supply chain

Episode 16: Wayne Fan |

Wayne Fan on bringing textiles to life in a digital world

Wayne shares how the Frontier Textile Collaboration Program and other digital tools help bring fabrics to life while also building community between suppliers and brands with respect to fabric samples, inventory, price quotes, and more. He also shares a few lessons he’s learned from the pandemic.

Portrait of Wayne Fan, the Chief Strategy Officer of
Wayne Fan, CSO,

Wayne’s Interview Transcript

Nancy: Hello, I’m Nancy Fendler, and you’re listening to Material Wise, your podcast on material matters. It’s my chance to talk to designers, product developers and other guests about what inspires them to create. Why and how they select the materials they choose, and the relationships they’ve built with their customers and industry. 

This is the first podcast we produced since the pandemic, and it seems like forever. I hope you’re all staying well, safe, and sane. Our guest for this episode is fitting, given how much the apparel industry and supply chain have had to turn to boosting their digital technology platforms and skills to conduct business.

Wayne Fan is the chief strategy officer of Frontier, a co-working software as a service designed to digitize fabrics, enhance supply chain management, and elevate 3D design capabilities. The company has seen a big jump in the adoption of its platform during the coronavirus, as more mills and brands have moved their businesses to the cloud to cut costs and work as efficiently as possible from home. Wayne shares how Frontier and other digital tools can help bring fabrics to life, while also building community between suppliers and brands with respect to fabric samples, inventory, price quotes, and more. He also shares a few lessons he’s learned from the pandemic. I hope you enjoy.


Nancy: Hi, Wayne, how are you doing?

Wayne: I’m great. Happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Nancy: Thank you for being here. Can you give us just a little bit of background about how you got involved with Frontier?

Wayne: Frontier grew out of a previous business my partner Victor and I founded 11 years ago. I was happy to be part of the team. We delved right into the textile business. It was an OEM business model, and we’ve evolved a lot since then.

Nancy: Did you guys go to school together or anything like that? How did you-

Wayne: We did. We did. We graduated from University of Rochester, and we majored in different fields and then decided to take on this journey.

Nancy: Tell us about Frontier and how you feel it fits the need in the market.

Wayne: Over the last several months, we experienced surging demand, and primarily coming from manufacturers wanting to gain exposure because the traditional route fabric trade shows were all canceled for the entire year. So they felt the need to establish with digital tools to be able to showcase their new collections with their existing customers. That’s one angle.

And another need is that over the past several months, also due to COVID-19, many of the brands that we’ve observed really doubled down taking everything into the cloud, taking a lot of their assets into the cloud, digitized not only their assets, but also their workflow and processes. And I feel like that’s more important for organizations, such as brands, because they need to manage their image in front of consumers. But then at the same time, they need to manage the supply chain, which involves a lot of manufacturers. To have everyone working on the same page, whether that be merchandising, or quality assurance, or compliance, or material development, it’s a pretty big problem to tackle. Then a lot of brands became a lot more aware of that, so we got a lot of interest from them, as well.

Nancy: Frontier launched about a year and a half ago. How has the acceptance been since you’ve launched?

Wayne: From idea to product, it took a long time. Now, I really understand how to build products and having it accepted by the market. We’re fortunate that we’ve established couple kinds of business models that work with software providers or other cloud-based companies in the textile space, as well as directly working with many ventures in the supply chain. I believe these kinds of product market fits will only grow even in the short/medium run. So we want to really have our product more solid, and then discover new needs and perhaps fulfill some of those needs. Then in the long run we really want to build to where the digital textile supply chain model that we’ve all been waiting for, that the entire industry has been talking about for, I would say, at least a decade or, if anything, more than that.

Nancy: Yeah, and nothing like the pause that we’ve had with COVID-19 to make the supply chain think about that, right? And how digital tools are so important right now, and getting everyone connected when we can’t be together in person.

Wayne: Yeah. Just to give another example, let’s disregard the virus situation. As new designers coming out of the school, they’re learning how to design with software, different 3D software. So basically, a new generation of designers, they’re already used to the digital space, so it only makes more sense that in organizations you have technologies or workflows that can support these kinds of skill sets because you see the entire industry really transitioning more rapidly to a digital process.

