Crimpin: Climbing apparel and design with founders

Crimpin is a sport and lifestyle brand providing rock climbing communities with apparel featuring climbing-specific designs.  The designs are fun and authentic, from one climber to another and for any outdoor enthusiast.

We caught up with co-founders of Crimpin, Bonnie Dickson & Badr Moukalled to talk about the origin of Crimpin, their story and the future of the apparel start up.

Crimpin Founders Badr Moukalled & Bonnie Dickson
Crimpin Founders Badr Moukalled & Bonnie Dickson. Source: Supplied

What is Crimpin? Tell us about it.

Bonnie: Crimpin’s vision is threefold;

To provide shirts with designs that bridge the gap between fashion and the unique rock climbing terminologies and slang of the sport.

To provide interesting, comfortable, everyday apparel that you can climb and live in.

Keeping it green, by locally sourcing our products and print facility. Reducing the environmental impact through the use of plastic-free, biodegradable shipping materials.

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What makes a Crimpin t-shirt special and why would a climber want one?

BONNIE:  Our t-shirts are specifically designed with the climbers experience in mind.

The shirt is a cotton / polyester blend which provides breathability and stretch. No fancy dri-wick technology which helps keep the cost of the shirt affordable.  The blend also provides a super soft feel.  Pre-COVID when demoing our shirts, once someone put it on they often didn’t take it off!

The t-shirt is slightly longer in length than your average t-shirt. This way it fits comfortably under your harness, say goodbye to uncomfortable skin rubbing from the harness.  And for bouldering, it’s long enough not to show your waistline or boxers when you are dynoing or going for big moves.

Why did you choose the name Crimpin? Tell us the story of your brand’s inception.

Bonnie:  The vision for Crimpin grew from conversations with friends while climbing at a local crag, about specific rock climbing terminologies, slang, and the joyful need to have all of these and more illustrated on a t-shirt.

“You remember that reachy 5.10d? You had to smear and trust your feet?”.  “How hard was that balancy traverse with nothing but slopers?”.  Other than the sport of climbing, where else could you hear terms and phrases such as these?  And why weren’t existing brands embracing this unique part of the sport?

As a climber I wanted a shirt that is comfortable to wear while I climb, but also inspires a feeling of community, belonging and conversation.  If I’m wearing the “Slopers Are Easy” shirt and walking down the street to the local gym. 

Chances are I’ll pass another climber, they are going to see the shirt, and react with a comment of either “no they aren’t” or “yeah I love slopers”!  The shirt design has just helped create a bond between two climbers and provides an opportunity for conversation. 

Alternatively if while walking down the street a non-climber might be interested in the design and ask me “what is a sloper?”, providing an opportunity to tell them a bit about the sport and maybe interest them enough to give it a try.

The name Crimpin, comes from a combination of two words; the challenging rock climbing handhold a “crimp” & “pimpin” slang for when something is really cool. 

Source: Supplied

How do you believe Crimpin can change the way climbers see apparel and accessories?

Badr: We believe that Crimpin can provide climbers with a feeling of community, through our sport-specific designs.  Our apparel isn’t about us or our brand, it’s about the terminologies, and unique moments experienced within climbing, celebrating the sport and each individual who participates. 

Apparel doesn’t need to be about buying the most popular brand name, instead, it can empower climbers to celebrate the sport they enjoy while climbing stylishly & comfortably.

How did the two of you meet? What was the motivation to start the business?

Badr:  Bonnie and I met through a mutual friend a while back.  I’m not a climber, I’ve tried it a few times and quite like it, but Bonnie is, and she talks passionately about the sport often. 

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One day she was telling me about an experience she had climbing and how the phrase “trust your feet” should be on a t-shirt.  As a photographer with a background in visual effects for film and tv, she had some great design ideas but hadn’t ever made a t-shirt before.  I have experience with apparel and suggested we give it a try.  And we did!

Source: Supplied

Can you tell us a bit about your background? Do you come from sports?

Bonnie: A few years ago I had a significant surgery which provided me an opportunity to change my life.  Team sports didn’t work with my career in visual effects and feature films. 

The traditional weightlifting & treadmill running gym was uninspiring and intimidating, so I started looking for a fun way to get a full body workout. 

The first time I tried climbing at a local indoor gym was amazing!  I felt comfortable, it was so much more than just exercising, the place was friendly, welcoming and inclusive. 

The day after my first climbing session I hurt from head to toe, and I knew in that moment that climbing was the sport I was looking for.

Based on the challenges that I’ve been through with my health, and experiences with friends and family with disabilities, this sport has changed my life.

