Prometheus Design Werx

Dispatches Interviews Patrick Ma

An Interview with EDC Founding Father Patrick Ma

Patrick Ma is an EDC industry icon, with a career spanning 25 years and his hand in founding some of the best hardware and soft goods companies in the business when it comes to high-performance gear of the highest caliber, no matter the mission. Today he continues to work on exceptional everyday equipment as CEO, Creative Director, and Chief Designer of Prometheus Design Werx, which is nearing its 10th anniversary with no signs of stopping. In this interview, Patrick takes the time to answer our questions about designing his products, his thoughts on the current landscape of EDC, and an interesting piece of gear from a movie he still dreams about making.

First and foremost: what's in your EDC?

(Editor's note: Some items listed in Patrick's carry are currently out of stock but restocking. Others have yet to land or are currently out of production. We've indicated these per item as specified by Patrick.)

EDC’s changed a lot from the blogs and forums of its early years. How are you and PDW navigating this new environment heavily influenced by social media, hype releases, and collaborations, and a much bigger market willing to drop some serious money on their gear?

Having been one of the "founding fathers" of EDC I have seen a great proliferation of goods in this arena from when I first started designing "EDC" products in the late 1990s. I'd have to say I've been very impressed with the wonderful and innovative breadth of goods that I've seen come to market from every corner imaginable. The competition has gotten fierce and compels any of us involved in this genre of goods to keep pushing the boundaries, to "invent and reinvent the wheel," to innovate and create. It keeps the market fresh and the general consumer benefits.

Of course, there's a lot of crap that gets made too, but that just means there's something for everyone. I keep my nose to the grindstone and keep at it. I can only work on EDC ideas that are born from personal needs and use cases. This keeps my work genuine and authentic in its intent. My work in EDC may speak to many, but not to everyone.

With the breadth and depth of your product lines, what piece of gear do you still dream about making?

Of the several brands I have created, each is something of an outlier in the industry, where I chose to pursue the trifecta of soft goods (packs and bags), apparel, and equipment (EDC gear). There are very few brands that design all 3 product categories in-house and offer them under one banner, and I founded two of them. So I've done quite a few products over the years.

But, what "piece of gear do I still dream about making?" Well, for those who remember the late 90s movie, The Saint, it would be something along the lines of the pocket knife featured in it. It was like the ultimate gadget Swiss Army-type pocket knife with an automatic main blade and a host of tools from a lockpick, and compass to a mini-torch. I'd have a different set of tools, but yeah, something along those lines.

What’s the one EDC/tactical/outdoor problem you have that you still feel you’re unable to solve?

Perhaps one of those challenges would be more along the tactical side of things. While most of my public work the past nine years has demonstrated a shift away from the overtly "tactical look," turning the dial back towards that purpose-driven context, I am a lifelong fan of the science and art of camouflage. I have been thinking for some time now about how to truly level up or literally disrupt the idea of individually worn camo battle dress/combat uniforms. And I do have some ideas which haven't been done before, which might actually accomplish the next evolution of camo.


Read: Build a Badass Everyday Uniform With Prometheus Design Werx

What would you say are your core tenets that you won’t break when you develop a product from start to finish?

Listening to other people's "ideas," I don't do it. I can't begin to tell you how many people come up to me with their "good idea" to make. However, any idea is only good, if you have the wherewithal, fortitude, and resources to execute on it. Otherwise, it's just empty talk and I don't want to hear it. Don't waste my time or yours. I have plenty of my own ideas to last several lifetimes and do not develop products that are not my own.

What’s the most uncommon product you’ve designed that you’ve gotten a compliment for?

Recently, I'd have to say those would be my Invictus-AT or STS-AT folders using our proprietary Terravantium® super alloy under my brand Terrain 365. I've designed and created truly 100% rust-proof, nonferrous, nonmagnetic folding knives that have blades that hold a lasting edge. By the nature of the limited availability of the Terravantium alloy in bulk, these knives are on the more uncommon side.

Read: Customize Your Carry and Conquer Your Next Adventure With Prometheus Design Werx

You seem to have a complete line of products for almost everything EDC, but do you have any particular gear favorites from other brands that you carry on you?

The only gear from other brands I carry every day are flashlights, some multi-tools, and Swiss Army Knives. I personally carry the RovyVon Aurora A1 and A4 titanium pocket lights. Great functionality, lightweight, but not the best ergonomics and design aesthetic. Definitely could use some work in those departments.

I have been a lifelong fan and user of SAKs. Although for the last few years, I've modded them all with my own series of G10 and titanium aftermarket scales. I am also a fan of the Swiss Tool. They are simple, elegant, and finely made multi-tools. When I need a multi-tool, that's what I grab.

From what we’ve seen of your products over the years, you have a cult following for much of your gear, particularly those in the SPD line. Is there a different approach to how you make those products compared to your main lines? And do you have a tip for interested folks to have a better chance of grabbing them?

As I've stated on my website, my SPD designs are generally limited or tackle a more specific use case. In the case of the former, some goods by their very nature means not everyone is going to be able to get one. They can be limited for a host of reasons, especially when it comes to collabs. I'm fortunate to work with some of the longest-running EDC brands (knives, really) that I've known for decades.

Often, it's just a matter of supply. We get what we get, even if we have a PO in for more, and have no say in the final quantities we receive. We feel lucky to just even get them. Keep in mind human nature too. Flood the market, and a gold egg turns to brass.

At the end of the day, I'm going to make some or many folks happy much of the time, but I'll never make everyone happy all of the time.

With 25 years in the industry, can you describe how your creative vision has changed from when you started [at Triple Aught Design] and now with almost a decade at Prometheus Design Werx?

My vision, at its core, has always been the same. Producing intelligently designed equipment and apparel for the self-reliant and self-propelled adventurer and explorer. What has changed is only an evolution of style where my aesthetic has matured and been academically refined over the many years of empirical experiences. That said, I believe I have a distinct design voice based on the fundamental ethos of "form follows function" and is recognizable to those familiar with it, no matter what brand I created.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Photos courtesy of Patrick Ma.


Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

scroll btn