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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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// 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.”



 

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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