Nancy: Right. Yeah. It is. You’re educating the older group, but also the younger group that’s coming on are embracing this, and you’re helping to give them access to even better tools, which will help the whole supply chain evolve and not do things as status quo. I was talking to actually a designer today, and she was talking about some of the same old ways that designers work, where you build a design, you go to the supplier for fabric, and they send you swatches, and then you look through the books and you think of that. And with COVID, or even not with the pandemic, but things need to change to expedite the process and knowing you a little bit, and we’ll talk about this, but the expense of sending swatches back and forth is very costly and not so sustainable.

Wayne Fan: I like to use the auto and the aerospace industry as an example. They adopted CAD design, 3D process into their workflow decades ago. And the reason they were able to do that, I think they’re two-fold. One is that there are so few companies in those industries if you look at the auto brands out there. But then when you compare those with the (vast) textile industry, you start to recognize even the largest brand in the world, let’s not that name names for now, that may only take up less than 1% of the global textile economy. So, it’s a vast industry and changes just doesn’t happen as quickly as an industry just have so few players. That’s one.

Secondly, for hard materials, such as steel or wood, they are much easier to render the 3D engines. That’s why these industries took on so quickly for them. For fabric soft materials there’s a lot of physical properties that you need to capture in the software. That’s why it took much longer to develop different types of software tools that can reflect the different properties of a material properly. And then you need to be able to get to that point to really promote a product that’s… Essentially, so designers can actually see 3D rendering and actually make informed decisions. Otherwise, they always going to go back to making an actual sample because the computer-rendered the sample looks nothing like the actual good. So I feel like the technology is more mature in their past two years. That allowed us to push through more rapidly.

Nancy: Yeah. Well, that’s great. The touch and feel is really important when it comes to selecting fabrics. However, you can touch and feel a million fabrics, and you can’t order a million fabrics. So your platform allows designers or product developers to edit what they’re looking at online, and you’re giving all these great notes, hand-feel notes, and then they can order the swatches that they need, based on what you’re giving them. And you’ve done a lot to help refine all those material notes so that designers can help make those decisions, or product developers can make those decisions a little bit easier before they start ordering swatches.

Wayne: We know that in the market there is a need for digital fabric material. So we set out to build a product that has almost no entry barrier for any individual user or companies to digitize their material. We don’t require any hardware, and then we keep a lot of the work in the cloud. Therefore, the entire supply chain or one manufacturer, one manufacturing partner, can at least start migrating their physical good to a cloud space and make them digital fabric materials. That’s one thing we provide, the cloud space for that, the environment for that. Because we have such a low entry point, so we start accumulating a lot of materials very fast.

The next logical step is to have a great searchability, searchability that we tackle from two ends. One is really embrace hashtags and really let the crowd, let users define what they want to be seen as. We give our users the power to define their products. That’s from one side. And then in the process we also try to organize the language tree around textile terminologies because from the designer, they speak of an item very differently from what a manufacturer may speak of an item. So it’s an ongoing process to really accumulate that language tree. So when you type in denim, I will have some indigo twills that may come up because essentially these are the same things. So then that’s the searching capability.

Lastly, I would say it is collaboration, which we find massively important is that with digital materials, we want these files, so to speak, be transferable, we want these files be able to be shared, collections can be shared among different groups working on different projects. So I would say we really build our product around these three pillars. One is digitalization, and then secondly is great search capability. And then it’s the collaboration aspect.

Nancy: I would think that the platform would be perfect for trade show organizers during this pandemic where a lot of trade shows are turning to virtual. And I’ve taken a few, both at Kingpins and Outdoor Retailer and Performance Days where some of the images that are portrayed online are a little bit static. I just think that this would be a perfect outlet for Frontier, and I’d love your feedback.

Wayne: Virtual trade shows is something that we did not anticipate in the beginning. Based on the trade shows that we’ve attended in the past, a lot of the interactions basically brand… It’s a marketplace where brands, different stakeholders come in to discuss, whether that be materials or many other things, really. But then we find our platform is already, it’s basically ready, like I mentioned. There’s the interactive feature, and then there’s the showroom for different types of textiles and all the information well-organized on one page. So it becomes a suitable, I definitely wouldn’t say perfect, but it becomes a suitable place for buyers and sellers to interact in terms of, not just on price negotiation, it’s also material development, different questions about different types of fabric. 

So we are very happy to support that aspect of a trade show. And then we’re working with Taiwan Textile Federation to bring the TITAS. It’s a trade show set in October. There’s going to be a physical one. Although, there’s going to be almost… Not many brands will be attending due to the flight restriction situation. So we will definitely take that online and then support this government agency to replicate the physical trade show as much as possible. That’s what we’re working on now.

