Naming Plaids for Fall 2014

Well, Stormy Kromer fans, it’s time for another edition of naming plaids.  These posts always garner so many great responses and we love hearing your creative ideas.

So without further ado, let’s get right down to business.  As usual, we’re just showing the plaids but not revealing which products they will be used in.

You can see that these two are the same basic pattern, just in different colorways.  One with a light charcoal base, one with olive.

This one stands on its own.  Green background with pinks, purples and teals.

Well, what do you think?  Let the creativity begin!!

Handmade by Him: Dan Pavlovich, dreaming of plaid.

Up next in our series of employee features is Dan Pavlovich – a longtime employee who grew up with Bob Jacquart, and now plays a key role in product design and development.

Stormy Kromer Design
SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
DP:
Wow, what haven’t I done? I started at the front desk with Bob’s mom (Bob Jacquart, the head honcho here at Kromer). I’d sit there with a sewing machine and a telephone—greeting customers, laying out patterns, sewing and answering calls. I graduated to R&D, so now I work with the prototypes and new designs.

SK: So what sorts of things have you designed?
DP:
Oh, I’ve worked on a little bit of everything, but I did the tote bag, messenger bag, overnight bags and developed the plaids for the shirts.

SK: You came up with plaid? How do you come up with plaid?
DP:
I’ll just say you need a critical and artistic eye.

SK: How long have you worked for Bob?
DP:
I’ve been here since the old store on McLeod Avenue, which started out as Bob’s grandfather’s grocery store. It’s been 25 years for me, but I’ve known Bob since I was little. He lived one backyard away.

SK: Is that how you got the job?
DP:
Well, I went to college and got into costume design, then got out of it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive on that. Bob knew I could sew, though, so he hired me.

SK: Does costume design influence what you do today?
DP:
All the skills I have I learned in the theater in college. Sewing, colors, design—all of it. I did it all by hand and still do. I think that’s the best way to design—you really get a feel for what you’re making.

SK: How does it feel to know you’re helping stitch together a legend?
DP:
I really enjoy that. Everybody here has a hand in it, and no one has an ego. I’m very proud that we’re making people happy.

SK: What’s the best day you’ve had on the job?
DP:
Every day is my best day! (laughs) There’s truth in that, though. I really enjoy coming here. I won’t say that I don’t like leaving at the end of the day, but I love my job.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
DP:
It means we’re bucking the trend of making a fast buck.

SK: Anything else you’d like to tell Stormy Kromer fans?
DP:
Keep shopping! And just wait until you see the great gear that’s coming out next!

Stormy Kromer Plaid Designs for 2013

One of the most popular posts since launching our blog was “Developing Stormy Kromer Plaids”, posted last September.  We had 69 comments to that post with so many great suggestions on naming our plaids.  In fact, we named one of our new Ida Shirt fabrics using one of your suggestions (sorry, it’s not available quite yet on our website, but stay tuned!).

Ida Shirt in Chocolay - Available Soon!

Chocolay (which also happens to be a township in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), was a perfect moniker for the the rich browns, beiges and blues in this new shirt.

We’ve got two new plaids that have just gone into the sampling process.  We can’t tell you what products they will be used in, but once again, we would love your suggestions on names for these new designs.  Perhaps your idea will be showing up on products in fall 2014!

Let the suggestions begin!

Behind the Scenes: Stormy Kromer Staff on the Road

It’s the time of year when fall/winter brands, like ourselves, hit the road and begin showing off what’s new for Fall 2012.  We just got back from our first national trade show of the year, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

We met with over 80 retailers, current and new, over the course of the 4-day show.  While many of our new products attracted their attention (can you spot any in the above photo?), we’d have to say that “made in America” was of key importance for show attendees.

To that end, we met the crew from Liberty Bottleworks – a bunch of great folks who are making the only American made recycled metal bottle in the marketplaceOn top of that, they look pretty cool too.  Check out their products next time you’re looking for a new water bottle.

