When I was 15 years old, my uncle took my brother and I climbing in Southern Missouri. The rock was covered in graffiti and we did our best to avoid landing on broken bottles and shotgun shells. Even though the aesthetic was less than desirable, I still fell in love with the sport.
Growing up in Saint Louis, Missouri, I was only able to visit outdoor climbing areas on the weekends in Southern Illinois or Missouri. I spent most of my time during the week climbing on home walls that were built in my parents basement or garage walls. We were completely hooked. Even our friends built walls in their attics, underneath decks, or anywhere with enough space. We couldn't stop.
While my first outdoor experience introduced me to climbing, it was indoor climbing that changed my life. By climbing indoors, we were forced to create our own playground. Indoor climbing was accessible in my urban environment, and over time, it is also what peaked my interest climbing outdoors. We realized that indoor climbing wasn't going to be the same as outdoor climbing, however - it was the access point, for me, to the great outdoors. We climbed indoor and outdoor.
We climbed all around the midwest and on both coasts. We climbed in competitions in different cities and slept under the stars in Yosemite. The travel aspect of climbing furthered my love for the sport. It got me out of my comfort zone and helped me to realize that the world did not revolve around me.
The So iLL (Southern Illinois) brand began on the porch of my college rental house. My brother and I were climbing in the attic in the evenings on a small home wall we had built and pouring holds (by hand) at the kitchen table during the day. We took the same “create an indoor playground” approach while designing and shaping our first holds. There were no rules for indoor climbing, which gave us the freedom to create things that would never be found outside. We designed holds and, eventually, a movement around this entire notion.
Fifteen years later, we have transitioned beyond creating climbing holds. I've focused my journey on designing shoes and clothing that can be worn to the gym, at the gym, and wherever you’re headed afterward. If outdoor climbing is your thing, I want our products to translate in the same way.
Climbing changed my life, so much so, that we’ve created a nonprofit, called 1Climb to introduce as many kids to climbing as possible. We want to be there for you and the next generation of climbers so I continue in my pursuit to create products that will help you succeed no matter where you are on the climbing continuum. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of your journey. Thank you for choosing So iLL.
Owner So iLL
Hear So iLL's story "So iLL: At the Intersection of Fashion, Art and Climbing" on Kristen Carpenter-Ogden's Podcast: The Intrepid Entrepreneur.