Charleston is no stranger to the words “progressive” and “underground.”
We’ve high-brow dinner parties held in secret, grungy warehouses. Late night art shows where both titans and newbies mingle over cans of PBR. And one very edgy fly fishing community that’s changing the way fishermen dress and give back.
Presenting FreeFly, an environmentally savvy line of fishing apparel bridging the gap between your grandfather’s musty cargo vest and a handsome new generation of socially conscious fishermen. All while guaranteeing clean drinking water to children across the world.
Tanner Sutton, FreeFly’s founder, grew up in Montana to a family with deep ties to the apparel industry. And as a child, his grandfather taught him the values and challenges of fly fishing.
But as do most 20-somethings, Sutton found himself frustrated with the status quo and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. “I was sitting on a plane, and just wrote down a list of my passions,” says Sutton. “Fly fishing was at the top of that list.”
“Charleston actually has a very progressive fly fishing community,” he explains, well aware that most people would never draw that same conclusion. He goes on to explain these guys aren’t the old school of fishermen.
“I love fashion,” Sutton points out while wearing a Colin Ferrel-esqe wool hat and cozy. “But if you’re not comfortable, it’s pointless.”
FreeFly’s designs are rugged enough to feel comfortable digging in and getting dirty, while keeping a healthy nod to style and comfort. The t-shirts feature bold, contemporary screenprint designs by Gil Shuler, not at all akin to your standard fish-themed apparel. And the long sleeved styles are made from bamboo, which is as comfortable as it is durable. It’s all part of an updated style that Sutton says is pretty edgy for the industry.
But while FreeFly gives an update to the fishing community’s style, the company is also making a mark on the world.
“Fishermen are surrounded by water, we kind of take it for granted,” explains Sutton. “But, so many in the world are without this basic necessity.”
Which is why FreeFly partnered with Charleston-based Water Missions International to provide sustainable water systems to areas in need. FreeFly’s first year goal is to provide 1,000 children with clean drinking water, and a donation from the sale of each shirt goes toward this.
“Fly fishing is an indescribable feeling,” Sutton says, smiling.
And so is helping a child receive the gift of clean water.
Story by: Caroline Millard
Photos by: Andrew Stephen Cebulka