“Being small, we are able to offer a level of value, service and flexibility that is not possible with mass-produced or overseas production.” —Skip Are, Project ARE Action Outfitters
When it comes to outfitting your next 1:6 scale custom figure with good ol’ civilian “basics” (i.e. t-shirts, shorts, shirts, pants, coats, etc.) that are affordable, available in a variety of colors and styles, and are expertly sewn and readily available, one name and number should immediately leap to the top of your speed-dial: Project ARE.
If you’re a collector or (even better), a customizer of 1:6 scale, we’re probably already preaching to the choir. But if for some reason you’ve never seen the work of uber-talented seamstress Robin Are and her ever helpful husband Skip Are, then listen up my friend; because we’re about to provide you with some VERY valuable “insider intel.” We contacted Skip at home recently and he kindly consented to the following exclusive interview. Herrrrrrre’s Skip!
TJR: Before we begin, I just wanted to tell you tell you how BIG a fan I am of Project ARE, and of Robin’s and your work and contributions to the 1:6 scale collecting community. I’ve purchased a few of your scuba suits and t-shirts and I absolutely LOVE the fit and quality!
“Thanks. And it’s good to hear from you again, Mark.“
TJR: I know you’ve been a GIjOE fan and collector since 1964 and that your wife, Robin, was in the Navy and has been sewing clothing and accessories for 12″ action figures since 1996. But could you remind our readers about “the early days” and your connections to Adventure Gear? I have to admit I’m a little “late to the party” on that subject. Who did what for whom?
“Robin and I started making a few things in the mid-90′s, before we had ever met Tom Calhoun. Things like sandbags, T-shirts, shorts, that sort of thing, and we sold them at local toy shows. There were a few military customizers at the time, but no one was making civilian type clothing. Then I ‘met’ Tom through the old Sandbox, and we starting discussing having a website to sell stuff. Tom made suggestions of product, and we did what we could to make them.”
“Then Tom established Adventure Gear and we made the items for him. He accepted the orders, and we filled them from here. Robin did all the design work and all the sewing, and we did 3 shows with Tom. Things were really growing for us all, and we even produced a couple of sets for the Sandbox, the ‘Sandstorm Rescue’ set and the ‘Return to Spy Island ‘set.”
TJR: Sounds like a very successful beginning for any 1:6 business. What else did you work on?
“Well, we had flocked Cots action figures for sale LONG before it became common to have figures flocked. And we carried lots of accessories too. We even did some commercial work for Burton Snowboards and Trinity Communications. Oh! We were also featured on the back of ‘Outdoors Magazine’ once!“
TJR: Outstanding. What happened next?
“Well, after a couple of years, Tom found someone in Charlotte who could arrange to have things sewn in China. So…he decided at that point that some of our more popular items could be made there. We went our separate ways, and Tom continued on with Adventure Gear, having items that Robin had designed sent to China to be copied, and also sending more original AT items there as well. He was selling stuff up until a couple of years ago, but I have no idea whether he is anymore.“
TJR: I see. So, is that when you and Robin decided to form your own company?
“Yes, we took about a 6-month hiatus after the split while we decided what to do, and finally started “Project ARE Action Outfitters” to continue producing many of the items we had done before, plus some new things that we wanted to make that Tom had no interest in. That was in 2001. We also did some custom work for the likes of Fred Jeska, Mike Cherry, Jim Marianneti of ACES (an early customizer), and John Ivory of ‘John’s Stuff.’ We have continued to make things, dropping many items and adding some, as the tastes of our customers have changed.”
TJR: Excellent. And of course we know that you have a great, easy-to-use website (HERE). But what about Joe Cons and toy shows? Do you ever set up there as a dealer?
“We did a few conventions, then decided that it was just too much work for the two of us. We primarily use the website now.”
TJR: I see. What about Dan Dibiase? We see the figures in his elaborate dioramas wearing a lot of what appear to be your company’s clothes. Is he connected to Project ARE?
“Dan is an excellent photographer and diorama builder, and Tom gave Dan an online home to post his stories and photos on. We’ve actually made a few things for Dan a few years back, but most of the clothing you see in his photos came from Tom. So no, neither Tom nor Dan have ever worked for Project ARE.”
Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Skip Are for clearing up all the questions fans have long wondered about. We want to wish him and Robin all the best in their future 1:6 endeavours. Skip sums up their outstanding 1:6 scale business this way:
“Project ARE Action Outfitters is a small company dedicated to providing quality made and unique clothing and accessories for the 1/6 scale action figure hobby. We spend a great deal of time and effort designing and making what we sell, and our goal is to offer only those items which can reflect that effort. We want to satisfy our customers, not through phony slogans or hidden agendas, but through hard work and honest effort.”