Fashion for the windburned set.
The Stio Sweetwater isn’t your typical outdoorsy women’s hoodie. It features wind-resistant, sweater-knit fleece, but also a jaunty shawl-like hood. Before adding it to the Stio collection, founder and CEO Steve “Sulli” Sullivan questioned whether they’d gone too deep with the styling. Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, Stio is conceived as a technical-performance-meets-mountain-style brand. But it’s an admittedly delicate balance: “I worried,” says Sullivan. “The Sweetwater worked great, but it was pretty high fashion.”
Sullivan’s outdoor clothing companies—Cloudveil first, then Stio—have successfully broken boundaries since 1997. When he and a partner formed Cloudveil, the business was built on then revolutionary softshell jackets and pants, which helped break fleece and Gore-Tex’s outdoor-apparel monopoly, ushering in an age of warm, breathable attire.
Sullivan eventually sold Cloudveil, and a year later, tried to buy it back. That attempt was unsuccessful, leaving him time to re-innovate. The result was Stio. Even the way the company sells its products is fairly unique in the outdoor space. You can only buy Stio through its website, catalog, or Stio stores in Jackson, and more recently, Chicago. Getting the mountain and urban feel yet? Without middlemen skimming profits, Stio can spend $100 making a jacket that sells for $200 and still make money. “There are some great retailers out there,” says Sullivan, “but selling direct has allowed us ultimate freedom.” In just four years, Stio has become one of the leading brands in the nascent outdoorsy fashion market.
And as for the Sweetwater hoodie? It sold out within a week and is now a cornerstone product. —by Eric Hansen
Meet more plaid-collar mountain folk in our Early Winter 2015 issue.