Nancy: Yeah. I know. That’s a hot topic among many right now, in terms of trade shows are such a big part of the supply chain, as we mentioned, and we’re all kind of sitting on the edge of our seats to see what’s going to happen with trade shows. But tools like yours could really help bring some assemblance to the touch and feel, even though you can’t really touch and feel. But like you were saying, you have the tools to try to bring all that hand-feel to life would be great.

So we’ve been in this pandemic for quite a few months. What have you learned? Have there been some learning lessons?

Wayne: I was surprised at how things can change so quickly and drastically in a couple weeks. I feel like no one really saw that coming. No one was really prepared. But then, of course, for those business models, that are already well-protected, well-hedged, such as businesses already in the cloud, perhaps Netflix or Amazon, businesses like them probably prospered. I don’t mean it in a bad way, but their business model is well-hedged from these kind of situations.

In Taiwan, I always say we’re pretty lucky. We’re not much affected for that long. A lot of businesses were impacted big time, but then for overall, I think we were doing okay. Business went on as usual for us. We already supported remote work, so we could get things done. And then we got a lot of interest over this time, and then so everyone’s very excited about it.

Nancy: Yeah. That’s great. You work with mills and brands all over the globe. How do you feel that they’re coping with COVID-19?

Wayne: I think almost everyone is just scrambling to find solutions, and then there’s no clean solution or product or software or platform that fills the entire need. So it’s kind of a learning curve, I think. And I think it will be helpful to give stakeholders, brands, or suppliers a step one, two, three guide, or a successful case study in terms of how business can transition themselves during this time. Or maybe not even during this time. They should really better equip themselves for what’s coming, such as physical retail locations may not be as powerful as back in the day. I’m not saying stores won’t exist, but they may become more of a brand awareness point of sale, rather than where sales activity actually happened. So yeah, back to your question, I think too many things on the table. No one really know what steps to take in an organization. So a successful case study would help a lot of people out.

Nancy: Yeah. Absolutely, Wayne. I think that if anything has taught us during this time is that we need to have a very powerful digital presence, or not we, but the whole entire supply chain brands because of social distancing, we don’t know how long it’s going to happen, and this pause could be a time for us to really rebuild our tools or embrace tools that are already developed and learn from them. You can say, “Okay, we’re going to take this time to really build up our digital presence and work on our supply chain flow, digital flow.” Or if you don’t, then who knows what will happen.

Wayne: There are so many tools out there on the market, and then I wouldn’t say any of them is particularly brand new. And these tools exist probably, some for maybe decades, some for a couple of years now. But then I would say if everyone in the industry is always too busy working, too busy to look at other tools that can achieve the same thing with even less time spent on it, you’ll never discover these new tools. So it’s really people opening their eyes, really. And these things kind of exist already. So again, for one person to do that, it’s pretty easy, but then for an organization to really dedicate themselves to really changing their processes or re-examine how to perform one task with a more efficient tool or method is something I think it’s important. Because the last thing that we want to see is that, okay, the COVID-19 is over, everyone back to the same way they were working previously. So nothing really changed, then that would be a slightly, unfortunately, I think.

Nancy: Me too. I agree. I agree. I hope that we all learn from this and grow from it. So anything else you want to share? You’ve got this new seminar or-

Wayne: It’s a local seminar that we are hosting. It’s a physical event that we’re hosting next week in Taiwan. It’s put together by the Taiwan Textile Federation, and then we are one of the primary sponsors. The message that we want to send together with some of our partners is to build the awareness, and then give people clear guidelines on what kind of actions they can take and what kind of tools can achieve what kind of results. And we will bring together some of our users, some of potential users, professionals at the brand level, professionals in AWs, Amazon, because they really provide the web infrastructure for a lot of our products. So we bring together these people and have a discussion on how we can help textile manufacturers transform digitally or adapt digital strategies into their workflow, or it could be as simple as how to use a digital product. And then we want to include everything in this event. So we want the takeaway to be very clear and precise. So back to what I was saying, so we give people steps on what you can do. And then at the end of those three steps, what you’re going to see, by providing a case study. So hopefully the message gets delivered better that way.

Nancy: Wayne, thanks so much for joining us on Material Wise and good luck with the conference. Good luck with Frontier. This is the perfect time to be in the space that you are, and I hope we can connect again soon.

