Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
SmartWool is excited to announce its 20th year in business and will celebrate this milestone at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer and SIA tradeshows as well as throughout 2014. Born in the Rocky Mountains in 1994, SmartWool was founded upon a passion for the active mountain lifestyle and has – since the beginning – embraced the power of its partners and fans. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s had a hand in SmartWool’s success,” says Mark Satkiewicz, SmartWool president. “From suppliers and manufacturing partners to reps, retailers and employees, SmartWool has grown from a slopeside idea to a brand that is globally recognized for quality, innovation and leadership. It is a great honor to serve SmartWool, our retailers, and our partners in reaching this milestone.”
Since its inception, SmartWool has been built on loyal retailers and consumers that have found the perfect balance of joy and performance in both the brand and the products. “We couldn’t be more grateful to our fans and retailers for helping us tell the SmartWool story,” says Amy Beck, SmartWool’s North American VP of wholesale sales and marketing. “We never take an account for granted and continue to succeed because of the incredible relationships forged through our rep force and a huge network of hard-working retailers. They inspire us every day – thank you for 20 great years!”
Through a branded approach to what was simply a commodity at retail in 1994, SmartWool introduced a relatively unknown fiber, Merino wool, to the performance outdoor marketplace. Since then, SmartWool® products have won numerous design and magazine awards, a result of delivering innovative product solutions for the unyielding performance demands of mountain athletes. Using Merino fiber primarily from New Zealand, SmartWool manufactures 95% of its socks and 86% of its entire product line at some of the finest knitting mills in the U.S.A.– all with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Indeed, this unique, Merino-based approach to product development, consumer education and retail partnerships has fueled SmartWool’s significant growth over the last two decades and has provided a foundation that continues to redefine the performance wool category.
SmartWool led the Merino wool revolution – at first – by answering a need and forever changing the traditional ski sock category through a Merino-based alternative. This success was quickly followed by defining Merino-performance sock categories in Hike/Outdoor, Snowboard, and – most recently – Lifestyle. Migrating the benefits of Merino fiber to base-layers, mid-layers and accessories was next in SmartWool’s product evolution. However, with leadership comes responsibility. To this end, SmartWool has not only produced comfortable and washer/dryer safe Merino wool products for 20 years but has also been pivotal in retailer and consumer education on the benefits of Merino next-to-skin (NTS). SmartWool entered the performance Run category in 2012 and remains the top-selling performance sock in the Ski, Snowboard, Outdoor categories to this day.
What sets SmartWool apart from other Merino-based apparel manufacturers is what it does with the fiber. SmartWool continues to create innovative fabric solutions such as the award-winning PhD® SmartLoft insulating pieces – that use wool fleece instead of feather down – and proprietary bi-component fabrics such as HyFi that maximize the inherent benefits of Merino fiber. These new fabric innovations are true alternatives to synthetic fleece or feather down as natural fiber midlayers. Measurable fabric attributes include: reduced layering bulk, warm when wet, naturally antimicrobial and odor resistant, highly resilient stretch, vapor state breathability, moisture management, and natural wind resistance. Other innovative SmartWool® Merino applications include new compression sock and sleeve products, performance tights, and Merino-lined ski gloves.
Thanks to its natural properties – temperature regulation, moisture management and odor control – Merino is an ideal fiber for unpredictable mountain climates. The combination of living, working and testing in the rugged Rocky Mountain environment and 20 years of mastering Merino wool fibers has proven the perfect formula for building products and collections that work naturally with the body and stand up to the toughest adventures. Like fibers mean SmartWool layers perform together, for unparalleled climate control. With this in mind, SmartWool designers created layering systems – now complete with sport underwear – that combine pieces and fabrics for a variety of temperature ranges and activities. SmartWool® clothing, socks and accessories work in tandem to amplify the inherent performance and thermoregulation benefits of Merino wool. Layering 100% in Merino wool creates an efficient layering system without bulk, which means maximum mobility for the wearer, and unparalleled comfort, performance and protection from the elements. Offered in a variety of weights and fabric construction, SmartWool® NTS baselayers, midlayers and accessories allow users to fine-tune their dressing system: for their body, their activities and the weather.
Lots of Socks & Apparel, Guaranteed
Since 1994, SmartWool has brought over 80 million pairs of socks and tens of thousands of apparel products to market through 5,000 retail locations (in North America) and 37 countries across the globe. Perhaps more amazing than the sheer volume of socks that SmartWool has produced is the fact that every pair comes with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee – as does SmartWool’s entire product line. SmartWool is proud of the fact that the average age of returned product is over five years old. The warranty process and other fan feedback is truly a two-way communication and it has helped SmartWool product engineers develop and launch proprietary sock technologies such as ReliaWool™ and the 4 Degree™ Elite Fit System.
But, it’s not just about the wool. Every SmartWool employee is invited to participate in two community service days per year, part of SmartWool’s company policy that allows each employee to use 40 paid hours to volunteer for a cause of their choice. SmartWool also maintains four employee-managed teams – SmartChange, Service, Advocacy, and Sustainability – that help manifest the company’s overall goal of affecting positive change through a commitment to corporate social responsibility. SmartWool’s Advocacy committee, for instance, has distributed over $1.5MM to various causes and organizations since 2006. SmartWool has also been named to Outside Magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list for the last six consecutive years.