Our Lead Product Designer, Joshua Perez, sat down to talk with us about one of the first products he helped design when he started at Rustico. Read about the process behind building the first Rustico apron.
What was the motivation for creating this specific product?
This was one of the first products that I worked on and helped design upon starting at Rustico. The inspiration for it came from our CEO Isaac. He wanted to create an apron that was rugged and could withstand any hard work. You can do carpentry, gardening, barbering, and smithing of any kind; basically, any kind of work could be done in this new apron. He wanted it to be able to be used for any kind of work, but at the same time look stylish while still having that Rustico look.
I took over this project and inherited some great prototypes that had already been started. The reason we went with waxed canvas is because of the way it distresses. You’ll notice that not every apron wears and looks the same over time. Depending on your line of work it will have a different patina and different distress. So the distress of the leather and the fact that our leather is an organic material that will wear differently.
So the distress of the leather and the fact that our leather is organic and unique means that this will wear differently for each artisan.
This was one of the very first projects that I helped with and it let me showcase my abilities. Isaac, our CEO and Founder, and Matt, Director of Product Development, had already seen some of my samples, but they had never actually seen me do it. So Isaac had a conceived concept, but I was given “free-reign” to get it done.
What is the primary function of this product?
The primary function of this unique apron is to protect your clothes when you’re working at your craft. With the price of clothing nowadays many artisans and craftsman need to protect their clothes and the Journeyman allows for that.
What problems does it solve?
There are some copycats out there now, but when we started there wasn’t a lot of aprons out there like this. Yes, there were a lot of canvas aprons and waxed canvas aprons, but nothing that had the functionality that ours has. Nothing that looks as stylish as the Journeyman that we created. So it didn’t necessarily solve any problems that we had at the time, but it filled a gap in the line of products we offer. This is an apron that is durable and stylish and we felt covered all our bases when it came to the apron Rustico needed to create. We also feel like this, like all Rustico products, last for a long time and is something that you can pass down to your son or daughter.
What were some roadblocks that you came across?
Something that we ran into during the design process was the sizing issue. An apron is not like other pieces of clothing where you can make a small, medium, or large. It’s a one-size-fits-all item. It was hard to make this work for each person and the different body types. We had a lady that used to work at Rustico that was very petite and the apron would wrap completely around her, but we also had feedback from our men’s audience that mentioned that it’s too small so we ended up extending the strap on the back. This was what we could do to best accommodate everyone.
Were there any custom requests from customers/companies that used this product?
This item became pretty popular. We had a company that bought five hundred of them and there’s been a bunch of promotional companies that have also purchased quite a few of them. The company ordering 500 of them wanted to slightly change the design, but even after that the core Rustico look and feel was still there so we were fine with it. The order that got me excited was actually when HeinekenⓇ ordered around 300. I thought that was really cool!
What other similar products are out there? How does the Journeyman Apron set itself apart?
The Journeyman is premium. Most aprons, especially those made of waxed canvas, only contain one pocket and are not made from quality materials. This was something that we didn’t want to be bound by. We wanted to offer a product that was going to deliver. We felt comfortable adding more details and leather to it to set it apart from other aprons on the market. We looked at what else was out there and felt like our design and the finished product would be the best that a customer could find.
The design of the body itself is pretty simple and generic, but to the pockets, we wanted to add as much utility to it as possible without having too many pockets or too much leather to it and thus weighing it down. At the same time, we needed to add functionality so we added the hammer strap or the scissor strap and we added the big pocket on the right side that is meant for your phone that that has a little sleeve for a knife or anything with a clip. There’s also the smaller pocket on the side that can hold your keys, small notepad and provides easy access. Then on the other side, there’s the strap, that can be used for heavier tools. The top pocket near the top of the apron we added a swivel snap. The reason for that was that we felt that when you are needing measurements if your measuring tape has a key ring so you can actually pull the measuring tape from your chest. The stitch on the side of that big pocket is for your pen or a carpenters pencil. We feel that each pocket has a purpose and will serve a function specific to the person using it. It’s very much a minimal apron but very utilitarian. The straps were inspired from the fact that we wanted this to be rugged and tough but also appeal to women who might use it for gardening and cooking. I actually use my apron for when I’m outside grilling.
Were you anxious to get feedback on this? What did you hear from fans regarding this product?
I was excited to see some of the photo shoots that happened and how it was presented. There was a photo shoot down in the warehouse that had some of our team members that “modeled” some of the different colors. There was also a photo shoot that was in a local bar. It was cool to see feedback that came in because it initially started as a product that would fill a gap in our line of products after we launched it. I was surprised to hear what different people were using it for and see companies place orders for them.
We have received some feedback from some customers who have mentioned that it can sometimes get heavy on your neck when you’ve got too many tools you’re carrying. It’s been requested that there be a cross strap on the back across the shoulders so the weight is more evenly distributed. That could very well be a feature we add, but we wanted it to initially appeal to a wider audience
Is there something that you would improve on it looking back?
There are some future changes to come. We want to adjust the strap on the back to try and help with sizing. And also to modify the strap on the back to help with weight distribution. I think that the look of it might be helped if I shortened the big pocket a bit and made it smaller since it’s a little too deep right now and on the brighter colors it can look like a big piece of leather. So that could be minimized and the strap adjusted however I would still like to continue to offer this version. Maybe we simply introduce a second version, an upgrade, as another option to customers.
Pictured above are some early sketches of the Journeyman apron and show a couple of different design possibilities.
How long did the design process take from concept to selling it on the website?
So it took me a couple of months, but that’s because I was working on other products and this wasn’t my main focus at the time. From when I started to when I was done was probably two to three months. By the time I had tweaked it and made sure that the leather would cover and protect a person's clothes. If I had sat down and done just this project it would probably take me a week to complete. This is actually the typical timeline for a product.
Did it go through some rigorous testing? What was the process of making sure it worked before going to market?
It did. There was a guy that I used as my model, named Jason, that I used to measure and tailor the apron. Once the fabric, at least the waxed canvas part of it, was done I cut it and sewed the edges. So there were definitely some revisions that came out of the testing period. In the end, I’m happy with how it came out.
We actually sold a lot during the Holiday season And I guess I can say that I sold an apron to Santa Claus. Who would have thought that even the old jolly guy was a fan of Rustico?!
Fun Fact: The Journeyman Apron was actually one of the first products named by the fans in one of our first naming contests.
We appreciate Josh taking some time to talk with us about the design and production process of the Journeyman Apron. Keep an eye out for future posts as we discuss more products in our Backstory Series.
From woodworking and gardening to summertime grilling, the Journeyman Apron is great for any craft and activity. Order a Journeyman Apron and choose from any of our five colors of waxed canvas.