I spent the morning surfing outdoor/mountaineering gear websites. I am always fascinated at the rate of which this industry moves. I am truly amazed at some of the innovations that are introduced each year and it makes me wonder how far we can push outdoor gear before we realize that some of the best and most functional gear has already been made?
I like to think that everything is cyclical and what works will always be a staple in the industry. I find myself asking on a more regular basis, “how can we simplify this?” Our pattern is a direct reflection of that thought. The inspiration behind our pattern comes form the Winona Camo System. Winona Camo was prevalent throughout the midwest in the 1970’s and 80’s. Master Bowhunter, Bob Fratzke, designed the patterns and had all of his apparel made at the Winona Knitting Mill in Winona, MN. Many of the concepts and ideals that we envision for Thlete were inspired by Fratzke’s company. Unfortunately, the Winona Knitting Mill closed in 1989 and with it, Winona Camo. The thought of outsourcing was not his vision for the company, so Bob Quietly closed the doors.
Winona Camo – Bob Fratzke
I believe that some of the finest hunting apparel ever made was designed and manufactured right here in the USA.Not all that long ago, apparel companies like Filson and Woolrich were a staple for the cold weather hunter. The Filson Mackinaw series was the apex in hunting apparel for over 50 years and it was not until the boom of global trade that we saw the explosion of modern day camo patterns and brands. I am not implying that all the fabrics available today are inferior to traditional wool, but the test of time has proven that sometimes simpler is better. When you purchase a Filson garment, you know what you are getting. I would currently categorize Thlete as a hybrid camo apparel company. Our brand is inspired by old concepts but we also incorporate modern design. With that being said, I often contemplate simplifying design and perusing a more traditional approach to deer hunting apparel.
I also am intrigued with the multitude of fancy descriptions, icons and attributes that litter the industry. I cannot help but wonder how much of this the consumer actually believes. Reputable brands source reputable fabrics and reputable fabric companies are traceable. It’s that simple.
I will not dazzle you with made up acronyms that insinuate false fabric attributes. The names of our fabrics are coming directly from the manufacturer. What I mean by that is, I will not purchase 5000 yards of cheap polyester from China and personally name it Hydro-Cut 3000GT. OK, that is a bit of a stretch, but it is important to our brand to be open with our customer base. We have faith in the fabrics we have selected and we do not need to bore you to death with why they are so great.
We do things the way we think they should be done. Once we have a fabric in hand here in the USA, we sit down with our design team and hand sketch our vision of a garment. To us, this is an invaluable resource because it allows us to make and modify samples in real time before we go into the production of an item. Our cut and sew team has proven to be an incredible resource throughout this process. Our head seamstress has a mind that is built for designing hunting outerwear. I will often come to her with an idea and she brings it to life. She also has a way of seeing things differently. She single-handedly redesigned the zipper seams on our merino wear to make them more functional and easier to sew which saves us time and money in production.
Where will Thlete be in 5 years, we cannot answer that. Our brand will continue to evolve until we meet our own expectations of how a hunting apparel brand should look, feel and function.