Wayne: Thank you, Nancy. Thank you very much for this opportunity. And let’s talk soon.

Nancy: Thank you for listening to Material Wise. I’d like to thank the incredibly talented Woods Creative for their help in producing this podcast. Jake Nevrla mixes our episodes and composes our theme music. For more information and transcripts of each episode, please visit and please subscribe, rate, and review wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you, again, and until next time, take care.

Links to organizations mentioned in podcast:

  • Frontier:
  • Taiwan Textile Federation:

Episode 04: Nick Armentrout | Ramblers Way

Nick Armentrout on creating an apparel brand from an all-American sustainable supply chain

Nick Armentrout is the supply chain manager of Ramblers Way, a high-quality, sustainable apparel brand founded by Tom and Kate Chappell, founders of the infamous Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and other all-natural products. Nick shares how his background in animal science led him to find and establish relationships with Rambouillet sheep, the knitters, dyers and manufactures that all go into the crafting of Ramblers Way apparel. Nick also dives into Ramblers Way’s Global Organic Textile (GOTS) and Cradle to Cradle certifications and how they influence today’s consumer.

Nick Armentrout, Rambers Way's Supply Chain Leader

Nick’s Interview Transcript

Nancy: Hello, I’m Nancy Fendler and your listening to Material Wise, your podcast on material matters. It’s my chance to talk to designers, product developers and other guests in the outdoor fashion, home furnishing, and other industries about what inspires and influences them to create. Why and how they select the materials they choose and the relationships they’ve built with their customers and industry.

My guest today is Nick Armentrout, supply chain director for Rambler’s Way. For those unfamiliar, Rambler’s Way is a sustainable, premium-quality apparel brand founded by Tom and Kate Chappell of Tom’s of Maine fame.

On a hiking trip in Wales in 2008, Tom struggled to find just the right layering shirt to keep him warm and dry and fresh enough to go from the trail to the inn. Upon his return to Maine, Tom set out to create the perfect next to skin shirt inspired by wool. One that absorbs sweat, kept you warm when wet, and allowed body odor to escape. It also had to be American made.

Nick joined Tom in finding just the right wool suppliers and now works with domestic sheep farmers and fabric makers to ensure the manufacturer of every garment follows the company’s strict environmental and sustainability ethos.

Today, Rambler’s Way products for men and women, all sustainably made in the U.S. with natural materials are sold online at and its retail stores located in Portsmouth and Hanover, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine.

Nancy: Hi Nick, thanks so much for allowing me to come to Rambler’s Way.

Nick: Hi, nice to be with you here.

Nancy: How did you begin your career in the supply chain management?

Nick: Well, first of all, I’m a relative newcomer. My career in supply chain management has been solely at Rambler’s Way. I’ve been involved since inception 2009 and I had the opportunity because my father-in-law is Tom Chappell, our company owner. And while he had a product vision and he wanted to make that product source the fiber, in this case wool fiber, and make that product completely within the United States.

He was looking for some help to go and make some of those initial relationships and connections with wool ranchers in the West. I lived and worked on ranches in Wyoming and Montana and Idaho for about six years during college and then before returning back to Maine. He asked me if I wanted to come along.

That’s it. Simple as that.

Nancy: That’s great.

Nick: My understanding of supply chain is from an agricultural production standpoint. Animal agriculture to an extent as well, grains and forages. The idea of a soil or field preparation towards harvesting a crop and that cycle. That’s my point of entry to manufacturing.

Nancy: Wow, well that’s great. Those talents or those skills probably help with the growth. The better the animal, I would think the better the fiber.

Nick: Sure. In some cases it was just having a little bit of an easier conversation with some of the ranchers in far flung corners of the West. Having some understanding about animal agriculture certainly helped.

Nancy: In your experience has material sourcing changed over the years?

Nick: Sure, yeah I mean even within the brief time that I’ve been involved in sourcing, we’ve seen steady uptick and greater transparency for sure. Consumers looking for brands to be more socially and environmentally accountable. Greater concern for agricultural and animal welfare.

So we’ve seen a significant uptick in those sustainability standards, those traceability and transparency. For sure. That’s kind of been how we’ve always operated and certainly with the previous company – Tom’s of Maine – always operated that way as well. It wasn’t new territory for us, but we’ve seen a lot of activity like this in the brief time that our company in existence.

