Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Black Gregory Equipment

I like the sound of that name. What do you guys think?

So the big hullabaloo right now is BD/Gregory merging into one awe inspiring company of radness. Or so they say. My opinions on this are a bit skewed having worked for Gregory in the past. I really do love the company and think that they put out some of the best packs on the market. They're one of our industry's few "heritage" brands and I hope they don't lose that.

I was on Cloudveil's website earlier today and was caught off guard. CV was bought earlier this year and some major changes took place right away. Everyone was fired, they closed the Jackson Hole brand shop and moved the company to Connecticut. It's sad to see a brand like this seemingly go away for good.

The new owner keeps on claiming that nothing will change and that they'll keep on keeping on, but that's seeming less and less likely now. It's too bad really. I still have one jacket from them that I keep more for posterity than anything else.

There were a couple comments on the CV blog that caught a coworker and I off guard. First someone said the following:

"I wish Cloudveil could be more authentic like K2 or Marmot. Being owned by a NY company that specializes in making crock-pots and mason jars really impacts their ability to make technical apparel."

I really don't think this person knew that K2 owned Marmot.......or that K2 is owned by Jarden corp.....who owns Ball Jars.....and that Ball Jars have roughly a 90-95% market share of the Mason Jar market. Made me smile.

Another said this:

"What a bummer! Another sellout! I too will be forced back to the Patagucci line."

Never mind that Patagonia for a while went on a bit of a buying trend itself. A while back they bought the prominent PFD line Lotus Designs and promptly drove it into the ground and out of business.

Thought it'd be interesting to post up some info about who owns who in our industry. Feel free to add more in the comments if I miss something.

The North Face - Owned by Vanity Fair - For all the shit that TNF receives for being "The" outdoor company in our industry they continue to have an impressive athlete list and an even more impressive list of cool marketing campaigns. The trip to Turkey was just the latest in very cool media.

On top of that, they still do make some very high quality gear. You just have to wade through all the Denali fleece to find it!!

Mountain Hardwear/Montrail - Both companies are owned by Columbia - I'm biased obviously but I can honestly say that MHW hasn't been too effected by the merger. Separate design/sales/headquarters has allowed MHW to be fairly independent from Columbia.

Montrail on the other hand had a bit of a rough patch there. The ship seems to be righted though and they're on a better track. Seems they figured out that they make great trail running shoes and not so great climbing shoes. Although Nic might have something to say about the Method. Nic?? Anything???

Marmot - Owned by K2 who is owned by Jarden - Seems that the only hiccup came in the pack world when they absolutely destroyed Dana Designs. It was sad to see such a good brand go down so hard. Other than that things have been good for Marmot it seems. They make good shit and also have a nice roster of athletes to go along with the product.

Dana himself seems to be doing ok. Get an update on his absolutely badass packs over here.

Patagonia - They seem to be one of the few large outdoor companies that does their own thing. Curious to see how long that lasts and just how much backlash will come along with any sort of merger/sale. What seems most interesting to me is that they've played the "buy" card with a number of companies. Lotus Designs was just one of the companies that are no longer around.

As much as I might not be a fan of the Patagucci style, I do respect their commitment to environmental ideals and also their commitment to the community. It's impressive to say the least

Arc'teryx - Owned by Amer Sports - Arc'teryx is another brand that seems to go along with many people not knowing they're owned by the same group that owns the ball sport giant, Wilson. They're a great example of a company being bought and not losing any of their credibility. They still maintain very high standards and have phenomenal products.

Cloudveil - Owned by Windsong - Seems more and more that this brand is being driven straight into the ground.

Mammut - Owns Toko and a sleeping bag line - Mammut seems to be the other company on this list that isn't owned, but owns others. Just last year the century old boot line, Raichle was morphed into Mammut Footwear.

Nau - Owned by Horny Toad - Nau is funny to me. Very funny. They promptly went out of business after one year of operations. They had an unusually large following due to their humanitarian work and charitable donations that ended up putting them out of business.

Horny Toad scooped them up and Nau has been surprisingly quiet since then.

What I find most interesting about all of this is that pretty much all of these companies get their fabrics and materials from the same damn people. If you look hard enough at any line you're bound to find a nice jacket or tent or sleeping bag. Yet, having said that, all of them are known for different things. Whether it's the green efforts of Nau and Patagonia or the reDONKulous prices that go hand in hand with CV and Arc'teryx.

What I find incredibly encouraging though is the commitment to our very small industry that each and every one of these companies display in some form or another. No matter who the owner is or isn't, there is support behind each of the names. There's a very real story to go along with the name.

I encourage you to look around a bit the next time you need something. Stray a little from what you'd normally buy and who knows, you might find something cool and new. It's amazing what you'll see when you take away any previous thoughts you have about a company and shop "brand blind".

