Mystery Ranch, a Bozeman, Montana-based bag manufacturer popular with firefighters, hikers, hunters and the military, just made its runway debut. The semi-annual show of French fashion house Dior featured gardening motifs galore, a few fleece jackets, several sun hats, but also a small collection of Mystery Ranch bags – crocodile leather waist bags included.
The puzzling bit is why, days after the reveal, neither brand is hyping the collaboration.
Dior, an LVMH-owned brand founded by Christian Dior in 1946, trades in fine clothing and footwear that are a far cry from Mystery Ranch's load bearing backpacks which are most frequently found on the frontlines of international conflicts, near wildfires or on dangerous trails.
But Mystery Ranch is an emerging fashion brand. It sells exclusive colorways in Japan to rave reviews — and long queues. There, the bags are still serviceable in extreme conditions, but they're more popular in cities, where hiking and outdoor aesthetics are all the rage right now. In the US, there's plenty of carryover, courtesy of style-focused iterations sold at stores like Backcountry and Huckberry, but these "special projects," as Mystery Ranch founder Dana Gleason calls them, are way less frequent. As such, the collaboration is not surprising, just limited, but surely there should be a campaign to tease its release, right?
When Dior does collaborations with Birkenstock or Jordan, just about everyone hears about it. Both parties post about their joint effort on Instagram and tease the product landing page on Twitter. A cinematic clip of its shadow might even appear on YouTube. Articles are written about the best way to guarantee the item on its release date. As of right now, a half-week removed from the runway show in which the bags debuted during, neither company has said a word.
The silence on the part of Mystery Ranch may speak, in part, to who Gleason is: a modest bag junkie credited with singlehandedly changing the way backpacks look and operate by sourcing feedback from those that really wear them, with dozens of innovations in load bearing, weight distribution and wearability to his name. He's racked up a long list of achievements over his near 50-year career, but most impressively, Gleason has sustained Mystery Ranch, his fourth brand, which he founded in Bozeman in 2000, nearly three decades after moving west to "escape" Boston, he says in interviews.
After arriving there in 1975, he started his first bag company, Kletterwerks, but he sold his shares in the brand just three years after its inception. From there, he turned his focus toward more creative bags: things to tow cameras and computers in. A decade later, just like he'd done before, he offloaded his shares to another interested party.
His third endeavor, Dana Designs, was an instant success, growing faster than both earlier brands. "It got bigger than anything we could have envisioned," he told local outdoor resource Outside Bozeman. After eventually leaving the company just over 10 years later, he finally settled into the successful load bearing giant he runs today.
Mystery Ranch is unquestionably Gleason's most successful endeavor, no doubt thanks to Gleason's decades of experience. He also had help from the US Military. At first, Mystery Ranch bags were made in China. A request from the Navy SEALs earned Gleason enough money to bring production back to his (adopted) home state, creating in-house design and quality control teams, setting a new standard for the brand's bags.
This move made Mystery Ranch a go-to for best-in-class bags. Many GP staffers wear or own Mystery Ranch bags — myself included — and we've recommended them a million times to our readers. The broader outdoors audience loves them, too, making them a bonafide staple within industry circles.
But the Ranch is opening its gates, accepting bike commuters, city dwellers, local park hikers and new parents alike. Their bags are good, complete with comfortable straps, plenty of pockets and an "outdoorsy and in the know," a la GOPRcore, air about them.
This combination clearly made the brand an appealing collaborator for Dior, whose Summer 2023 collection was an ode to the outdoors at large under Artistic Director Kim Jones's direction. The terrific pairing just makes it all the more curious that there are so few photos of the collection available now and even fewer details about when we should expect see them in stores.
Dior x Mystery Ranch
We've reached out for more details and will update this post when we have them.