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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
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Pendleton Woolen Mills' new CEO spins company into the future
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// Photos by Eric Näslund

Introduced this fall, the new Thomas Kay collection is steeped in the past. Named after the company’s Yorkshire, England-born founder, the collection blends British and American styles; i.e., notch-lapel blazers in tweed fabrics and an axe fashioned from high carbon steel and an Appalachian hickory handle.

Other design initiatives include a new, wearable accessories line — leather bags, belts, hats — and a planned expansion of the company’s outerwear business capitalizing on company expertise with wool. “Look for Pendleton to reclaim its position as a major outdoor retailer,” says Korros, emphasizing the growing popularity of merino wool as a base layer. A Nike-esque innovation team is also working on the cutting edge to develop sustainable, lighter-weight, wrinkle-free and stain-free wools.

Awash in new fabric launches, Pendleton, as Korros observes, is an apparel maker of many dimensions. The company collaborates with other brands, most recently with Bugaboo to provide a custom lining for strollers. Licensing is another source of revenue, with the biggest deal coming from Hood River Distillers, distributor of Pendleton whiskey.

About that domestic manufacturing push: Today iconic American brands are all the rage, one reason Pendleton is doing so well in Japan, Korros says. But for the most part, this signature American brand manufactures its product abroad — on almost all continents except Australia, where the company sources much of its wool. Despite the outsourcing, “‘Made in the USA’ is definitely a trend for us,” Korros says. Starting next year, the entire Portland and Thomas Kay collections will be made in the U.S. Korros also touts the longevity of the company’s two mills. “There are only five woolen mills left in the U.S. We own two of them.”

In 2013 Pendleton still derives the bulk of its sales revenue from the classic Pendleton line: woolen shirts, skirts, pants and jackets that appeal to the company’s core 45- to 70-year-old demographic. In the old days, classic Pendleton defined the company — its past, present and future. Today, says Korros, Pendleton aims “to support any type of activity a person might have,” be it playing soccer, attending a cocktail party or hanging out on the beach with a fresh cotton jacquard towel.

He sums up the company’s multipronged strategy with a wardrobe analogy: “The No. 1 goal is to bring high-quality products to market that are relevant to consumers — and fill their closets.”



 

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Guest
+3 #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
+1 #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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