I am the son of Vietnamese Boat People. My parents and I escaped Communism when I was nearly six months old. Surviving another six months at Malaysian refugee camp, we waited for a compassionate family willing to sponsor us to America. We landed in Baltimore, Maryland for a short period, then to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and finally to Sunnyvale, California where my parents and I started our lives as Californians.
Life, for me, has been a wild ride so far and the adventures I get myself into have only gotten grander and grander. Growing up in the 80’s as a latch key kid, my grandmother (she escaped with a bunch of other relatives), helped raise me when my parents weren’t around. My grandmother had a huge influence on me and the crafts and cooking she and I did during our time together helped plant seeds of curiosity as I grew up. I used to take broken things and take them apart. Sometimes, I was able to fix them.
Growing up and finally being able to legally make money as a teenager, I got a job at an amusement park (Paramount’s Great America at the time) first chance I could. There, I learned how to be a barista, how to prep and load rotisserie chickens onto a spit rod three at a time. I also learned how to run a hotdog stand and how to load and collect money from a soda machine.
Eventually, I landed a gig as a promotions assistant at a local radio station (KSJO) while I went to community college studying biochemistry with the idea that I would go into dentistry. I think I wanted to try to make my parents proud by picking a profession they would be proud of.
When I transferred to UCSC, I was elected Music Director for a quarter and had my own radio show. College, for me, was all about the experience and friendships bonded during that time. Though I got barred for failing too many classes, I eventually earned my Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology at the University of Phoenix and that has helped me with gaining experience at Cisco Systems, eBay, and Williams-Sonoma.
Growing up, I have always had a love for everything from technology, the outdoors, music, and art. I am an artist. When I made that connection and leaned into it more and more, the ease and guilt of not becoming a dentist made it possible for me to fully be my artistic self. There is an art to dentistry, I’m just glad I chose not to follow that path in my life.
As my career as a front end web developer seasoned through the many years of service, the thought doing the same thing until I retired was not something that I was willing to entertain. The outdoors, ultrarunning and backpacking have been in my life in my twenties and thirties, but I never considered making my gear until planning for a trip to meet up with an old college friend who lived up in Mammoth, California.
A few years back, I bought a Kenmore home sewing machine for my (then) girlfriend/(now) wife, and it was never used. It sat in storage for another few years until I had the great idea of making my own hammock to take with me backpacking because I didn’t want to sleep on the ground. Hours of research, YouTube videos, and curiosity yielded my first home made hammock! I was hooked!
The hammock performed perfectly on the trip and fueled my intent in trying to start up a cottage vendor business making custom hammocks (VHammocks). The sewing bug had bit me, but it hadn’t dug deep into my veins until my co-worker (thank you, Darwin!) introduced me to a bag pattern from Adam Savage and his One Day Build series on YouTube. My brain exploded with joy when I made my first bag from that pattern. Digging deeper on the pattern, that lead to other iterations of the pattern to add other features not on the original pattern and Gus Method Sewing Co. was conceived. This allowed me to learn and play with patterning. That lead to modifying classic patterns to suit my ideas and a consulting service to conceptualize someone else’s vision.
Once you are a sewist, practically everything you look at in this world can be sewn together. My days of seeing code in my head have transitioned to seeing three-dimensional objects in space, sewing processes, origami folds and curves. I’m loving this new path and am excited to explore the limitless possibilities of outdoor gear design and garment construction. Combining all the skills I’ve gathered on my path, I wanted to create a brand to share with others that might like the ideas and products I make.
Knowing that everyone is on their individual paths, I researched for a brand name and story I could use to share my ideas with and that others would be able to relate to. Finally, in December of 2021, Unalome Outfitters, LLC was born (thanks for the second half of the name, Rachael!). The vision for Unalome Outfitters is to be a brand that will enrich other people’s Unalome with quality unique gear, apparel, and accessories all manufactured in California. I want to create my own fabric patterns to use on the gear and apparel that I make from the patterns I design.
Unalome Outfitters is just getting started. For the time being, I want to design and manufacture everything in-house on a small batch scale. Right now, I have a lot on my plate and the process is slow, but it’s my Unalome and I know that I’m on the right path regardless of speed.
Here’s to growing this story!