Nancy: Thank you, yeah. So I understand that Tom Chappell created Rambler’s Way with the intention of using an all American supply chain that meets the company’s stringent standards for sustainable agriculture and animal welfare?

Nick: Well again, it helped for me to have a background in animal agriculture. So that when we started the business, we went looking for fiber. We didn’t go looking for an existing yarn or fabric. There was a product vision that for something that was going to be exceptionally soft, 100 percent wool that you could wear next to your skin, frankly year round, not just in the colder months.

Tom had help in researching the type of fiber required, and so we went to find those ranchers, those producers who were raising genetically those kinds of sheep. That was again where I came in to the business having worked and lived in some of the areas where the territory states our West where some of these ranchers and producers are operating.

How did I help with that? Basically carrying those relationships forward and saying, you know, we can be a customer, we can be brand to pull some through some of the exceptionally high quality fiber that you are raising on your ranch to celebrate and honor the good work you’re doing on the land and for your livestock.

Be a home for this end of your fiber production. Formerly a lot of these ranchers, producers would have just bundled up all of their wool and sold it into the commodity market.

Nancy: That’s what I was going to ask. You’ve really created partnerships with these ranchers.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely. When we went out on the road in Montana or Colorado, whatever it may be, saying you know we’re looking for this specific type of wool and we understand that you raise this type of sheep, can we talk about the qualities of your fiber? These producers said to us just, “no brand has ever asked us that information before, we just kind of deal with the wool brokers and sell to the warehouse and go about our business. We’re so excited that there’s this much interest in what we’re doing.”

And then further part of whole Gestalt is to honor and respect and celebrate. Again, celebrate the people we work with. The meaning of those relationship, and so they were pretty excited as well to have a light shed on what they were doing.

Nancy: Yeah. So when I went into this store in Portland, the Rambler’s Way store I saw a beautiful poster of this gorgeous sheep and it’s a Rambouillet sheep?

Nick: Yeah, it’s a Rambouillet sheep.

Nancy: The gal in the store mentioned that this the sheep Rambler’s Way uses to sheer the wool. I’m not sure if I’m saying that, that uses the wool from the sheep. Why Rambouillet sheep?

Nick: Well first of all if you have a product in mind, a wool product that you want to have next to your skin, you have to be specific in the type, the quality of fiber and softness and fineness that you’re looking for. So beyond Rambler’s Way, any brand, pick your industry. It could be outdoor, it could be fashion or lifestyle, whatever it may be. If they’re looking to make a wool product that’s worn next to the skin for softness and no prickle factor, you’re looking for very fine, micron fiber diameters.

If a human hair is about 40 microns, we’re trying to source wool that’s 18 micron and finer. So half the diameter of a human hair. There’s scientific study that says that’s kind of where the prickle factor starts and ends for people.

That focused on a certain quality of fiber and then looking within the United States, we had to find, identify with help the breeds that would produce that kind of wool. The lead breed in the U.S. is Rambouillet, it’s a French sound-

Nancy: Pardon my pronunciation.

Nick: … Nah, none of us say it that way, but here I’m on the mic, so what the heck.

Nancy: Right.

Nick: So Rambouillet is considered a multipurpose breed. They’re great for meat and lamb production and they’re also a fine fiber producer. Merino is the name and the breed that most people know. Rambouillet is actually a close genetic cousin to Merino, and more recently you are finding larger production flocks in the U.S. that are crossing Rambouillet and Merino. That’s where a lot of our wool is coming from. Those ranches.

Nancy: Okay.

Nick: They’re a cross of Rambouillet and Merino.

Nancy: Okay, and sourced or what do you say, do you say sourced or raised? Raised in Montana, Idaho, in that part of-

Nick: Yeah, the territory states. So Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and then Colorado, Nevada. To an extent Utah or New Mexico, you can move around. Texas has a lot of fine wool production as well. We came to work more closely with specific producers in certain areas because we came to know a lot more about the quality of their fiber production.

Nancy: Do you raise any here in Maine?

Nick: We did. You know that’s a great question. Tom and Kate Chappell had a small Rambouillet flock of their own here just outside of Kennebunk, and we had some pretty grand plans to grow that out, but we chose instead to focus more on clothing production and fabric production because we are making our own fabrics with partner mills as well.

We just couldn’t do it all, so he dispersed that flock. I have a small flock of my own outside of Kennebunk as well, but they’re considered long wool breeds. So the fiber diameters not quite the same we use in the Rambler’s Way clothing.

