Walking into the office of Bryan Poerner, you will see prepackaged Track+Field bags stacked high on shelves, waiting to be shipped out across the country. Others sit patiently, waiting to be sold in the store below.
It may be each bag’s multicolored patterns that make them so desirable, or it could be Poerner’s high energy and enthusiasm for his products that make people want to buy them.
Wearing bright blue running sneakers while sitting in a specially-made chair inspired by Track+Field material, Poerner described the history behind his bags, how living in Philadelphia has helped to shape his brand and why he plans to extend his line across the country and internationally.
A New Jersey native, Poerner ran cross-country and was a member of the track and field team in high school and college. While attending the Richard Stockton College as a business major, he became a member of the Philadelphia Runner Track Club and trained for the 2004 Summer Olympics.
The shoe manufacturing company PUMA sponsored him. Although he didn’t make it onto the team, the company hired him as a sales representative. Soon, Poerner began designing his own bags. It was then that Track+Field, often abbreviated TRKFLD, was born.
He said he knew that he always wanted to work for himself but didn’t want to make just any bag. He wanted to create, as it says on Track+Field’s Web site, “bags for people bored of boring” and for “people tired of tired.”
Each bag is made of Sunbrella material, typically used in awnings and other types of outdoor furniture. The fabric is waterproof, keeps its color and is durable.
“My idea is to get Sunbrella everywhere,” Poerner said.
In addition to this type of fabric, new totes also feature Harris Tweed, a wool material made only in certain villages in Scotland. There were new bags already sitting on the shelves of his office featuring the cartoon-like artwork of MCA Toy Artists.
In addition to the backpacks, leisure bags and women’s bags Track+Field already sells, Poerner said he hopes to start adding accessories like wallets to the line.
“It took me two years to get a line of 10 bags,” Poerner said.
Boutiques across the U.S. currently sell Track+Field bags. Stores like Deep Sleep and UBIQ in Philadelphia and Brain Candy in Ridgewood, N.J., carry them.
Urban Outfitters also picked up Track+Field bags recently.
Ultimately, he would like to be able to open a Track+Field store in Philadelphia. Looking to further expand his bag enterprise, Poerner recently returned from a trip to Portland, Ore.
Track+Field will also head to Barcelona, Spain, to participate in the Bread and Butter trade show to display their new line. The show features fashion designers from around the world unveiling their products to an international arena.
“It’s definitely going in that direction,” Poerner said about international sales.
Being based in Philadelphia is a good opportunity for fashion newcomers, since there is less competition than in cities like Los Angeles or New York, he said.
“The city has been so supportive,” Poerner said. He said he finds inspiration in the people of Philadelphia and also the simplicity of the city skyline.
The Track+Field Web site just launched this past April and features 2007′s spring and fall collections. The bags are advertised in smaller magazines like Giant Robot. Most advertising, though, relies on word of mouth. Poerner said he always gets excited when he sees someone walking down the street with one his bags.
“It gets me totally stoked,” he laughed.
After all of the buzz over his bag collection, will the shoe-lover start making sneakers?
“I would like to do other stuff, but I’ve still got a little while. I don’t want to get too busy,” Poerner said.
Frances McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.