Before J. Press or Brooks Brothers; before John B. Stetson and his hat company that was boot-strapped with a one-hundred dollar loan, before Levi Strauss riveted his first pair of indigo coveralls and called them JEANS; there were the woolen mills.
When America was first settled — then still a wild frontier of homesteads and outposts — the major currency of trade were always the blankets and textiles from the likes of Pendleton, St. John’s Bay, Faribault, and Woolrich.
Recently, a tightly-knit group of self-described ‘Product Pioneers’ have found a fitting locale for their design think-tank. Nestled in the Pacific Northwest, Portland Product Works (PPW) is a full-service footwear manufacturing and marketing firm. Founded in 2012 by Sean Beers; president, and Carl Blakeslee; creative director, the company’s adage is simple; ‘Make it Worth Making.’ With a combined thirty-five years of experience in the footwear industry, Portland Product Werks came equipped with a team of leading executives to design the very first footwear collection for Woolrich available this fall of 2014.
Expressing sentiments of intangible Americana alongside a timeless sense of style, the collection is evocative of the brand’s storied history without relying on design gimmicks of the ‘heritage’ variety.
In particular, their Made-in-the-USA collection is perfectly un-fussy in it’s design language. offering work boot silhouette that offer something vaguely European in their profiles. It makes sense then that Creative Director Carl Blakeslee spent time on both sides of the Atlantic when creating this first collection for Woolrich.
“I spent time in Italy to find out how our lasts are made and to fully understand the importance of what a last can do. I really wanted to bring the importance of the last back with this collection.”
Of course, no line could have been made for Woolrich without a visit to the original factory itself. The oldest vertically-integrated and continuously-operating mill in the United States, the PPW creative team felt the full weight of Woolrich’s storied history before even stepping inside— rather, it was a sense of industriousness and fabled craftsmanship that seemed to permeate the entire valley town.
“The factory sits alone in a little valley and no one works on a computer. People are still writing things on the backs of scraps of paper with number two pencils. It’s so special. That factory is something that needs to be preserved and talked about and celebrated and that’s what we aimed to do in this collection.”
Through the use of Horween leather uppers, Vibram outsoles, and Woolrich linings, the Men’s Made-in-the-USA line (MSRP $300 to $350) fully expresses this industrious spirit of this American factory. The Niner, an updated logger style, the Yankee, a sleek moc-toe, and the Spectator; a ten-inch work boot are only designed for men in mind for now, but that hasn’t stopped intrepid tomboys from earmarking them as chosen favorites.
“We’ve found; as a group of like-minded individuals; that stagnation is a condition that just feels bad. Be it in products or politics. As human beings we are forward-thinkers. The USA-made collection [for Woolrich] is what exemplifies the ‘Make it Worth Making’ adage we have here. It goes really deep, as every single part of that boot is made domestically — nothing is imported, nothing is fake.”