Down in the little mountain hamlet of Pagosa Springs, Colorado sits a little-known brand specializing in high-tech wool clothing production, 100 percent sourced and sewn in the States. Those who do know this mountain-lifestyle focused micro-brand are die-hard fans, as there’s really no one else doing what Voormi does.
Some call Voormi disruptive, others call them innovative, but all call them radical thought leaders when compared to their competition, almost all of whom build inventory overseas, typically sourcing “off the shelf” fabrics and materials available to every other brand. Voormi, in contrast, uses its Rocky Mountain wool and decades of experience as brand leaders and mountain guides to create proprietary textiles, designed to perform at the highest level in real life situations.
Voormi founder and CEO Dan “Butch” English – who started the company after a stint as Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Licensing at Mossy Oak – is not only a lifelong skier, backcountry horseman, hunter, and fly fisherman, but is a competitive rifle and clay shooter and former member of the U.S. Olympic Shooting team, a passion he passed on to his son Dustin (an Alaskan mountain guide) and daughter Megan (a professional ski patroller), both of whom also work at the company.
English was also involved in another small startup called Microsoft, where he spent most of his career managing divisions of up to 20,000 people before taking on the SVP role at Mossy Oak. His pursuit of authentic, innovation-driven apparel manufacturing has only gotten greater since then, and shows in his founding Voormi.
Active Junky had a chance to sit down with English this summer for a little backstory behind this special brand.
What does Domestic Sourcing and Manufacturing mean to you, and why does it matter?
When we founded Voormi, one of our key strategies was to drive a more local approach to everything we do. Beyond the obvious economic impact we can have both domestically and within our own community, taking this approach ensures that we are continually more agile at each progressive horizon of the business. For instance, our product development/design cycle can happen in weeks vs. the years it takes to align highly complex global supply chains. This agility, in combination with our unique proximity to the harsh testing grounds of the Southern San Juans, and our short-lead distribution strategy, means we can develop, test, and deliver faster than anybody else out there.
What’s the biggest obstacle to what you at Voormi are doing?
Following the great migration to Asian sourcing, the U.S. textile and apparel base was left extremely fragmented. What manufacturing capacity and capital out there was soon optimized for large-scale single product military contracts. Our biggest challenge to growth is the re-establishment of domestic capability and capacity for the real-time multi-product challenges of the consumer market. In some cases this means building a new set of factories from the ground up.
What’s your favorite part about working in this industry?
The most rewarding thing for us is the passion behind those who buy and use our gear. Living in a small community filled with outdoor professionals that rely on our clothing every day, the proudest moments often happen in the most unexpected places. Walking in to our local brewery and hearing about the difference our gear made that day or getting photos from a far away basecamp is a pretty special thing. There’s nothing like the personal accountability that comes from someone you see every day putting their hard earned money down on your gear.
Why do you think pieces like the High-E Hoodie become instant classics? What makes a piece like that special?
One thing that sets Voormi apart from the rest of the industry is our close connection to the needs of real people. With the massive scale of the outdoor industry, it’s easy to get sucked in to the esoteric corners of differentiation. In many cases, we believe this drives over-specification, and the need for a closet full of gear just to cover the things people love to do. At Voormi, our goal is to create honest, long lasting pieces that are relevant across a wide range of activities. In a way, it is the “lack of special” that makes it so special.