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Pendleton Woolen Mills' new CEO spins company into the future

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Articles - October 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013

BY LINDA BAKER

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// Photo by Eric Näslund

On a Friday afternoon, Mark Korros, the 61-year old CEO of Pendleton Woolen Mills, is in the company’s Portland home showroom, where the Native American-style blankets Pendleton has been making for a century share space with a relatively new product line: jacquard towels fashioned out of cotton, not Pendleton’s trademark wool. In just a few years, the towels have become a several-million-dollar business for the iconic brand, which celebrates its 104th birthday this year.

A longtime apparel executive who most recently was CEO of Seattle-based Filson, Korros took the reins at Pendleton in February. His goal is to continue down the path the company has been following for several years: updating a historic Oregon brand for the modern consumer. “We need to constantly provide loyal, ongoing customers with new products that excite them,” says Korros, a Kentucky native who wore the company’s classic board shirt as a kid. “But we also need to create products that will attract new customers.”

Incorporated in 1909, Pendleton employs about 900 people, including 223 in the company’s Pendleton and Washougal woolen mills. In addition to 70 retail stores around the country, Pendleton operates a wholesale business, and company products are distributed in 25 countries around the world.

Pendleton Woolen Mills

CEO: Mark Korros

Incorporated: 1909

Employees: 900

Factoid: 427,000 sheep shorn for Pendleton annually

Although the family-owned company took a hit during the economic downturn, Pendleton has since been on an upward trajectory, says Korros, who declined to reveal revenues. “We’re definitely in expansion mode,” says Korros, who spoke to Oregon Business about a month before participating in a classic company ritual: attending the Pendleton Round-up with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. “It’s like the Superbowl around here,” he says wryly.

Helping power the company’s growth is an array of new initiatives aimed at achieving a mix of the traditional and the contemporary. Korros is also alert to global apparel- industry trends, such as the push to bring back manufacturing to the U.S. and a surge of interest in sustainable fabrics.

In 2014, for example, Pendleton will debut a spring version of the Portland Collection, a 3-year-old line of modern textiles featuring updated styling, eco-friendly fabrics and fresh colors, including custom-print silk dresses and reversible jacquard coats that have been featured in the likes of Vogue and GQ.



 

Comments   

 
Guest
+4 #1 Pendleton nativeGuest 2013-10-17 05:37:30
Great to see the brand name doing well. Not-so-great to see so much of the product line produced in China and other off-shore places. I know you have to "compete" with other brands, but what if you were an All American Made product? I would be the first in line to buy Pendleton products if they were made in the USA.
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Guest
0 #2 RE: Pendleton Woolen Mills' new CEO spins company into the futureGuest 2013-10-23 19:17:56
Congratulations on the recent growth, especially in retail. Pendleton will always be one of my favorite brands.
Dan Swanson
Portland, OR
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Guest
+4 #3 SadGuest 2014-08-25 07:23:01
I stopped buying Pendleton products when they cast aside American workers in preference for Chinese workers. There's something truly revolting about such a company exploiting the Native American heritage, reducing it to Chinese kitsch. Makes me ill. And the argument that they "can't compete" without doing business in China is utter baloney. It's the same old corporate lie. These days, I go to Faribault Mills when I need a blanket.
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Guest
+1 #4 BillGuest 2014-12-13 17:06:41
Received a Pendleton robe as a gift. Few weeks ago...made in china. Had several quality and sizing issues. Ended up disposing of product to Goodwill. Tried to post review but Pendleton will not allow review to be posted if it indicates their product is made in China. Clearly, they're trying to obscure the fact...shows "imported" on website. Used to love their products.
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Guest
0 #5 Interesting...Guest 2015-02-10 04:59:43
Quoting Guest:
Received a Pendleton robe as a gift. Few weeks ago...made in china. Had several quality and sizing issues. Ended up disposing of product to Goodwill. Tried to post review but Pendleton will not allow review to be posted if it indicates their product is made in China. Clearly, they're trying to obscure the fact...shows "imported" on website. Used to love their products.

Did you not read this whole article based upon the fact that they're working on bringing product back to the US? They're not hiding anything. Read before you make such critical assumptions~
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Guest
0 #6 RE: Pendleton Woolen Mills' new CEO spins company into the futureGuest 2015-03-11 16:28:48
Back in the day, there were a lot of things that Pendleton designed but didn't have the capability to make themselves. Of course, back then they outsourced the production to other companies in the US, rather than foreign countries, but the production was still outsourced even then. For example, the iconic Westerly sweaters were outsourced to a mill in Winona that could produce the thick knit specified for the sweater. The Winona mill made cotton garments as their main business and took on the Pendleton wool designs as a sideline. Since those days, the Winona mill closed because their bread-and-butte r cotton business couldn't compete with foreign mills on price, and you can't keep a mill open with limited production runs of fancy wool sweaters. The Winona mill reopened and is now producing mittens, but as far as I know that's it. I don't think that they're getting back into the sweater business anytime soon. And every year that passes means that more expertise is lost, which makes it less likely that they get back into the sweater business.

This is not to say that Pendleton wasn't being greedy when they moved the production of shirts overseas, shirts being a product that Pendleton has produced in the US for a long time. This is to say that, even in cases where you want to produce clothing in the US, there are substantial practical difficulties in doing so, particularly if you don't have prior experience of your own to draw upon.
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