Mike Wallenfels Discusses Mountain Hardwear's First Product - rough cut

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The samples were in you might say random colors because we didn’t order our own fabric ahead of time, it was whatever fabric Gore or Malden had available, so bright, ugly, reds and, purples and greens and blues that were left overs and scraps. Our logo since we had just come up with the concept of finalizing the Mountain Hardwear name and logo, we are able to make the logos to be able to go to the product but we couldn’t actually sew them on. So they were stuck on with tape and I remember that first trade show and we were showing samples and every time I pulled the jacket out of the rack, the logo would fall off of it on the ground and our carpet was covered with double stick tape logos by the end of the trade show.

Well first I want to quantify that the samples were hideous only in the color and the execution and maybe how the labeling was done. The products themselves were amazing and Paul and Ingrid had done an incredible job in a very isolated situation. They were in Hong Kong at the time and they were designing the product line that would become the first Mountain Hardwear execution and the products that came out that year wound up being really the identifiers that created the Mountain Hardware personality for years to come.

The exposure Parka was our first Gore-tex Jacket that was introduced that year, the chill factor jacket, the subzero jacket, down jacket that we did now, now those will be remembered for ever, power stretch, zip tee, power stretch tights, those are the ones that Lesley Howad designed. The message became heard loud and clear, we want really strong, very durable, really very well designed, Gore-Tex jackets, PolarTech jackets, down jackets that were designed for core purpose of high altitude mountaineering and back country Skiing and climbing, so it was all outer wear.

It was all technical winter oriented outerwear designed for very harsh conditions and that’s what really made Mountain Hardwear’s name but that’s what we went to market with for fall because we had to design it and get it shipped later.

Our first products that we actually shipped were sleeping bags and our first sleeping bag that we ever shipped was the bag that Jack Gilbert actually named, named the “Brand New Bag” and so we said that we were going to be in apparel or basically an apparel outerwear and equipment company and we had that commitment from the beginning but the first thing we market with were technical outerwear, some inexpensive stuff that never got made and then sleeping bags and later on Tents. There are some that never saw the light of day. I am not going to paint the picture and say that it was wonderful.

We felt that we can also develop some less expensive things, so we had some stuffets. Our stuffets jackets and I think another waterproof jacket that we called the Terrapin that was an inexpensive tape rainwear jacket that the retailers, when we told the story just basically looked at us straight in the face and said, “we don’t want cheap stuff from you.”

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This Story is part of a Series...

Transcript: This is an Outdoor Industry story. I’m here with Mike Wallenfels. My name is Jack... Read Story
Q: Did this company (Mountain Hardwear) have a name yet? Transcript: Jack Gilbert: I am not sure... Read Story
Jack talks about employee ownership, seeking out financing, and meeting John Cumming and then Ian.... Read Story
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Transcipt: Paul: Jack, I was in Hong Kong as you said and I had written a letter because of course... Read Story
Transcript: Paul: Yeah, it was a scary thing to start Mountain Hardware for me. I’d been at Sierra... Read Story
Helen Li is absolutely the best QC, QA person in the industry bar none! Absolutely! [See the... Read Story
The founding act of this website was to get the Mountain Hardwear founders that lived in the San... Read Story
Transcript: Mike: My name is Mike Wallenfels. At the time at Sierra Designs when just before... Read Story
The question: How long had you worked at Sierra Designs prior to the beginning of MHW? Transcript... Read Story
Transcript: Mike: Halloween day; so I was incredibly nervous that day. I knew what was going on in... Read Story
Transcript: Yea...so there were really only a few of us in the office, a handful, only 6 people,... Read Story
Transcript: So I am Christina Clark, mostly called Chris and my original position at Mountain... Read Story
l asks Chris about how she heard about Jack deciding to start a new company and how she decided to... Read Story
Chris tells about leaving The North Face for Mountain Hardwear Read Story
Transcript: I’m Roberta Hernandez and at the time that we left Sierra Designs I was the strategic... Read Story
Transcript: Roberta: It was very kind of nerve-wracking that day with a lot of anticipation what... Read Story
Transcript: Roberta: The first couple of weeks at Mountain Hardwear I think for me were –... Read Story
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