The Outdoor Retailer Show also features a  fashion show with different pieces from varied brands put together.  A number of SK items were featured, including the Petal Pusher Cap – paired here with pieces from Gentle Souls, Fox River Socks and Neve Designs.

What’s next for SK?  National trade shows in Chicago and Fort Worth, followed by a host of regional shows where we look forward to meeting with many of our customers.

Then, we start putting our thoughts towards Spring 2013.

What products would you like to see in Stormy Kromer’s first official spring collection?

The Making of the Petal Pusher

Of all of the new products we introduced in 2011, the Petal Pusher Cap has been the biggest hit.  In fact, we’ve sold over 5 times our initial sales projections for this product.  We’ve received rave reviews from the women who are wearing them and we’re hard at work on new color choices for 2012.

Because of the popularity of this product, we thought we’d share the quick story of how this cap came to be.  Through some previous blog posts, you’ve met Bob Jacquart, the CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products and Stormy Kromer.  And today, you’re going to learn about his wife, Denise.

For years, Denise worked in the business as well.  However, a few years ago, she became a unique kind of “CFO” – the Chief Family Officer.  Working in a family business that involves not just parents and daughters, but also cousins and uncles and spouses, well, it can sometimes be complicated.  So Denise now focuses on the family relationships, and making sure that part of the business is healthy.

She also has a keen sense for fashion and design.  A few years ago she got the idea that Stormy Kromer needed a feminine touch, and she played around with a few different ideas (see below) before stumbling on the idea of a flower.

The prototypes found their way into the back of a closet, and were forgotten about, until Bob and Denise’s daughter, Gina, joined the business and found them.  Gina and SK’s designer, Tamara, refined the design into the current product.

Why has this cap been so popular?  We think it’s because the design remains Kromer through and through (complete with functional earbands) while giving the ladies another option.  Honestly, we think Ida would be pretty proud.

Which brings us to a bigger question – what are your ideas for Stormy Kromer product variations?  Like Denise, you just might hit on the next big thing!

Designing the Airman’s Jacket

We’ve launched a number of new designs for this fall – including a number of new apparel and outerwear items.  One of these designs is our new Airman’s Jacket – Stormy Kromer’s take on the traditional bomber jacket.

With all the interest nowadays about design – take the success of Bravo’s Project Runway for instance – we thought it might be fun to share with you a little of the design process and the evolution of a garment from sketch to production.

We start by brainstorming with our design team and in this instance, we knew we needed to add a short, or “bomber” type jacket to our line.  Tamara (who you met in this previous blog post) went back to the drawing board and came back with a number of sketches.  Here is a sampling:

In order to narrow down the sketches into a first prototype, we actually held a focus groups with factory employees.  We asked them what features they like in jackets they own currently, which design elements appealed most to them, what they would and wouldn’t wear and why.  This group of guys – who ranged in age from 35-65 – gave us some fantastic feedback, and we ended up with this final sketch:

Even this sketch doesn’t quite represent the finished product.  After patterns
are made and prototypes are sewn, you finally see that some of what you envision on paper just doesn’t translate to needle and thread.  In addition to being sure that the look and fit of the garment is just right, our Engineering Department also has to work with the design, to make sure that we can manufacture here in America at a price that will work in the marketplace.  (Stay tuned for a blog post soon about the joys and challenges of U.S. manufacturing…)

At the end of all that hard work, we finally have a product that our team looks at and says, “Yes!”  We hope that you do too..

Now it’s your turn: what products should our design team tackle next?

 

 

 

Stormy Kromer Behind the Scenes: Meet our Designer

Going head-to-head with Stormy Kromer Senior Designer, Tamara Ehle.

We work in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—a rugged, outdoorsy place that suits our wool-cap-wearing customers just fine, but seems an unlikely fit for someone who’s devoted her life to both fashion and design.

Her name is Tamara (pronounced ta-MAR-a, it’s a beautiful new twist on a familiar name that hints at the fresh new looks she’s bringing to our 100-year-old cap company) and she fits in quite well, thank you.

