PORTLAND, Ore. — Seven generations and 140 years after its maverick beginnings in the pristine and pioneering Oregon Territory, Pendleton Woolen Mills is proving it still has frontier fever.
The $250 million knitwear legend, known for its ultrasoft woolens, wide spectrum of tartans and classic better-price knit sportswear, is looking to expand its range of products and to grow its established businesses. Based here, Pendleton now produces women’s, men’s, home and textiles collections for more than 2,500 accounts, along with its own 75 freestanding stores, catalog and Internet businesses.
Although Pendleton’s iconoclastic heritage continues to define its image, style and way of doing business, including a painstaking quality-control process that virtually walks each item through production by hand, it’s embarking on new fashion and home furnishings horizons.
Pendleton is expanding its fashion reach and subtly introducing more trends to court younger women, while growing its core classics to maintain its popularity with women 35 and older. The company is also hoping to capitalize on the trend toward simplicity and authenticity that’s gaining momentum in fashion and home furnishings. It’s reintroducing several vintage fashion items, including a reversible skirt and camp-style jacket.
On the home front, Pendleton is stepping up production of its venerable blankets, popularized on a mass level during the early 1900s as a way to keep warm in those newfangled automobiles, which didn’t yet come equipped with heaters.
Earlier this year, Pendleton opened its first freestanding home furnishings store in downtown Portland close to its corporate headquarters in the historic Pearl district. The 3,000-square-foot store is beating plan and other stores are planned for next year, although details are still tentative.
But it’s Pendleton’s women’s business that continues to lead company sales. The better-price collections generate about 45 percent of annual company volume, according to Mort Bishop III, president of the privately held, family-owned business that was founded in 1863 by Thomas Kay, an English weaver who relocated to the Oregon Territory.
Though Bishop wouldn’t divulge sales, analysts have estimated that Pendleton posts about $250 million annually in wholesale volume, meaning that its women’s business generates more than $110 million at wholesale."Our women’s business continues to grow by double digits each year and is very gratifying," Bishop said last week as he supervised a Pendleton fashion shoot in the seaside resort community of Santa Barbara, Calif.
"We’re expanding our existing businesses and growing our national channels of distribution," he said. "There are lots of elements of newness, including our fashions, home stores, textiles business and our blankets."
Other top categories at Pendleton include men’s wear, with 25 percent of sales, soft home furnishings, including blankets, with 15 percent, and textiles, also ringing up 15 percent of sales. Outside of its in-house retail channels, the company has about 1,500 women’s and 2,500 men’s accounts, including specialty and department stores. They include Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Boscov’s, Von Maur, Bon-Ton and Gottschalks. Pendleton also has accounts in Canada and Japan.
Jennifer Black, executive vice president, managing director and senior research analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, also based here, said: "Pendleton is really opening its eyes to new opportunities in the marketplace. Women’s and home especially have real growth potential for them. They have a really unique heritage that makes them well known and memorable. Pendleton has invaluable name recognition that it leverages to market its products."
The company has a low-key but sophisticated strategy to marketing and advertising. It’s continuing with its popular "Good For Life" tag line and will run lifestyle-focused advertisements next year in The New Yorker magazine.
Pendleton takes a lifestyle approach with women’s apparel and has designers and merchandisers for career, relaxed career and weekend dressing categories.
"Classics are a big portion of our women’s business, but Pendleton is agile and fast-paced when it comes to delivering styles our customers want," said Pat Fowler, women’s wear division manager. "Our collections are market driven. We listen to our customers. Younger women are really tuning into classics, which they’re purchasing as investments to build their wardrobes. Coordination is one of our major strengths. The uniform dye lots and classic silhouettes in our essentials program make our styles an active part of a woman’s wardrobe for a long time."Pendleton is paying close attention to marketplace trends and, when appropriate, very subtly incorporating them into our collections. Asian, Indian, Native-American and novelty patterns; lace and trims, and lots of color are really important now."
Wholesale prices top out at $100 for jackets; $65 for pants or skirts, and $17 to $40 for knit tops. For spring, key styles are zip-front, three-quarter-length and V-neck jackets; knee- and calf-length skirts; knit shells; cardigans and pullovers; capris, and tailored pants. Patterns include tartan plaids, herringbones, florals and stripes in colors such as rose, wine, sky blue, pink, khaki, black and white.
Supermodel @helenachristensen teamed up with longtime friend and designer @camillastaerk on a joint @paredeyewear collaboration. The lineup features three styles and 11 offerings, all of which embody a vintage feel. Get all the details on how they celebrated the collab on WWD.com. #wwdaccessories #wwdeye (📷: @slovekinpics)
“It’s a hard industry to keep motivated, as well, so finding different subjects and people is what makes it worth it – when you’re like, oh, I’ve met great people, I feel like I’ve done something good, and I feel proud of having done this,” said French actress Stacy Martin on being grateful for the variety of roles she’s take on. Read @ktauer’s full interview with Martin on her her latest film “Godard Mon Amour.” #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
After showing in front of the Eiffel Tower for his last two women’s ready-to-wear collection, it looks like @anthonyvaccarello may be heading to the Big Apple. Sources say the designer will stage his next @ysl show in NYC on June 6. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
EXCLUSIVE: Two and half months after John Targon, cofounder and codesigner of Baja East, was hired as creative director of the contemporary division at Marc Jacobs, he has left the company, WWD has learned. Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed Targon’s departure in a statement: “John Targon is a talented designer and we appreciate the work he has done here. Ultimately working together did not make sense for the brand and we wish him the best.” Read the story by @jessiredale, link in bio. #wwdnews
@theluxurycollection is officially launching a collection, tapping Sofia Sanchez de Betak for the capsule. Over 30 styles will be featured in the Chufy x The Luxury Collection, debuting next month at Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster, FiveStory and more. De Betak, known as “@chufy,” drew inspiration for the collection from her trips to Japan in the past year #wwdfashion
@lhd, founder and CEO of @thewebster, has teamed up with @lebonmarcherivegauche for the European launch of her ready-to-wear line, LHD. The launch will come with an exclusive pop-up opening today that’s set to run through May 20. Located on the second floor, it carries her debut Miami-themed resort collection, launched in November as see-now-buy-now. #wwdfashion