That is unless you're buying a crash pad.....then you need to buy Organic. For shizzle......is it still cool to say that???


  1. Right on Steve. Even though I work in the industry, I wasn't aware of some of these mergers, like CV and Arc'teryx. I just hope that BD/Gregory stay true to there products and customers, and don't sell out and move over seas, that would suck. One of my employees just asked me today if Petzl was still privately owned. I said I thought that it was, true?
    Good post.


  2. Yeah, Arc'teryx tends to go under the radar when it comes to this conversation. I believe the merge was a while ago and people have just sort of forgotten. CV is just sort of sad right now.

    Petzl is definitely still owned by a guy named Petzl. Paul I believe. They're into their third generation now.

    Gregory is interesting in that they manufacture in two places. One in the US and one in China. Everything made in the US goes over to Japan and everything made in Asia comes over to the US. They're HUGE in Japan. Like huge huge.

  3. This is interesting Steve. It seems to me like the more popular a brand becomes on the college campuses, the crappier the quality control becomes, in general. As for the recent mergers, I guess only time will tell. Glad you do posts like this every once in a while. Most of us have no idea this stuff is happening all around us. ce

  4. It is really funny how Arc'teryx has never caught any flak for 'selling out' which TNF always have.

    From Wiki:
    "In January 2001 Arc'teryx was purchased by the Adidas owned Salomon Group.[1] In May 2005 Amer Sports purchased the Salomon Group from Adidas."

    And I remember being at O.R. in '05 after it was picked up by Wilson and there wasn't even really a buzz about it. Strange.

    Also, it says on Wiki that Cloudveil is owned by Spyder since 2008? It doesn't much matter since CV hasn't been relevant in... like forever.

  5. Thanks Chris. I really enjoy this aspect of the industry and it's fascinating to me. I love it.

    Quality is a funny thing. I talked to a guy the other day that purchased two hardwear tents at two totally different times. Both times he happened to get a tent that had a fatal flaw that MHW later found our about. These two flaws are literally the only two times ever that they've had to take tents back en masse.

    Nevermind that thousands of other tents have gone out with zero problems, the brand in his eyes is total shit. An absolutely random occurance that more than likely only happened to him and maybe a couple others gave him the appearance that hardwear is shit now.

    On top of that he blamed it 100% on Columbia. Never mind that he bought his first tent 2 years before Columbia bought hardwear. Something to think about.

  6. Mammut is owned by someone else...I forgot who though. They were bought a while back.


  7. Sweaty, it's pretty funny that Arc'teryx has gone rather unnoticed in their buyout. Kind of amazing for such a "core" brand. They caught more shit for making some of their stuff in China than they ever did for being bought out.

    As for Cloudveil, it's a sad end to what used to be a nice line. When we were leaving them a couple years ago some major changes were taking place and it was obvious that it was time to get out.

    They were bought by Spyder in early 08 and then Spyder sold to Windsong earlier this year. Windsong promptly cancelled all spring product. So odd.

  8. Thanks Jon. After some digging it looks like Mammut is owned by a swiss company called Conzzeta Holding. It seems as though Mammut is left rather untouched though it's interesting to see what else Conzzeta owns. Notably a polyurethane foam manufacturer...wonder why their pads aren't any better....

  9. I just wrote a novel full of clever anecdotes and good points... it got deleted. I hate when that happens.

    I don't feel like re-writing it. Short story. Outdoor companies sell or go over seas because there is no money in this little industry. These same people that complain about these companies are the ones that wait 20 years to buy a new tent, sleeping bag, and pair of climbing pants. Not very lucrative. It is hard for companies to survive on that type of purchasing schedule.

  10. Sweaty says, "I just wrote a novel full of clever anecdotes and good points... it got deleted."

    Highly doubtful my friend. ce

  11. lol. it was definitely a novel. Whether it was clever or had good points in it is rather subjective i suppose. jerk.

  12. Joking aside Sweaty, I agree about your last statememnt too. Another recent phenomenon is that people do expect their crap to last forever. I can't tell you the number of times I hear someone talking about a jacket or shoes they've had for 5 years that they brought back to REI. As if the lifespan of outdoor gear is supposed to be infinite. ce

  13. I bet it was beautiful Sweaty. Just beautiful.

    The outdoor industry is a toughie. Everyone who's anyone refuses to pay retail and then we get mad when we see a bunch of people out on campus wearing our favorite brand. Not to mention that they probably payed full retail for it and actually supported said company better than we did.

    It's a vicious fucking cycle.

  14. Well put Steve! Reading the posts above - It's very possible that there are some really great things happening within Cloudveil right now, and that they'll be back on line soon with product that gets back to the brand's roots ...