By  on August 7, 2009

Pendleton may never be a megabrand, but there’s something reassuring in its longevity, recognizable looks and detachment from private equity plays as a sixth-generation family-owned and -operated business.

The 100-year-old Pendleton has an authentic image built upon classic wool plaids, pleated skirts, Western wear and Native American-inspired, jacquard-patterned blankets that trace back to the company’s origins. Even those Elmer Fudd-ish “timber” caps with fold-down earflaps have transcended from hillbilly to urban appeal.

Now Pendleton is ready to celebrate its centennial with a flurry of new products and reintroductions hitting stores in September and through the fourth quarter.

“Overall, we are certainly feeling the effects of what’s going on in the world, but we can pick up market share in times such as this, where consumers look to brands that have stood the test of time — comfort brands that stand for quality and value,” said C.M. “Mort” Bishop 3rd, president of Pendleton, which is based in Portland, Ore.

While never edgy, Pendleton is pushing the envelope a bit, or as Bishop said, taking the brand “to a new level.” Opening Ceremony, the shop-gallery that has units in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, is blending its younger styling with Pendleton fabrics for outerwear, shirts, skirts and dresses to be sold at its stores and 35 other specialty stores.

Bloomingdale’s is putting in “vintage” Pendleton shops in four doors in October stocked with men’s products inspired from the archives, such as Harding shawl-collar sweaters, bear totem cardigans, Beach Boy blue plaid board shirts and Western-style wool shirts made contemporary with a tighter cut.

In addition, Pendleton is collaborating with Nike, Vans and Hurley on collections, and in light of the 60th birthday of Pendleton’s classic 49er jacket, popularized by Lucille Ball and Susan Sarandon, the company is introducing an 09er version with a feminine, forward look that retains the quintessential flange shoulder, lapel collar and patch pockets. It was the first product made when the women’s division was created in 1949.

Board shirts, worn by The Beach Boys (originally called the Pendletones) have been updated. Comme des Garçons is modifying Pendleton men’s shirts with leather and suede enhancements. The fringed leather jacket, worn by Roy Bishop — one of three brothers who founded the Pendleton mill and was instrumental in getting Native Americans to participate in the Pendleton roundup in 1910 — is being brought back. The roundup is still held in the third week of September each year. There’s also a new Spirit of the Peoples collection, with a jacquard pattern evocative of the company’s trade blankets and symbolizing all those involved in the brand, from consumers to employees.

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