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July 2021

Stepping Into the Mountains: The Start of Valhalla Pure Outfitters

In 1990, when Valhalla Pure Outfitters was just an idea, certainly not a well-formed concept, it became a priority to develop a name and a logo. Nothing new there—every business faces the same threshold.

I’d sketched, played with fonts, had some unrelated inklings.

Greg Harrow, a Vernon friend who had saved me hundreds of thousands of freight dollars at Far West, suggested an artist he grew up with in Nanaimo.

Off I went to meet Brent Senini in a walk-up art studio in old Nanaimo. Brent made his living designing sport team logos and local island business logos. It was immediately obvious he had a gift, just looking at the team logos on the walls. We talked about my ideas: mountains, pristine locations like Valhalla Park, aspirational views, how mountains have always inspired people since time began.

Original Valhalla Pure Outfitters Concept Art

“What’s 'pure' about?” Brent asked.

Well pure is about best quality, but importantly pure is about intent, about not selling out, about sticking to the original idea and not becoming overly commercial, about focus… it was a wild conversation that went on for hours.

"And why 'outfitters'?" Brent asked. "Why not ‘gear’, ‘purveyor’, ‘outdoors’, ‘emporium’…" A couple dozen ideas ended up on the table.

Brent felt there was a conflict between techy, state of the art gear and outfitters.

I described outfitters as retro, authentic, old school, not trendy or forward looking at all, but anchored in the old days when outfitters were rough guides: part cowboys, hunters, and fishermen.

Between us, we agreed pure created aspirational view of the future—it was a "promise to do good"—and that it created an interesting tension with outfitters which always an anchor to the past, historical and rough, authentic.

Senini Graphics in Nanaimo, BC

The next morning Brent had hand drawn the font for Valhalla, with the oversized "V" and "A".

That next day, we talked from the point of view of having progressed to having our logo half built, about how outfitter stores were allegorically reinventions of the old mountain guides—clients reach out for knowledge and expertise to an outdoor shop in a similar way as they do to a hunting, fishing, or mountain guide.

A guide's job is to share their local knowledge and steer the client towards knowing more and having a safe trip—essentially teaching and preparing them to head into the mountains and the bush on their own, as their own guide.

The original artwork Brent drew up that day—now on these merino t-shirts—is that imaginary client we discussed, having been already prepared by the guides, “stepping into the mountains” on their own, ready and prepared for adventure and enlightenment.

Stepping Into the Mountains by Brent Senini

Brent’s gift was the ability to draw whatever was in his head, but he was a conceptual giant as well, learning his craft in a small BC town, doing good work for local businesses and team sports.

It’s wonderful to work with brilliant people, I am always grateful to discover moments of clarity and significance. Thank you Brent Senini for helping us take our first steps 30 years ago. It’s been an epic journey so far! You've "guided" us well…