There could be no better example of someone following their own nose, than Emily Dillon, a woman whose career has taken in an eclectic mix of roles that has ultimately led her own personal holy grail at the culturally ever-cool Japanese brand Snow Peak.
“There was a time in my working life when one minute I was working in the Russian Film House in Green Park and the next I was on tour with Little Mix,” says Emily, the spirited Sales Director who has been part of the UK launch of the Snow Peak brand since June 2018.
Having studied textiles at Manchester University, Emily was introduced to designer Nigel Cabourn, a man she credits with giving her an amazing experience at the coal face of a brand in its emerging infancy. “I met Nigel initially as part of my course and he had seen a piece of my work, inspired by my grandfather's National Service in Korea. He then called to invite me to go to work with him,” Emily says.
“It was just an amazing experience with someone so full of enthusiasm, sometimes I would be up at 4am travelling around Scotland visiting factories and would work with Nigel across all elements of the business. Every journey was exciting and fun.”
A reluctancy to leave London behind to move to Newcastle saw Emily try a number of different roles before re-joining Cabourn in its ascendency, and the experience proved to be a fulfilling as the first, often taking on 30-day trips around Europe to trade shows and fabric mills. However, an eventual move to Newcastle where the brand is based and the unfortunate loss of her mother, saw her move back to the family home in the South East of England.
“It was then that Nigel again got in touch to say he had found a job for a me Filson, a brand we had collaborated with at Cabourn,” she says. “I was flown out to Seattle to meet the team with the brand having been recently acquired by the Bedrock Manufacturing group. It was again a really enjoyable and exciting role where I was looking after all UK wholesale accounts as well other in Eastern and Mainland Europe due to my previous experience in those territories.”
Despite enjoying life at Filson, Emily was unable to secure the roles that she wanted within the business and after becoming a little disenchanted, left to find a new purpose. After deciding her short-term dream of studying an MBA wasn’t what she really wanted, she embarked on something that would be career defining - a sabbatical trip to walk through Spain on the famous Camino de Santiago route.
“I suppose in a way this could be that ‘Eureka’ moment. I was only supposed to be walking for a week and I ended up being there for six,” Emily says. “I ended up walking four different ‘ways’ along the Camino route, clocking up more than 1600 km. I loved the whole experience. The walking and the community around it is very addictive, some people find it hard to leave.”
It was following further trip to a Moroccan surf school, with the first being cut short by a hand injury, yoga courses and testing her metal in number of roles and experiences that Emily took a call from an old friend who she had worked alongside at Filson.
“Kei Saito called me to ask if I wanted to come to work for Snow Peak,” she says. “Initially I was sceptical and said that I didn’t want to work back within the fashion industry, but Kei assured me that Snow Peak wasn’t about that at all, and an outdoor brand with a very different philosophy to others. I accepted, and I’ve absolutely found that same feeling of excitement and energy that I had back with Nigel Cabourn all those years ago.”
Promoted twice within three years, a normal week for Emily can see her camping out with clients for up to six nights a week, showcasing the values of the Snow Peak brand and the products. It has also been an eye-opening process, especially with the Japanese culture running through the veins of the brand.
“The brand ethos is about restoring humanity and to start with I really didn’t understand what that meant,” Emily says. “Not until the pandemic hit and restrictions started to lift. I was then able to see my grandparents in the garden and make that time in nature more comfortable through the use of Snow Peak products. Then I realised, this is what it means. It enabled something very natural and important - real life.”
As opposed to some outdoor brands where being the best and testing ones-self to reach new goals is ever-important, Snow Peak is about enjoying the outdoors, spending time outside and being at one with surroundings in a peaceful manner. This ethos starting with the brand in 1958 and is now led by founder Yukio Yamai's granddaughter Lisa Yamai.
“Much like Nigel’s love of re-engineered military clothing, I admire Lisa’s passion for form and functionality,” adds Emily. “I find her an inspiring woman in business, very cool and very hands-on. She introduced the apparel element to the business back in 2014 and it has successfully kept a completely organic consistency with the outdoor gear.”
Having taken to the Snow Peak way of life and a stamp of approval from Lisa Yamai’s father Tohru, Who called her a true ‘Snow Peaker', Emily enjoys nothing more than the time spent at dusk around the camp fire called ’Takibi Time', where the team discusses client’s camping needs and how they can be improved.
“Snow Peak has a strong identity and I really enjoy that. Whether we are teaching Japanese Calligraphy in store or taking customers on a foraging experience, everything we do is inspired by the statement that we are all users, and it is a joy to share experiences in nature with my colleagues and customers,” she concludes.