Apparel aficionados may find it odd that one of the largest outdoor brands in the world is virtually unknown in the United States, where outdoor consumers make up $4.13 billion annually in specialty outdoor retail sales, or nearly a third of the global market. Just go to ISPO in Germany (ahem, assuming we ever go to trade shows again) and you’ll see Jack Wolfskin is almost a Patagonia-like figurehead brand overseas.
But Jack Wolfskin, with its somehow American sounding name, has been making inroads on the U.S. market for about three years now with starts and stops, and since 2020 appears committed to bring awareness to its products and it’s environmental ethos that has been a focal point of the brand in Germany and the rest of Europe since 1981.
Jack Wolfskin has won industry acclaim with designs such as its 2-in-1 Texapore Ecosphere jacket, which received an ISPO Gold Award as the first-ever weather protection made entirely from recycled fabric sourced from leftover cuttings and recycled polyester.
And Jack Wolfskin also focuses on attainability, more like Columbia Sportswear does in the U.S.: making outdoor gear and apparel at a more accessible price point for recreational outdoor consumers; and the brand is proof that it does not have to cost a small fortune for gear to be sustainably made. The brand’s 700-fill down jacket is $179.95, compared to an Arc’teryx $379 down Jacket, to name just one example.
Uniquely, it’s Jack Wolfskin’s inherent decision to maintain a transparent supply chain that has allowed for this level of performance-driven development and innovation within manufacturing. The brand says it has absolute control of its supply chain, from fabric manufacturers to final assembly. This level of transparency is also visible to the consumer through an online interactive map detailing manufacturing facilities.
Vanish sat down with the new General Manager of North America, Diana Seung, formerly of Backcountry.com, for an exclusive look inside the brand’s coming to America.
What year was the company founded?
Jack Wolfskin was founded in 1981 in Frankfurt, so we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year!
What was the trajectory to global powerhouse and how big is the brand today?
From opening its first dedicated store in 1993, to establishing a North America presence last year, the brand has grown to just under 1500 employees worldwide. We have 549 Jack Wolfskin stores internationally and are represented in over 4000 retailers and outlets throughout the world.
When did they first come to the U.S.?
The brand has had a few false starts in the past under different ownership but it officially launched in North America under the Callaway Golf structure with Spring/Summer 2020.
Why do you think the time is right for JW in the U.S. now?
Now more than ever, people are turning to the outdoors to find a sense of belonging and to deepen their understanding of both nature and themselves. We believe those who recreate in the outdoors are increasingly concerned about the impact human development is having on the spaces we love, and are turning to brands like us to provide gear that is both reliable and performance-focused, as well as consciously produced with robust environmental protection policies. Jack Wolfskin has always had sustainability at its very core- it’s in our DNA and is central to everything we do.
How do you see JW competing against the other many great brands in the U.S.? Who should be paying attention here?
There are so many great outdoor brands but none that can claim as deep a heritage in German-engineered design and technology. While Jack Wolfskin is a leader in Central Europe and China, we’re a unique and undiscovered brand in North America and the consumer is always wanting to discover something new. Couple our newness with a long heritage of quality and performance and we have a pretty powerful value proposition to offer. Then you back that by a strong global team in Germany led by Richard Collier and Callaway Golf as our parent company and that gives us a competitive edge to win in this market.
Where can people find this brand?
You can find us at us.jackwolfskin.com. If you’re local to Utah, come and see us at our VIP store in Park City. We also have distribution across Quebec and select specialty retailers in the U.S., and this Fall we’re excited to launch with Sporting Life in Canada, and Public Lands and Blue Zone stores in the U.S., who will be key strategic partners for us as we scale the business.
What’s your most innovative product offering for Fall 2021?
With it being our 40-year anniversary, we’re excited to launch our DNA collection, which is inspired by best-selling styles from our earlier years. It takes design lines and details from those styles and fuses them with a modern look for today’s consumer. The collection is bright, fun, and brings all the performance and sustainability features you expect from the brand. We’ve also partnered with HighSnobiety to pay homage to our 40 years, and they’ll be launching an interactive editorial hub that will allow consumers to explore the brands heritage. This fall/Winter, we are also excited to expand our range and introduce a new Athletic Hike range. The range has a more modern urban aesthetic for our active, technical consumers who are looking for sophisticated colors and clean design lines. Athletic Hike also includes our 5in1 Jacket – a recycled outer jacket, which features an inner insulated piece that can be converted to a vest, and uses our proprietary new recycled synthetic- fill Microguard Superloft Ecosphere.