The powerhouse family behind Webster Groves’ Civil Alchemy, The Annex Coffee and Foods and The Frisco Barroom has done it again. Sibling retailer Field Theory opened in the heart of the Old Orchard business district in early October with an aim to sell high-quality outdoor lifestyle gear, provisions and fashion-forward apparel.
“St. Louis has been craving and needing another men’s shop that resonates with a customer base that has been largely ignored, by larger retailers as well,” says Field Theory founder Ian VanDam, who is also co-founder and chief operating officer of Civil Alchemy and co-founder of Missouri-based Truly Floral Spirits.
Field Theory carries high-quality outdoor gear, provisions and technical apparel, as well as stylish outdoor-oriented men’s apparel and unisex outerwear, like ski and rain jackets. The retailer’s premium high-quality brands, based primarily in Japan, Europe and America, were heavily researched and curated by VanDam. For many of the products, Field Theory is the first place they’re available in the metro area.
“If you’re investing in outerwear and outdoor gear, you want to know you’re getting the best possible thing at the best possible price,” says VanDam, himself an avid outdoor enthusiast, who spent many months reaching out to his friends, family and professional networks to curate an all-star list of upper-echelon brands and products in the outdoor retail market to stock the shelves. “Everything we carry serves a purpose; we’re about form and function, always. It can never just look good; it has to have a purpose in our lives.”
The pillar of Field Theory’s offerings is a focus on mountain sports – hiking, skiing, rock climbing, camping and camp cookware – that crosses over into fashion and style in addition to a hypertechnical function focus.
“A lot of our outdoor gear crosses over into travel, in that it’s lightweight and packable, like packable towels, quick-dry apparel and bags for traveling, because I think our customer is equally inspired by the outdoors as they are seeing the far reaches of the world through travel,” VanDam says.
The aesthetic of the offerings is a minimal, timeless, earth-toned palette with clean lines and classic patterns. When customers walk through the Field Theory doors, the store’s goal is to immediately transport them to the side of a mountain or underneath a cozy tent through interactive, immersive displays that show off what products can do.
Only a month after its opening, Field Theory has already been generating a lot of buzz from outdoor enthusiasts about many of its offerings. One item in particular about which VanDam has received tremendous positive feedback is a waterproof inflatable tent from the German brand Heimplanet. It can be hand-inflated in less than a minute and stands sturdily using a geodesic dome construction that doesn’t require ropes or rods to hold it down, even against extreme wind and other weather conditions. Another must-have accessory is the Vuarnet glacier sunglasses that were designed, created, intended and fully functional for glacier climbing and skiing – but look equally stylish on metro area streets.
“That’s the goal of Field Theory products – we want them to be fully functional for the person who wants to take on a 14,000-foot mountain or go on an expedition adventure across rugged terrain, but also for someone who loves the look and feel of high-quality things,” VanDam says. “Whether they’re rocking glacier sunglasses in the Central West End or atop [Alaskan mountain] Denali, the product is the same. At the end of the day, things are meant to be used. We sell products based on their durability, functionality and intentionality.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us all to reevaluate our lifestyles and how we want to spend our time, many area residents stepped outside to take in the beauty and importance of nature. For some, that meant more hikes, rock climbing and ski trips than usual, and for others, that might have meant camping for the first time. Regardless, Field Theory’s doors are open.
“I want to evoke an emotion in people so they’re inspired to take on something they might not have done on their own,” VanDam says, “but I also want people to walk in and feel really confident about the quality and durability of what they’re getting – whether at the beginning of their journey or far along it.”
Field Theory, 8153 Big Bend Blvd., St. Louis, 314-942-2025, fieldtheory.us