Winning Active Endeavors
A Focus on Brands Making Products in the USA.
The turbulent nature of this past year has taken a toll on many areas of our lives, yet one bright spot has been an emphasis on staying active.
Recreational sports like golf, tennis and hiking are on the uptick with consumers enjoying basking in the open air. Hunting is also having a resurgence “as people more than ever want to know the source of their organic meat and experience the outdoors,” said Andy Techmanski, founder of Forloh. It’s the aspect of finding the joy in nature – which can be right in our own backyard – that is also fueling brands to make associated products locally.
Here we highlight five brands who are focusing efforts on Made in the USA.
Billing itself as “the first hunting brand to manufacture high end apparel 100% made in the USA,” Forloh was launched to fill a gap between the latest technologies in fabrics which can be used for hunting, fishing and the general active outdoor environment. Forloh employs Airagidm waterproof breathable membranes (produced entirely in Higginsville, MO, from design to distribution) in its AllClima Rain Jacket and Soft Shell Jacket to deliver personalized i-Climate Comfort, or “the special ability to adapt to both the environment and the wearer’s distinctive physiology,” according to Greg Vas Nunes, CEO of Trinity Technology Group. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature in the wilderness makes for a better overall experience. These jackets also feature lifesaving Recco search and rescue reflectors, should the wearer become lost in the backcountry. For Spring, Forloh will introduce Airalight, its lightest weight rain gear with improved breathability.
Keen & Nester Hosiery
In January 2021, footwear brand Keen announced that it would be increasing its Portland, OR production by 26 percent, driven by strong demand for its American Built utility boots. Erik Burbank, VP of Keen Effect commented that “American Built for American workers is resonating with our fans, while the reception for US built premium hikers is equally strong.” The firm has also made recent investments in the Portland factory in the area of robotics for quality assurance and efficiency. At the same time, the firm also announced an expanded relationship with Nester Hosiery, a partner of 14 years, to develop, manufacture and distribute new outdoor, work and everyday designs for women’s, men’s and kids Keen Casual and Keen Utility brands. “We are really excited to continue producing socks for Keen in our North Carolina factory,” Nester Hosiery CEO Kelly Nester noted, adding, “we think that the consumer sees higher value in a US manufactured product.”
Ninety percent of the items sold by wool cap and apparel company Stormy Kromer are made in the USA, with the majority produced in Ironwood, MI. Partners in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina manufacture the balance of which the firm does not have the capacity or machinery to produce. Core hats are handmade in Ironwood, with “real people putting real effort and care into making sure these hats are produced with the highest quality possible,” explained Stormy Kromer designer Jamie LaBo. The firm recently struck up a partnership with a company in North Carolina to also create baseball caps (founder George “Stormy” Kromer, was a semi-pro baseball player). Versatile enough to go from “backwoods to downtown,” Stormy Kromer’s Adventurer Poncho features a large loop terry cotton fabric with a great drape. “What is the most special about this product is the versatility; it can be worn throughout the year, from late night summer bonfires on the beach to over your favorite flannel in winter,” LaBo said.
“At Hemp Black, we like to control our own destiny,” with all manufacturing performed in Greensboro, NC, everything is extruded in the U.S. and using predominantly American made ingredients, commented the firm’s vice president, Mac Cheek. The brand’s Highline Pant (great for hiking or everyday activities) contains hemp that is genetically chosen and engineered in Australia, and grown in Kentucky. The pockets employ fusion technology (infused into the nylon), meaning that they are embedded with antimicrobial copper and odor eliminating hemp infused fibers, which also has the ability to clean your cell phone in 20 minutes by reducing a broad spectrum of viruses, bacteria, and fungi on surfaces. The firm also markets biker shorts, yoga tights and performance face masks. For Spring, seamless pieces with Hemp Black technology and solution-dyed yarns (using less water and energy) are on tap.
Since the sock firm started making wool yard in 1843, Kentwool has produced its products in the United States. Today, all of the yarn used in its socks is Kentwool yarn, made in South Carolina. The socks are knit predominantly in Alabama and North Carolina. Warehousing and distribution are in South Carolina. The firm is best known for its athletic socks crafted of Merino yarns with moisture management and thermoregulation properties. As Kentwool Performance Apparel CEO Lauren Luneckas explained, “cushioning in its proprietary footbed construction reduces foot discomfort and muscle fatigue delivering a blister-free wear experience second to none.” During Covid, the firm witnessed an increase in sales in athletic products (relative to lifestyle products), especially in its core athletic line for golf, walking and tennis, called the Classic Series. “With people spending more time outdoors, the desire for comfortable footwear has increased,” Luneckas said.