Komafram apparel brand taps made-in-America trend
The Komafram team includes CEO Daniel Feuerstein and designer Jeane Troyanek
"Something new, something brilliant," is the tagline for Komafram, a sustainable line of base layer apparel launched at last week's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show by Daniel Feuerstein, son of Malden Mills former owner Aaron Feuerstein.
While the name is Icelandic for "taking forward," the line of next-to-skin knitted performance apparel and socks is completely developed and sourced in North America, from the yarn and fabric to the design, cutting and sewing.
Komafram features a proprietary blend of alpaca and Tencel. "We wanted to offer something beyond a blend of Merino wool and synthetic fibre, which would achieve improved comfort and moisture management," explained Feuerstein.
As an animal fibre, alpaca is soft, durable, and silky. It is also hypoallergenic and naturally water-repellent. Lenzing's Tencel cellulosic fibre is manufactured in a uniquely eco-friendly closed loop production system, has excellent moisture transport, and is kind to the skin. The blend of sustainable alpaca and cellulosic fibres also provides breathability, odour control, and light weight thermal qualities.
Designed by Jeane Troyanek, the clean-cut layering pieces are manufactured from fabric knit by Texollini, a well-established circular knitter in Long Beach, California. Fabrics include a winter weight, an ultra-light weight, and a spandex blend. The socks are knit by North Carolina's Harriss & Covington.
Feuerstein family legacy
Most importantly, the Komafram brand is strongly rooted in the Feuerstein family legacy of supporting American manufacturing and American workers.
The senior Feuerstein, the third generation owner and CEO of Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was widely lauded for his personal support of the company's workers when the mill burned to the ground in December of 1995.
Feuerstein used insurance money to rebuild the plant, and continued to pay all of the 3,000 employees for six months after the fire. His commitment to Malden employees eventually cost him US$25m, his CEO position, and company bankruptcy.
Malden Mills was the original manufacturer of Polartec performance fleece fabric, and Aaron Feuerstein continues to be an outspoken supporter of American manufacturing.
Danny Feuerstein's point of view is just as uncompromising. "I have issues with promoting sustainability through slave labour in offshore factories," he said. "Quality is a myth - it's about cost."
Feuerstein believes that there is a shift toward presenting sustainability as not separate from fashion, but as fashion at its best. It's a viewpoint shared by a growing number of brands and retailers at the OR show, and by the members of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), which sponsors a number of working groups and coalitions to address issues of sustainability.
The return of manufacturing to the Western Hemisphere was also a hot topic at the show. The OIA's Made in America Working Group was organised at the OR Winter Market in January to explore what OIA can do to help outdoor industry companies manufacture or source more products and/or components domestically.
The goal of the group is to bring together outdoor companies that make products in the United States, in order to provide opportunities for them to collaborate in domestic manufacturing efforts, and share success paths.
The Komafram concept and prototypes were developed over 2009-2010, but Feuerstein struggled to raise the capital needed to launch a made-in-America apparel brand.
In 2013 Feuerstein found a backer in Ambassador Enterprises, a for-profit, private equity, philanthropic investment firm based in Fort Wayne, Indiana that chooses to work with companies and organisations sharing a commitment to producing "economic, cultural, and eternal returns."
Ambassador Enterprises' representative Kevin Neebes explained: "We saw in Danny and his team the combination of character, chemistry, and competency that make up our core values."
Komafram represents the Feuerstein family mantra: "Do the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons." The company's website went live with the company's official launch on 1 August, and traffic at their OR booth was brisk. "I am proud of our partners and our values," said Feuerstein.
The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, with over 1400 exhibitors, is the largest outdoor sports show of its kind, showcasing the latest technical innovations and outdoor sports apparel, as well as offering educational seminars to its attendees.
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