Company Profile: Cloudveil
|The Tetons, the source of their inspiration (Photodisc)|
Stephen Sullivan and Brian Cousins embody a classic American tale, one that rarely reaches fruition in the apparel industry these days. Both drawn to Jackson Hole by a shared passion for climbing and skiing, pursuits tailor-made for the Teton Range that flanks this town, they met while working as outdoor retail-store managers and buyers. Their friendship was soon forged over countless hours indulging in the varied outdoor activities the region had to offer. And somewhere between a rapid Teton ascent and aprés-ski rewards, they agreed that there was a serious dearth in high-quality, end-user gear; mainstream outdoor apparel didn't address the needs of real backcountry skiers, alpine climbers, and other enthusiasts—people who treat nature's extremes as a lifestyle, rather than a weekend jaunt.
"Over a lot of beer, pizza, and hockey, we finally decided to go for the biggest market—and what we really knew the most about: apparel," says Sullivan. They both agreed that new material innovation could prove to be the launching point for a brave new world in performance clothing. They found what they were looking for when a friend returned from Switzerland with a pair of ski pants made of Schoeller, a stretch-woven fabric not yet on the U.S. market. "U.S. apparel was ripe for innovation—there hadn't really been any new kind of technology for about five years—since Mountain Hardwear came on the scene," Sullivan explained, admitting that W.L Gore, the maker of Gore-Tex, remains the crowning exception, a company that consistently comes up with new fabric creations.
Both men agreed about another point: they would not leave Jackson Hole, Wyoming; outdoor apparel companies typically head to San Francisco's Bay Area to join the fleet of industry movers. However, Sullivan and Cousins rightfully felt that just because they were starting a new clothing company using their own designs on a completely self-financed budget, they didn't have to give up the land that had inspired them to make Cloudveil a reality. As the company motto says, "Live Close to Your Dreams."
Before Cloudveil stormed the market, Cousins worked at an apparel manufacturer to broaden his knowledge of the market and then designed ten introductory styles for Cloudveil in 1998 (an all-men's line for the fall season). The following year, they introduced women's fall apparel and a spring line for both sexes. Five years later, the company offers 225 styles for all seasons, garnishing glowing reviews and an array of awards in a highly competitive industry. Despite this steady expansion, Cousins stays close to his twin passions: he still does a lot of the design work and engages in plenty of field-testing.
"What's unique about us is that we're really just two guys from Jackson who went with a good idea. The reason we've gotten anywhere is we really do all the stuff that these clothes are created for—backcountry skiing, climbing, mountaineering. We use all this apparel ourselves," Sullivan states proudly.
And that, it seems, makes all the difference.
Cloudveil sells directly from its website: www.cloudveil.com.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication