to see through. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but we seriously hope you like it- and that one or all of the pieces in it maybe brighten your life a bit and make you smile. Perhaps it inspires you to create something memorable with your friends, or someone you admire. Sometimes it just takes planting the seed of an idea and then the persistence in revisiting it.