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Q&A with NYA-EVO Co-Founder Jensen Pauwels

Q&A with NYA-EVO Co-Founder Jensen Pauwels
9th February 2023 Al Simmons
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When the Phase One IQ4 150MP was launched in 2018, myself and director Steve were gifted the first generation of NYA-EVO Fjord 36 backpack at the partner conference. Five years later those backpacks still travel with us to the office every day, get packed with cameras and taken for demonstration throughout the week, and head further afield at the weekends. In my case, the Fjord 36 has become a go-to fly fishing backpack, and gets packed with waders and submerged in rivers on a regular basis.

Besides one of the chest strap clips that I trapped in a car door, the bag only looks better after time, and it is by far the most legitimately useful merchandise I’ve ever been given. When the time comes for a new backpack  I’ll definitely buy another NYA-EVO. Maybe the Fjord 60-C so I can full it with more fishing gear.

Since that point, Jensen Pauwels and the team have continued to develop the design and manufacturing of their backpacks, and we proudly began to represent their full range here in the UK last year.

There are many reviews out there for the bags themselves, but I wanted to get the perspective of co-founder and designer Jensen on the broader NYA-EVO brand philosophy.

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Tell me about your design background, and how you came to establish NYA-EVO.

When I was a child I was always drawing, and at high school I started drawing my own sneakers and cars. I joined after school drawing classes and did a few years of comic drawing (comics are big in Belgium). When I completed high school I was planning to study architecture because I knew this involved drawing until I was VERY lucky to come across a masters degree in industrial design. I loved these intense 5 years at the College of Art in Antwerp and soon after my studies I was invited by a company in Hong Kong to come over and start as an industrial designer in the soft goods department designing technical hiking backpacks for major EU and USA based brands. It was there where I learned the business of how to design a hiking backpack technically and make it become a reality in mass production.

After 4 years I left and worked for Pacsafe first as development manager and then later transferred into Head of Design. At Pacsafe I also came into contact with the sales and marketing side of the soft goods industry which was my last vital missing piece before having accumulated enough experience and skills to try my next step which was co–founding NYA-EVO.

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What did you set out to achieve with NYA-EVO?

I wanted to create my vision for the perfect adventure camera backpack. I had designed many bags during my career but the complexity of designing a camera backpack that could hold a lot of heavy expensive camera equipment AND still provide enough room for other adventure hiking essentials was the challenge.

What makes NYA-EVO unique? 

I believe it is the unique mix of functional features which are geared to both photography and adventure hiking users that makes our products stand out from the competition. And of course now we are setting a sustainability standard by using ECONYL, which is fabric regenerated nylon from industrial waste and discarded fishing nets.

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What did you see in the market that was missing?

A good looking camera backpack with the perfect blend of function, comfort and style. Photographers are very creative beings and my feeling was that there wasn’t much to choose from in the adventure photography segment. Also the fact that we provide four colours for the backpacks, is a result of that vision. A lot of camera bags are just a rigid black box and I thought it was time to change that.

How do the Nordics inform the design and philosophy of NYA-EVO?

I would say the rational, no-nonsense, engineered design approach lives strong here in the Nordics. This was translated into the NYA-EVO product range as it is now.

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Which other brands and designers do you take inspiration from?

I think many soft good/bag designers are looking at a website called Carryology. They created a great informative website about bag design in general and there is a ton of good content to get ideas from. Another method to gather ideas is observing people during my travels and during hiking. I always feast my eyes on what people carry around. Sometimes a business trip combined with store visits in Hong Kong or Tokyo can really make a difference. In Asia they have a very different approach on bag design and there are many boutique brands to get inspired by.

Teamwork first encountered NYA-EVO when you collaborated with Phase One on their IQ4, how did this come about and how has this collaboration been from your perspective?

To be honest, that is a big part of where it all started for NYA-EVO. I remember in October 2018 when we first pressed the launch button of our Kickstarter campaign with the Fjord 36, it was the product manager at Phase One that contacted us with the question if we would like to collaborate with them. Of course, we did not hesitate and we are very grateful for the journey with Phase One.

As a matter of fact, I am due to go to Phase One head office in Copenhagen, and am excited to work together with them on our next steps for the future.

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What are your aims for the future with NYA-EVO?

Our aim will focus on three important points. The first is our continuous journey to make our products more sustainable. They are not there yet. Using ECONYL is a first big step in the right direction but we still have work to do. Second, we will focus on researching and testing more lightweight materials and construction techniques. It is imperative that our backpacks will be light and strong at the same time. The third one is my ultimate dream of bringing some of the backpack production back to Europe. This I will continue to strive towards but of course it is not an easy task and requires time.

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Heading an adventure backpack company must involve some adventurous testing. Where’s your own personal choice location to get outside with a camera?

Oh my god! It is almost impossible to give one answer. I have many favourite spots. I guess the locations with the strongest connection and memories are Namibia, Bolivia, Chile, and the Japanese Alps. More close to home, it would be the mountains and Fjords of Norway.

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If you’re on the search for a new photography, hiking or indeed fly fishing backpack, you should absolutely check out the NYA-EVO range. We have all options available in-store and online, and you can find out more about them here.

If you need any questions answering, give us a call.

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