Over the past 25 years, Pendleton Woolen Mills have developed a series of Legendary blankets all of which are based on the beliefs and traditions of their original and most valued customers, the Native American Indian. Though founded by British weaver Thomas Kay back in 1863 it was only after the purchase of a mill along the Oregon Trail in 1909 that their blankets, robes and shawls became highly prized by the Native American population.
One of the reasons for the popularity of these products is thanks to the care taken by the pattern designers to learn about the native mythologies and design preferences of their customers. In the earliest years, Joe Rawnsley, who was considered a gifted talent on the jacquard loom, took time out with the local natives of northeastern Oregon to develop and understand their preferences of colour and design. Which he would then interpret the ideas gleaned from the native peoples into blanket designs using modern technologies that could express pattern ideas in much greater detail and in more vivid colours that could be expressed by traditional weaving methods.
Local business men during a Pendleton Mill tour in 1910.
Wiith the success of these first designs, Mr. Rawnsley went on to spend a further spent six months in the native Southwest developing ideas for designs that would specifically appeal to the tribes of this region. He returned with hundreds of designs to be interpreted into his weaving processes and also entering Pendleton blankets into the ‘Indian trade’. Meaning that local natives started to take the blankets down from Oregon to the Southwest tribes in order to exchange them for silver jewellery, wool or other items of value. The colourful blankets were also integrated into everyday and ceremonial uses; part of a dowry, weddings, gift giving, pow wows, dance prizes, naming ceremonies, funerals and memorials. With blankets often being placed into coffins to keep loved ones warm on their journey.
Today, Pendleton blankets continue to play a significant role in Indigenous communities across North America with the tradition of wool and textile innovation established by Thomas Kay and his family underlying all Pendleton products. Though the good news now is that you don’t have to belong to a Native American tribe in order to own one as The Sporting Lodge are now proud stockists of this incredible American brand.
For those who enjoy the unique sense of happiness and freedom that outdoor living provides then Poler is the brand that you’ve been looking for. As rather than setting itself out as a technical brand focussed on surviving sub-zero climates and extreme weather, Poler has a more laid back and pragmatic approach to its product design.
Created in Portland by Benji Wagner with two of his friends, Poler sprang to life in response to the sheer lack of outdoor brands that Benji and mates wanted to wear. Whilst the outdoor gear that already existed may have been perfectly good suited for camping, hiking and travelling in, it just weren’t up to scratch aesthetically.
Using Benji’s home as a base the brand made their debut in 2011 with a range of tents, tees and bags with the aim of bringing surf, skate and snowboard culture into the world of outdoor adventure. Six years later and Poler is now something of a cult brand amongst a different type of adventurer who can be spotted everywhere from the middle of Mediterranean music festivals to hanging out on the Ho Chi Min trail.
In 1904 in Wisconsin USA a devastating fire at the Sheboygan Knitting Company resulted in the sad demise of a company that had previously thrived thanks to the continuous demands of the lumber industry. From the ashes of the fire rose the Hand Knit Hosiery company, a family business that would later be become WigWam, a world leader in outdoor, athletic and active sock production.
Being pioneers in what was at the time a totally new concept of athletic socks, by the 1920s they were being asked to produce products for various outdoor retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch. It was during this time that they also started to produce woolen bathing suits in keeping with their athletic innovation as well as sweaters for dogs in the 1940s would you believe? Though by 1945 their entire output was dedicated to the war effort, providing wool socks for the army & navy.
In 1957 the company name was changed to WigWam the origins of which are not known with most people assuming it is because their original crossed knitting needles logo resembled the top of a native American teepee. The only record the company have of a name change is a letter from the company president Robert Chesebro Senior to his staff which read: “But only our name changes. Our people, our quality, our sales policies – and above all, our desire to work with you – remain the same.”
Since then WigWam have continued to flourish thanks to their high standards of comfort and quality performance socks. In 1978 Robert was even inducted into the Sporting Goods Hall of Fame in recognition of his work utilizing nylon in athletic, hunting and ski socks. By the late eighties WigWam became a global brand and is now sold in over 30 countries where it has become a firm favourite with everyone from aerobic instructors to alpine climbers.
Introducing Patagonia, brand new to The Sporting Lodge. If you’re not clued up on Patagonia, the lads Proper Mags dig into the history.
The name Yvon Chouinard is one that’s synonymous with the great outdoors and has a legendary status in the worlds of climbing, surfing and fly fishing not to mention his ecological and philanthropic work. For those of you unfamiliar with his name then you may be more aware of his outdoor brand Patagonia.
Having moved to California from Maine as a child, Yvon developed a love for climbing after being taught to abseil at a local falconry club. He instantly fell in love with the sport and soon learnt how to ascend cliffs as well as to get down them. Soon he and his friends would be regularly hopping freight trains to the west end of the San Fernando Valley and to the sandstone cliffs of Stoney Point. Before long Yvon had become part of a group of maverick climbers that had moved on to Yosemite and it’s big walls. Which is where in between hiding from the park rangers that Yvon first started to develop his own outdoor equipment. Initially starting with reusable climbing pitons Yvon then expanded into clothing after importing British rugby shirts whose sturdy collars provided perfect protection from rope burn.
Along with some like-minded friends Yvon set up the brand Patagonia as it’s named conjured up “romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos and condors.” It also helped that the name could be pronounced by in any language.
Alongside climbing Yvon’s other two great loves of surfing and fly-fishing are also an important part of the Patagonia product range. They also reflect the strong environmental ethos of the company and their anti-corporate stance. Which may sound like something of a paradox for a global clothing brand though they give millions away to NGOs around the world and encourage people to repair their clothing rather than replace it. Such is their level of commitment to reducing waste that on Black Friday2011 they printed a full-page ad in The New York Times encouraging customers not to buy their products!
It’s pretty difficult not to buy Patagonia products though when they’re incredibly durable whether you’re river deep or mountain high as well as being made from organic/recycled products wherever possible. Not only that but their choice of colours and designs really make them stand out from the crowd and have ensured their popularity with the fashionistas as much as alpinists.