You can read her like an open book: one with brightly colored pictures, an inspiring story line and a genuinely happy ending. And when you find out she’s responsible for designing Stormy Kromer’s new line of caps, jackets, pants, vests, shirts and a vast array of women’s clothing, you’ll be glad she came up to our little corner of the world. Here’s what she has to say about how she got here:

SK: You’re a fashion designer living in the Northwoods. How did that happen?

TE: I followed love, literally. My husband had always wanted to live in the Northwoods, so we packed up and moved. Then, one day, he had a meeting in Ironwood and said he wanted to stop by the Stormy Kromer factory. I found out they gave tours, so said I’d come along, bring the kids, and make it a family outing. When I got there, that’s when I really fell in love.

SK: So, the tour went well?

TE: I’ve worked in and visited clothing manufacturers across the country and around the globe, but I’d never seen anything like Stormy Kromer. My heart was racing, my stomach fluttering. I was so excited to see the giant fabric rolls I wanted to hug them. The people, the technology, the laughter—I was infatuated and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

SK: You’d worked for the likes of Harley Davidson and Lord & Taylor. You have a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Were you ready to hand over your résumé on the spot?

TE: When you live up here, you don’t expect to find a fashion designer job just down the road, so I hesitated for a few weeks before deciding to go for it. But they were looking for someone like me. I just couldn’t believe it.

SK: Had you heard of Stormy Kromer before?

TE: Other than my husband’s cap, no. But it seems everybody knows someone who had that cap, so everything we do reflects that part of the Kromer heritage.

SK: That’s a long-standing heritage, too, with a predominantly male audience. How did you see yourself working into that?

TE: I felt like I could collaborate with the company because it was going in a new direction—adding new styles and products, reaching new customers and demographics. I’ve studied and collected vintage clothing my whole life, and I love finding ways to make it new again. This just seemed like the perfect fit.

SK: How else have you helped Stormy Kromer move beyond being simply a hat company?

TE: Again, everything ties back to that original wool cap. We’re just taking that 1940s feel and making it work even better today, whether it’s on the Bunkhouse Trousers, our ladies’ Walking Coat, or our Deck Shirt. I’m looking at interesting new plaids, changing the size of the squares and playing with color. We’re keeping the classic Kromer cut while updating the styles and working with a younger, more modern fit. We’re taking the outdoor lifestyle and making it more attractive to more people.

SK: When did you first know you needed to be a designer?

TE: When I was four, I cut up my mother’s lingerie to make Barbie clothes. Let’s just say Mom was not impressed.

SK: What’s more inspiring: a great outfit or a really good walk in the woods?

TE: Both.

SK: What else influences you when it comes to Stormy Kromer design?

TE: Everything from runway shows in New York City to comments from customers down the block. I shop in thrift stores; I look through old photos and boxes of old clothes; I watch how sunlight hits the leaves; I wear our products out in the elements; I imagine Mr. and Mrs. Kromer when they were young and try to tailor my designs to how they’d live today; I look at flowers blooming as often as I look at color forecasts; and I get really excited when cutting out the patterns. I feel like a sculptor liberating a form from a piece of stone.

SK: So, um, what are you wearing right now?

TE: I knew you’d ask me that! I’m wearing a blueberry zip-neck top and black climbing pants. Usually, I wear a rainbow of colors.

SK: How would your friends describe you?

TE: Optimistic. A dreamer. Full of ideas. And always having one more thing to say.

SK: So what else do you have to say?

TE: If I had not found Stormy Kromer, I would have withered up and blown away. There aren’t words big and majestic enough to describe how I feel.

SK: How should people decide what look is right for them?

TE: Try everything on, and I mean everything on the rack—from left to right. Even if you think it won’t fit right or is the wrong color. Trust me, you’re in for a few pleasant surprises.

SK: What will we see next from Stormy Kromer?

TE: Ooh, I can’t tell you that. But look for some very feminine colors, younger-looking cuts and some fun, functional accessories.

SK: So, is it okay to wear white after Labor Day?

TE: Of course!

To find out more about the new designs and outdoor apparel products from Stormy Kromer, start shopping now!