The way we design our gear is rooted in people and places. And there are a lot of people (and a lot of places) that make it possible. In this installment of Topo DNA, we’d like to introduce you to some of the most important people in our product creation process: our manufacturing partners. Topo Designs’ Director of Product, Randy Kleiner, deep dives into our ethos around building high quality, durable and sustainable products made for anywhere on your map.
The most important thing to note is that, all of our manufacturers—no matter where they exist in the world—are asked to meet the same standards for providing quality products and responsible manufacturing. They’re our partners in design and development, our friends in real life and are an integral part of our DNA.
As in most other industries, apparel and gear manufacturing is fairly specialized, so we work tirelessly to find the best factory for the specific type of work that we are pursuing. For instance, you wouldn’t build outerwear in a knits factory, or packs in an apparel factory. We don’t ask people to change the way they work to fit our needs. In our view, that’s just not how good partnerships work.
For example, our US bag factory partners, based right here in Colorado, have been with us since day one. Their expertise lies in working with heavier fabrics and constructions so we have them concentrate on the production of our Heritage products. Their work focuses on incorporating US-made materials like Cordura® nylons and Horween Leathers into our longest running pack and bag styles. The counter to our US partners comes from our Asia-based pack and bag partners. Our primary partners there are set up to excel in building a variety of styles, ranging from traditional backpacks to wheeled travel bags, and everything else in between, while using more complex materials and constructions. The contrast in expertise allows us to offer a broad spectrum of constructions, sizes, shapes and material stories all with the same high level of quality and durability expected from a Topo Designs product.
The bottom line is that no matter where our partners are located, we have established a mutually agreed upon set of standards in order to ensure that our apparel and pack products consistently deliver the highest quality in a responsibly sourced environment.
Sustainability has always been top-of-mind for our brand, so it has to be for our supply chain partners, too. Our goal by Fall 2021, is to have every single product we make contain a sustainability component: ranging from responsibly-sourced materials to responsibly-manufactured finished products (beyond recycled packaging and durability, which are givens).
As we grow, our sustainability goals grow with us. We are consistently working with our factory partners to reduce water consumption, energy use and waste reduction, while increasing shipping efficiency and use of recycled and organic materials.
In our approach to every season, we design with the intent to use as many sustainable materials and processes as we can. However, quite often we are faced with the challenge of choosing between using sustainable goods or more durable options. In these instances, we often opt for durability. Ultimately, we believe it’s actually the more sustainable choice. If something made from recycled materials ends up in the landfill, it’s not sustainable. With that in mind, we keep a very attentive eye out for new technologies so we can make changes necessary to support our desire for durability in conjunction with sustainable goods. Our #1 goal is to constantly improve, so watch this space for more updates on our progress in these areas.
Birds of a feather flock together, so they say. And so it is with us. We look for factory partners with similar values, hopes and dreams. Do they care about their employees? The environment? Animal welfare? Before beginning any long-term partnership, we reach as deep into the supply chain as possible to ensure there is a sense of shared philosophies pertaining to our respect for each other and the world we all share. It’s not only about building amazing products together, it’s also about contributing to the creation of a more responsible manufacturing process and complete product lifecycle.
We call our manufacturers our partners for a reason. They help us problem solve, improve and progress. By taking a collaborative approach to our sourcing relationships, we find that we are able to constantly make progress towards products that are both more sustainable and more durable. All of this with the ultimate goal being to develop both working relationships and products that last a lifetime. Sharing visions and values allows us to work more closely towards a common goal. Building long-lasting, responsibly-made products for you.