Our Bridge Burner Story

Erik Prowell was well into a masters degree in computer science when he realized he didn’t want to spend his life slouched in front of a computer. With no formal design training, but industrious and down-to-earth, he took a calculated leap and decided he was through working for anyone but himself. With a bourgeoning t-shirt line already gaining traction, he launched headlong into the new venture.

The moment he traded his PC for a design-friendly Mac, his coding days were officially over. The first t-shirt he created on his new computer featured a hand holding a match to a bridge and the words “Don’t look back.” He never did. From his garage in Bend, OR, No Star Clothing spread across North America and beyond, and picked up a devoted fanbase. In 2005 No Star HQ moved north to Portland, along with Erik.

An idea for “sophisticated hoodies” led Erik and his then business partner to Vancouver, BC, where a seasoned designer gave them a crash course in apparel design—fit, fabric and tech packs. She also gave them the gift that would later be the catalyst for Bridge & Burn: an introduction to a boutique factory in China—prized for unusually small runs, high production quality, and excellent working conditions.

La Merde clothing was born. “Streetwear for the library” it combined Erik’s more traditional west coast aesthetic and his partner’s hip hop roots. A deal with a major department fell through when buyers discovered La Merde’s English translation. And cuss words, it turns out, can’t be trademarked.

In 2010, after three successful seasons, Erik dropped the street influence and launched Bridge & Burn—a small line of functional, definitively west-coast outerwear. The next season brought Bridge & Burn’s much-loved shirting.

In 2013 the Bridge & Burn Flagship store opened in downtown Portland, giving firsthand access to customer feedback and a home for events, collaborations and our hands-on design studio. The line continues to grow beyond North America into Asia and Europe, but the focus has never shifted from functional design, beautiful detailing and incredible fit. Now we celebrate other Bridge Burners—bold entrepreneurs who have stepped out on their own and “burned the bridge” of working for anyone else. Read some of their stories on our blog.