Can you tell us about the team behind Crimpin and their roles?

Bonnie: Sure thing, we have kept it simple, it’s just the two of us.  I’m the climber and designer.  Badr handles logistics and works the magic behind the scenes. 

We share the rest of the responsibilities, from accounting, social media and marketing, customer service, networking and products. 

We’d like to outsource some of the day-to-day business tasks once funds allow, so that we can focus on making more designs.  But it’s all part of early days in entrepreneur land.

Source: Supplied

How do you believe you can compete with bigger brands? What is your USP that will make you stand out?

Bonnie: We are not here to compete with bigger brands, but instead to provide climbers with comfortable conversation starter apparel, empowering the feeling of community within our sport.

Which athlete would Crimpin most likely endorse?

Bonnie: There are so many accomplished athletes in the sport of climbing, it’s difficult to choose just one.  Instead we are currently committing to the youth of the sport.

We are actively sponsoring a University level climbing club here in Ontario Canada, and we are in discussions with a few strong youth climbers out of the U.S., to see how we can assist them with their climbing goals.

Crimpin is still a young company, just shy of a year old.  Once we are in a position of turning a profit then our goal is to first give back financially to adaptive climbing initiatives, and second give back to the sport, by investing in crag and access initiatives. 

Caption: Supplied

It’s personal for me.  Based on the challenges that I’ve been through with my health, and experiences with friends and family with disabilities, this sport has changed my life. I want to help empower every person to try rock climbing, should they be interested in it. 

Do you see yourself branching into other sports?

Badr:  We didn’t initially, but we’ve been receiving feedback from non-climbers who have heard about and tried our shirts for their quick dry and comfort.  We are finding that people in traditional weightlifting gyms enjoy our shirts because they are long enough to cover your waistline when you lift. 

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Movement sports such as yoga & qigong have been excited about our shirts for the comfort, stretch and slightly longer waist length, again not exposing their mid section when their arms are raised.

Tell us about the various products that you offer?

Badr: We currently offer 3 collections;

The Brand - Keeping it simple, our Crimpin logo on t-shirts, hoodies, long-sleeves, stickers and a unique bamboo / cork style baseball cap

The Crux - A crux is the most difficult part of a route and is usually what determines the grade of that specific route. This collection was inspired by the terminology, phrases and moments in the sport of climbing

Climb The World - Rock climbing is a worldwide sport enjoyed by people of many cultures. Whether it was an onsite of a historic route in Kalymnos (Greece), or a long weekend road trip to the Red River Gorge (USA), it’s these climbing travel moments or country pride that inspired this collection.

All of our products are shipped in biodegradable packaging.  Additionally to reduce waste, our sample & design test shirts are on sale on our site at a discounted rate. 

Just because the design didn’t turn out how we expected doesn’t mean it deserves a fate in the trash.  It’s unique and one of a kind, and many have already found homes with climbers with similar values.

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What kind of challenges have you faced?

Badr: As a new brand, our main challenge has been visibility.  Launching our company a few months before covid has made visibility challenging.  Gyms and crags closed, and as a new company the funds for advertising didn’t exist. 

And the successes?

Bonnie: There have been a few moments that stand out. 

The first was a gym climbing day, my climbing partner was wearing the prototype design for “Trust Your Feet”.  A climber he knew, someone I’d never met before, came by to say hi and part way through their greeting he looked at the design and began reading it. 

A second later he looked up at my climbing partner and said “ you know, your shirt reminds me of a time when”.  I nearly cried!  I was so happy at that moment. 

The design had not only sparked a specific climbing story to be shared, encouraging conversation about the sport, but it had reminded a climber of an experience they had.  My design worked!!!

The second experience was the day we launched our website.  We had a few sales, mostly from friends or family, as to be expected. 

But the thing that tugged on my heart strings, was our second sale, it was from a young crusher in Florida, someone who didn’t know myself or Badr at all.  He had found and followed us pre-launch through social media and bought shirts the first day we launched! 

To sell our shirts in another country on launch day, and to someone we didn’t already know!  Wow, what a cool moment.

Source: Supplied

What does the future hold for Crimpin? What are the key drivers you are looking at?

BADR: The future holds product expansion, such as new designs as per community feedback and requests.  The key drivers are community feedback and interaction.’

Any other thoughts or comments?

BONNIE: We’d just like to say thank you to Sportageous for partnering with us and helping us to bring climbing articles, news and conversations from around the world, to our Crimpin family and friends. 

Follow Crimpin on Instagram and Facebook or visit the website here.
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