Nancy: So what are some of the performance characteristics of wool that some of our listeners may not know of?

Nick: Yeah. You know first of all, I think it’s important to point out that wool is a dynamic fiber, so it has, it’s comprised of over 20 different amino acids that are linked in polypeptide chains that start to form the keratin, the structure in that.

Some of those amino acids are hydrophilic or water loving, and some are hydrophobic or water repellent, and what happens is that where this comes into play is that wool will change and absorb, or disperse water depending on the humidity, it’s environment. And it really is quite remarkable.

What happens in the process of water being attracted and hydrogen molecules being attracted to some of the hydrophilic amino acids, it actually creates this chemical reaction so it actually creates a little bit of heat. In fact, from zero to 100 percent humidity wool will create over a 760 calories of heat.

That’s why wool has this capacity to keep you warm even when it’s damp. You never feel clammy and cold in wool. The other thing is that it also contains both beta and alpha keratins in that structure. The beta is common, but the alpha is unique to wool.

Alpha is a way to express the fiber in its relaxed state, beta is when it’s under pressure. What the beta keratin wants to do is go back to that relaxed state when pressures removed. So that’s where you get natural elasticity in the wool fiber.

More importantly, a lot of that elasticity comes from the crimp, the natural crimp or the coil in the fiber, and that too is effected genetically. So some of the fine wool that we seek out, that half a human hair or 18 micron and finer, is actually also high crimp wool because that lends to the elasticity.

You see this in stretch and recovery of the fabric. Cotton is kind of dead where you can stretch and wool wants to go back to that form. You don’t have to wash to get it back to its shape like a pair of blue jeans or something. It happens naturally.

Nancy: Yeah, that’s so interesting. It really is. Several traceability and sustainability certification standards have been developed to ensure the responsible sourcing of materials such as down and other textiles. Is there one for wool?

Nick: There is. So you referenced responsible down for instance, the responsible down standard or RDS developed with brands and the organization Textile Exchange. They also developed one for, the Textile Exchange, a standard called the responsible wool standard, RWS.

Similar to the down standard, brands like Patagonia, The North Face, and in fact as well Rambler’s Way, were stakeholders involved in that process. RWS is built around land and livestock management. To be sure that they are humane treatment of the sheep in this case in the process and accountable treatment of the land in the process.

The Rodale Institute has an emerging regenerative organics standard. The Rambler’s Way uses the Global Organic Textile standard called GOTS, G-O-T-S. That’s a standard that is designed to come in where international or let’s speak national in the U.S. GOTS would come in where the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) ends.

The NOP was never designed to create standards for fiber coming off of a farm post- harvest. GOTS does. It comes in and says we’re going to use the NOP farming standards and then we’re going to create similar standards that are in the spirit of organic. No GMOs, no synthetics, there’s a lot of prohibited substances. And we’re going to apply that to every step in the manufacturing process.

And every processor, be it a scouring mill, cleaning wool, a spinner spinning yarns, a knitter, a weaver, a yarn or fabric dyer, they all have to meet those rigorous standards to make an organic textile product.

That speaks a lot to how we go about things. In a very general way, I tell folks that we like to use limited and as little applied chemistry as we can to make our product and GOTS really was the right standard for us.

To that we’ve layered onto that specific for our organic wool clothing line, the Cradle to Cradle certification which is based on Bill McDonough, Michael Braungart’s book Cradle to Cradle which is thinking about the circularity of a product, in our case, clothing. How that fiber and the textile product gets made and where it goes to at the end of its life.

Wool is a great candidate for circularity because it’s a product of the soil and it can go back to the soil. In Cradle to Cradle, the language of the book and now for our brand as well, you’re thinking about the end of life strategy and can the leftovers of your clothing become a technical nutrient, i.e., a piece of another clothing or textile product. Or, can it become a biological nutrient, can it become a soil feedstock?

And wool can do both fantastically. Naturally, it just wants to do that. And then we can make choices of course to optimize the product with the cleanest dyes or no dyes or whatever it may be to be sure that it lends itself even better to either of those applications.

Nancy: Yeah, not to mention that wool lasts so long, apparel made with wool lasts longer thus less need to put in the landfill.

Nick: Yeah, and that’s where you get a little deeper into the natural benefits. I mean it’s natural stain resistance, it wants to be odor absorbing and it’s actually not anti- microbial, formally, it’s bacterial static.

