Greg Jackson may not be a household name, but his designs have surely made its way into closets around the world – elusive qualities from someone who many of the who’s-who in the industry are already aware of. Through his work with brands such as Nike, adidas, District Vision, Saturdays NYC, and UNIQLO, Jackson has pushed the limits of apparel, merging technical innovation and performance with true customer needs, all while creating something fresh for all. It’s not designing for the sake of hype, trends or double-taps, it’s designing with purpose.
Jackson’s latest venture is a brand and multidisciplinary design studio he established to study and experiment with what’s possible within product design, especially with what’s more Earth-friendly, or as Jackson puts it, “more ethical thinking.” Called Greg Laboratory (or GL), the brand is Jackson’s personal platform to “discover and incorporate more sustainable practices into his work, transforming objects that once had a purpose into something ergonomically new.”
GL’s latest drop is part two of Jackson’s Tanker Hat Series project: a collection of lightweight, hand-dyed bucket hats constructed out of upcycled military parachutes. The shape is inspired by 1940s military helmets and features a 5-panel construction using military-grade parachutes from the 1940s, ’50s and ’90s, sourced from various areas such as surplus stores, eBay and Etsy. Deadstock nylon mesh lines the hats for comfort and breathability. The Greg Laboratory Tanker Hats are available in three colors: Eggplant, Clover, and Nova.
“I wanted to design something that was easy to wear in the summer, something that I could ball up and just toss in a bag and not worry about the shape,” Jackson told FUTUREVVORLD. “The bucket hat shape and five panel construction is a nod to streetwear. While the straps is a reference from vintage Army helmets.”
“I’m a big fan of military clothing because it was designed to keep people alive.”
Jackson’s work often reimagines the function of everyday wear – an item that can take you through the trails, while giving you what you need on the streets, like a conveniently placed pocket with the highest grade zipper. This attention to essential detail is a result of many influences, as well as a love for military wear and the purpose it serves. “I’m a big fan of military clothing because it was designed to keep people alive,”said Jackson. “I used to visit a military surplus store in Portland, Oregon, and they had a parachute laying around. I always wanted to use it because it was so light and versatile.”
Military clothing has been a longstanding source of materials and inspiration for brands and consumers. We’ve seen brands like Maharishi strike the perfect balance of military-inspired design through an eco-conscious lens. The lives of this kind of clothing are continuously being extended through secondhand pickups at surplus stores and vintage shops. Jackson’s current goal is to use what is readily available to him instead of producing a line out of brand-new, virgin materials. There’s a unique character added to pieces when using this approach. “I can’t get unlimited yardage of material, so I’m very limited to the amount of product I can make,” said Jackson. “The fabric used for parachutes have changed so much throughout the years, so it’s rare that I ever find the same one.”
It’s a quality that makes Jackson’s pieces very personal. He’s very hands on during the full process, addressing customer feedback on sizing from his first drop of Tanker Hats in Fall 2020. The hats are lighter, larger, and are each hand-dyed in his Brooklyn apartment, as shown in the campaign photography shot by New York-based photographer Catherine A. LoMedico.
Utilizing upcycling as a go-to method of creating a collection does produce some challenges for the designer, but these challenges are ones he has fun trying to solve. The “traditional” approach gives convenience and speed at the cost of our future. “Besides sourcing the correct material and making sure it’s in the best of condition, I also have to make sure the material will lend itself to the silhouettes I’m designing,” said Jackson. “I’m working on shorts and pants now and running into that problem. Also, being realistic on the amount of product I can actually produce due to the scarcity and size of the material.”
“Now, when I design my own product, I ask myself, ‘Is this needed? What problem is this solving? How simple can I make the design?'”
However, the current rise in upcycling or the finite amount of materials available to source through the process does not concern Jackson at all. He’s confident in the future and the progress other designers and brands are making to be more clever and creative in eco-friendly design, such as Greater Goods, Bode, and Nicole McLaughlin. “Hopefully, it will inspire bigger companies and supply chains to adapt,” Jackson added. “If I can’t find the correct material, I’ll either pivot or it tells me that whatever I’m trying to make does not need to exist.”
Determining whether a product is needed in the world is an ongoing question Jackson asks himself for all projects. Through his experience working with different brands as well as leading collaborations with Errolson Hugh, Jun Takahashi, Hiroshi Fujiwara, John Elliot, and more, the designer has been able to piece together a holistic approach to design. “I think my time working on Gyakusou and ACG made me learn how to be super focused on consumer needs and functionality. Designing for District Vision taught me how to keep things minimal yet functional. Now, when I design my own product, I ask myself, ‘Is this needed? What problem is this solving? How simple can I make the design?’”
In other recycling news, check out Satisfy Running’s new “America Desert” collection, which features items made with recycled nylon.