Pendleton's Breath of Fresh Air

January 31, 2012 BY CAPSULESNEWS

Considered by many to be the leader of the heritage trend, Pendleton is a brand that has become synonymous with Navajo prints and stout coats. But with their contemporary line The Portland Collection, the company is trying to buck its old-timey persona. Our guest reporter Nick Spain talked with brand reps Tracy and Tyler about reinventing an American classic and what pieces are going to bring the heat for their second season.--Nick Spain

WATM: So you guys had a really successful first season, right?

Tracy: We just came off of a really successful fall season. We had wonderful specialty boutique partners and most of it, 80%, sold through at full price, which is a great story in this economy.

Tyler: This is the second season. It’s bigger. A lot more accessories. More men’s knits.

WATM: What are you guys doing differently this season than last season?

Tracy: What we did this year was get away from the heritage trend and show that we’re more than that. We’re more about pattern. That’s what Pendleton is known for. They started back in the 1800’s with their ceremonial robes, which are blankets that they sold to the Native Americans. The reason the Native Americans bought Pendleton instead of other competitors at the time was because of the color and the intricate details and the patterns. So that’s where they stood out, and that’s what we’re trying to show today. It’s about pattern, and that is our point of differentiation from other lines on the market.

WATM: What else besides the infamous Navajo print did you guys want to show off?

Tyler: We really wanted to express some different sides of Pendleton and show off the richness of their solids. There’s a bi-color slate, the back is this copper color, and gives it this pigmentation that shines through so it has a lot more depth than a simple gray.

Tracy: A lot of our buyers this past season were surprised that the solids are so amazing. When you wear the solid, it’s amazing. We sold a woman’s shift dress, and everyone loved the pattern, but they didn’t always buy the solid black. But when they got it in the store, they were like, this is a dress I can own for the rest of my life. It just looked so amazing and substantial and rich in the solid, too. So that was nice to see.

WATM: You guys are also known for being one of the few brands that is still made in America. Do you think that can be attributed to your success as well?

Tracy: To us, that’s what Pendleton really embodies today. This collection is all made in the United States, except for the bags. The bags are overseas, but we’re looking to do more accessories in the United States. Because with contemporary craftsmanship, in our demographic, what we’re seeing is that people care where things are made and how they’re made. They want to know the story, and they want to have clothing that they love to wear everyday, but has some soul to it. And that’s what I’m talking about with contemporary craftsmanship.

WATM: So what sort of aesthetic were you trying to encompass for this season?

Tyler: We wanted to show the sophisticated side of Pendleton. That it’s not just a casual wool shirt, but that it can be appropriate for every occasion, from being in a finance office to a creative office and everything in between.

Tracy: Especially for the workweek. It’s more of an urban, modern look for the creative class that can change once and feel appropriate throughout their full day.

WATM: What pieces in particular are people going to be surprised to see?

Tyler: This is called a zephyr plaid and it’s not something that you see on a regular basis anymore. This is a plaid from the 30’s, and you just don’t see this kind of point tille work on the plaid anymore. Special jacquards like this guy came from a skirt in the archive, and it just has a different feel and look than the more Native American jacquards that you see out on the marketplace.

Tracy: We love the umbrellas. These are going to be $98 retail. The original one we saw had plaid wool on the inside. It gave the effect that it was cozy but we wanted to make it accessible, so the price point came into play. And we want stores to be able to turn them.

Tyler: We want stores to be able to buy it, and we want consumers to be able to afford it in the end.

WATM: Which item would you say is the exemplar of what you’re going for this season?

Tracy: The jumpsuit, of course. That’s the Portland sizzle. It’s coming straight from the Portland design team, which are 3 really hip, indie kids that travel but live in Portland. Also, what you don’t see as much of in the men’s but you see in the women’s is our Ramshorn print. It’s like the Louis Vuitton of Pendleton. I mean, that is something just so different for us. That’s our sizzle.