But all these things mean that a wool garment can be long lived in your wardrobe. It also means it lends itself to breaking down back in the hands of nature when it’s done.

Nancy: Yeah. So I’ve been attending a few retail seminars lately and they’ve shared that millennials are more apt to purchase products from socially and environmentally responsible companies. Do you find this is the case with Rambler’s Way?

Nick: Absolutely. We’ve had an uptick for sure in iPhone sales. You can just tell, we have to think of how our website and how our online presence serves itself in a handheld device.

Our online presence has always been a big part of our business for sure. We’re watching Instagram a little bit more these days than Facebook. We have a steady presence on both, but our Instagram is quite active.

Our sales to women seem to be – well, they run the gamete from 35 to 65, I think that’s a nod towards some of our designs and some of our styles. They’re treading lower, actually, over time. We’re increasingly meeting a slightly younger consumer. Which is exciting for us.

Our median age would be the 40s. Men are flat, but I think that’s also, to an extent, either our men’s designs and also the men’s customer. I mean I could wear a shirt that my 78 year old father might wear and feel like I’m rocking it. It’s alright.

But I guess that I should point out that as a company, we’ve always thought more in terms of psychographics. So we’re trying to meet people with whom we share values for environmental responsibility or sustainability. So we think a lot more about psychographics than an age demographic.

Nancy: What do you think the supply chain can do better to educate brands and their consumers about their products and processes?

Nick: I think, you know, the short answer for me would be better proactive story telling about the good work they’re doing and how they’re trying to make a positive impact. I think, unfortunately, that supply chain is by design largely responsive.

And there is manufacturing reluctance to take on much risk or try something new unless there is a customer for that. So brands are the liaison between the chain and the consumer, and the brand comes back and says we want a greener product. And then the manufacturer says okay, well we’ll try to respond to that.

We get most excited, well first of all, in the U.S. we’re working with some highly responsive manufacturers and we get most excited as a brand when we go out and we find there’s a lot of common ground, there’s a lot of those shared values or beliefs around the environment or being good to your people or being good to the animals.

We get very excited when we find that common ground, then we can built that relation out. I think that more manufacturers need to go ahead and step forward. In some cases without that brand driver or that brand consumer ambassador to say, here’s some of the things we’re doing, we’ve converted this much our energy to wind or solar or, you know, we were really concerned about the quality of the water discharge from our plants, so here’s the steps we’ve taken.

And that’s based on their beliefs. It shouldn’t all be brand driven. So that’s what I’d like to see, and I think it’s starting to happen, too.

Nancy: Very interesting. We’ve talked a lot about wool. Are there any new textiles on the horizon for Rambler’s Way?

Nick: We’re still very much a wool centric company, so we have a small, lesser known line of 100 percent U.S. sourced and manufactured cotton knits as well. We’re looking forward to rebooting that program as an organic 100 percent U.S. sourced and manufactured organic cotton program.

That’s only recently become available to do, because there weren’t organic certified cotton spinners in this country. Now there are. So we’re really excited to tap into that potential.

We’re also really excited to develop some different recycled wool products. We began a new partnership last year with the Renewal Workshop in Cascade Lots, Oregon. Their role is to partner with brands like Rambler’s Way and to help us to launder or repair or renew clothing that might be damaged or was a return, but still has life in it.

This is a growing part of that sustainable consumption and sustainable apparel place as well. How do we define first quality, does it have to be fresh out of a bag or can it have a slight flaw and just be still a wonderful garment to wear?

We’re pretty excited to be working with them. They’re also can be a fiber recycling partner for us. Part of that recycling, if something can’t be renewed, it could be ground up and made into a whole new product. There is a whole world of woolen products or felt products that could be outcomes of us recycling our own off quality, returns or flawed fabric or garments that are going to happen and we’d like to be smart about, and creative and innovative about our solutions to those things.

Nancy: Nate, thanks so much for joining me on Material Wise, and listeners you can learn more about Rambler’s Way by visiting Thank you.

Nick: Thank you for having me.

Nancy: Thanks so much for listening to Material Wise. I’d also like to thank the incredibly talented Woods Creative for their help in producing this podcast. Jake Nevrla mixes our episodes, and our theme music is by Activity Club. For information on Material Wise, please visit and please subscribe, rate, and review wherever you get your podcast. Thank you again and until next time, take care.