Duncan Dwelle

Duncan@DwelleArt.com     415-265-9090

co-founder: The North Face

co-founder: Exprit de Corp

founder & president: Applied Information Science

founder & president: American Fair Trade Council

co-founder: Caber Co LLC

software scientist (retired): PrimePay LLC



I grew up in the 1950s on the rural waterfront of the Eastern United States looking forward to life as a sailor, photographer, and poet. Following those and other pathways took me to Maine and then California, where I became a mountaineer, business executive, writer, and teacher of information system design concepts.

My business career started as the General Manager of The North Face mountaineering equipment brand when it was founded in 1965. As the first customer, first employee, and first manager - all within a few hours - I designed, sourced, and sold merchandise, ran our retail shop floors, hired and fired personnel, did the accounting, and wrote the first North Face catalogs (1966-1968).

After a change of ownership at The North Face, I assisted the fledgling manufacturer Sierra Designs inaugurate its retail division. Next I took over general management of Trailwise, a manufacturer of specialty backpacking equipment.

When Plane Jane, the precursor to Esprit de Corp, got organized in 1969, the company recruited me as its Executive Vice President and General Manger. It was there that Jane Tise ("Plain Jane") and I first met; we have remained friends for forty years. In this fast growing startup fashion company I managed all aspects of purchasing, production, distribution, administration, and finance as it became the world wide fashion brand Esprit.

In 1972 I chose to "retire" early (age 27) to coastal Maine where, with my growing family, I tended 60 acres of woods and farm. Having exhausted both ourselves and our repertoire of back to the land adventures in three years, we left the backwaters of New England for more advanced civilization in New Delhi, India while I consulted for fashion exporters.

Various events led me back to San Francisco in 1975 where I resumed an intermittent association with Esprit de Corp as executive and consultant. My roles included managing several large legal matters on behalf of Esprit; creating a direct mail catalog sales division; re-engineering and automating all distribution facilities; designing a revised general management structure; and dragging the company's information technology into modern form.

While CIO of Esprit de Corp in the early 1980s I directed design and construction of some of the earliest successful systems which were distributed world-wide via public packet nets now know as the Internet. These systems integrated relational databases, multi-tier server architecture, and global client access in ways which have become mainstream only in the late 1990s.

Meanwhile, through my own consulting firm I was actively advising a number of retail merchants such as Patagonia, Bullock & Jones, Eileen West, and The Nature Company in starting or expanding their direct marketing efforts.

In 1985 at the request of The Gap, Esprit de Corp, Patagonia, and other apparel retailers and importers with global trade interests, I organized the American Free Trade Association, later renamed the American Fair Trade Council, to lobby the U.S. Congress and Federal administration on issues of international trade. As president of the AFTC and a U.S. Government cleared advisor, I traveled constantly to trade negotiations in Washington, D.C. and points around the world.

Through the early '90s my work, and that of my sizable team, was focused on constructing advanced information systems for commerce - retail, distribution, and manufacturing. By the late '90s my focus had shifted to research and teaching in large scale software design methods.

As a leader in the field of information modeling and automated systems generation since the 1970s, I have authored numerous technical studies and papers, made presentations at trade shows and conferences, and been a guest lecturer in graduate programs at several universities.

For a number of years I devoted most of my time to kayaking, reading, traveling, and, occasionally, researching ways to generate information systems from abstract models and specifications. A few years ago I rejoined the real world as chief software scientist of PrimePay LLC. from which I have now retired.

Working with Words

Since I was perhaps ten years old I have relished writing as a primary form of creative expression. My forty-five years of business writing includes all the copy for the original North Face catalogs in 1966 and 1967 (I'd love to find copies of those!), the famous Esprit post-fire "Down but Not Out" ad, and many other bits of copy, correspondence, and poppycock.

Poetry flows from my virtual pen mostly when I'm troubled or confused. A period between marriages in the '80s thus stimulated most of my poetic output, although occasionally some event or observation will stir me to verse. I hope soon to match some of my old poetry with new photography.

Image Art

I began sketching when I was about eight years old. At thirteen, I spent all my hours after dark (often till 2:AM) drafting detailed line drawings of traditional small sailing craft, culminating in complete designs for hull, cabins, and rig of Nova Scotia fisherman schooner yachts.

My interest in photography was kindled by backpacking in the Sierra Nevada in the 1960s, where the scenery was so stunning as to require permanent images. Many episodes of deep involvement with Doug Tompkins in The North Face and Esprit honed my instinctual appreciation of graphic design and attention to detail.

A trip to India in 1975 sparked my focused fascination with controlled, creative photography. In one memorable ten hours at the Taj Mahal my wife at the time and I shot eight rolls of 35mm film, of which only one image, by my wife, was worth keeping. Today perhaps ten shots of a hundred rolls of slides survive ruthless culling.