Cork-based photographer Miki Barlok tackles outdoor fashion design with Gnarly Peaks
As we speak at the end of December, Miki Barlok has climbed Carrauntoohil with polar adventurer and high altitude mountaineer, Pat Falvey, and his new products are currently being tested by a number of other adventurers.
Barlok is the very definition of a “multipotential” or “scanner” – someone who does and is good at many different things. He favors action over inaction, even to the point of sometimes only sleeping three hours a night to edit photos for work or spend time with his family.
“I’d rather not sleep and have a good time on a nice sunny day. I like to try to stretch out the day a bit and I’m used to sleeping very little since I’ve been climbing in Slovakia,” he says.
Not only is Barlok one of Cork’s most respected photographers, he can now add fashion design, branding, logo design and website development to his list of accomplishments – fulfilling all of these roles at Gnarly Peaks while taking the footage here.
“I do a lot,” he admits happily. “But I love it – I love the creative process.”
The mountain biking, climbing and hiking enthusiast was inspired to create his new brand by his experience of a life spent outdoors.
“Back in Slovakia I was rock climbing every day, then when I got to Ireland I started mountain biking because it was something I could do alone and also in the rain,” says- he.
Barlok is a member of Cork Rebel MBT mountain bike club but says he has not been actively involved during the pandemic as his wife Rebekah gave birth to a baby girl during the first lockdown.
“I spent all my free time with the family,” he says, admitting that his daughter Sophie already has a balance bike when she is only a year and a half old.
“She’s a bit too small at the moment but she’ll get there,” he smiles. “She already loves being outdoors and we take her into the woods and kayaking.”
Having moved to Bantry just before the pandemic started, he says having a baby in the middle of the first lockdown was “brilliant”. “I was afraid of going away or losing clients, but I didn’t need to go away, I was granted time off. I know a lot of people have suffered, but it was amazing for me to spend time with my family without guilt.
Barlok has lived in Ireland for 15 years after initially moving there for six months. “I made Ireland my home by choice rather than birth. I love Ireland,” he says.
His Slovak upbringing meant he spent a lot of time outdoors. “In Slovakia, generally speaking, there is more of an established hiking culture than in Ireland. It is a landlocked country, so many people go to the mountains for vacation. We also have more distinct seasons in Slovakia, so it’s easier to be outdoors as it doesn’t rain as much as here.
“Ireland is such a beautiful country to explore – the mountains are so different wherever you go,” he continues. “We love it – two days after our wedding, myself and Rebekah climbed Carrantuohill and changed our wedding gear for some photos that ended up appearing in this diary.
“It’s not surprising that it rains all the time in Ireland, but what surprised me is that there aren’t really many Irish brands that make or design suitable waterproof clothing here. .
“If you go to stores in Europe, you have 30 or 40 different brands to choose from,” says Barlok. “Here, the choice of rainwear is much more limited. I believe that because it rains all the time here, we should be the experts in rainwear and waterproofs.
Barlok has designed a style of pant that is completely waterproof and can be worn just as well when biking to work in the city as when biking in the mountains.
“You don’t have to worry about wearing raincoats over your pants, you can just go about your business without worrying about the rain,” he says. The pants are made of three layers of fabric including an internal waterproof membrane and a treated surface to repel water. “They look like jeans but are totally waterproof,” he says.
The fabric of the jackets is specially designed so that Gnarly Peaks is super light and highly waterproof: “For example, a normal waterproof jacket can be waterproof up to 5,000mm of hydraulic pressure while mine is waterproof up to 30,000mm “, he explains. The hoods of the jacket, meanwhile, can be extended to be worn over a helmet when climbing or biking.
Although he did not come from a fashion design background, Barlok says his qualifications and experience in architecture and interior design, as well as his passion for outdoor activities, provided all the assets needed to create the Gnarly Peaks product line.
“I had to learn a lot but I had a lot of time to do it. I spent years and years in the mountains, so I know what kind of equipment is needed and my background in architecture has helped me. helped a lot. It was a nice learning curve, but I got there,” he says.
As the brand is entirely self-funded, the current collection is relatively small although Barlok has many more models in the works. Rain jackets are currently available in sizes XS to XXL and jeans sizing is currently based on male sizes 30-38 inches. Down jackets range from XS to XL.
At the moment the products are being manufactured overseas as there is no facility here that can produce to the performance standards that Barlok has set for its brand. “My designs are made in the same factories that make the big leading brands, so they’re experts at what they do,” he says.
So what sets Gnarly Peaks apart from other top performance apparel brands?
“Gnarly Peaks is the only Irish brand specializing in high quality technical outdoor clothing that seriously tackles the infamous Irish rain,” says Barlok who wants Gnarly Peaks to become a synonym for rain gear and a name familiar.
“We also use recycled and sustainable materials made especially for us and work with BlueSign certified factories to keep our production green and sustainable.”
- Instagram: @gnarlypeaks
- Website: www.gnarlypeaks.com
- Female Model: Louise Byrne of Morgan the Agency
- Male model: James McDonald
- Mountain Biker: Richard Thornhill
- Waterproof jackets: Available in Coral Red, Orange and Slate Grey, €170
- Waterproof jeans, €130
- Down jacket, €80
- Merino wool beanie, €30.