Marketplace: Khalibre Mountain aims for timeless style
Outerwear is modern twist on industrial-era look
March 17, 2017
Like many companies, Khalibre Mountain was born from its founder's frustrations with what was available in the marketplace.
In 2014, Joe Schmieder was underwhelmed when he went shopping for outerwear. The options, it seemed, were products manufactured overseas and marked up a healthy margin, technical gear that lacked style and old-school-inspired clothing that hadn't been updated with modern functionality like linings, hoods and zipper pockets.
"That's where it started," he said. "I was like, 'I can do that (better).'"
More than two years later, he is giving it his best shot. Park City-based Khalibre (pronounced like "caliber") Mountain launched its first line of fall and winter outerwear in October and is aiming to keep the momentum as spring nears. Inspired by the clothing Schmieder's grandfather wore, the company's wool coats and thick flannel shirts recalls a time when America was dotted with factories churning out goods faster than ever before. The idea was to give clothing someone may have worn in the 1930's a contemporary edge while retaining that timeless style.
"We want to stay with a heritage look," he said. "Everything that we make is going to hearken back at least a little bit to industrial-era American history. But we try to do updated styling wherever we can. It's updated functionality without destroying where the piece came from."
One of the benefits of approaching clothing that way, Schmieder said, is that its relevance doesn't fluctuate based on the whims of a season's trends. The clothing, available for both men and women, is designed to be perpetually stylish. That, combined with high-quality fabric and manufacturing, makes it more sensible for someone to spend $229 on a flannel shirt because they'll be wearing it years later.
"It's not going to go out of style in three or five years," he said. "If you start to push the boundaries of clothing, which is fun, too much, it's pretty hard (for people) to spend that kind of coin on an item that could be a flash in the pan. That's what our mantra is.
"You can get tunnel vision trying to keep up with what's next, but there are a lot of industries out there that prove you don't have to do that. And that's what resonates with me the most."
Before starting Khalibre Mountain, Schmieder had no background in the clothing industry. That made getting off the ground challenging because of the rarity of stateside manufacturers with the infrastructure to produce the clothing Schmieder envisioned (for instance, the company's wool coats are too thick for many manufacturers' sewing machines).
Slowly, though, Schmieder began learning the industry and found a manufacturer in New York City's garment district to produce the clothing. He credits his progress to relationships he developed with veterans of the industry at trade shows in Los Angeles and New York.
"Face-to-face is the only way to do it, as far as I can tell," he said. "The internet is no joke, obviously, but networking-above-all is still key, at least in this industry."
Khalibre Mountain's clothing is available on the company's website, khalibremountain.com, as well as at the local store Indigo Highway in Kimball Junction. Eventually, Schmieder hopes to expand to small boutique shops in towns like Sun Valley, Idaho; and Jackson, Wyoming.
He also sells his products at trunk shows throughout the region, providing a rare opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with the people who are buying his clothing.
"It's sort of selfish, but it's the only opportunity to physically see what people think of your stuff," he said. "When you ship them a box, all you see is whether it's returned or not. Did they like it, did they love it? Were they like, 'Meh,' but forgot to return it? When you do it on-site, they pick it up and they come to the register and you know they want it."
Even if Khalibre Mountain becomes a well-known brand, Schmieder doesn't intend to sacrifice that type of small-scale interaction. No matter the success it achieves, he hopes to maintain the company's small, authentic feel.
"It kind of plays into the brand image a little bit," he said. "If you're the home-spun mountain brand that, the next time people turn around is in every boutique in the West, it throws people off. That's not really our goal. We want to stay a little closer to the consumer without being completely behind the internet barrier."