We’re now entering spring, and that means a few important things.
First of all, my allergies are going haywire. But, that’s neither here nor there. It also means the start of the baseball season, lawnmowers will be coming out of their winter hibernation and the flowers will be blooming. Of course, this holds true if you live in the northern hemisphere… but, again, I’m getting away from myself.
It’s also the time that fashion designer start flocking to cutting-edge cities such as Paris, Milan and New York for the unveiling of the newest spring fashions. I’ve seen a few of these shows on TV, and, I have to confess, some of the designers must be playing with their Barbie dolls a little bit too much. There are very few self-respecting women who would admit to wearing any of those avant-garde designs right off the runway.
That’s why I like sensible clothes. Pants that are durable, shirts that fit and are comfortable and clothes that just don’t wear out when you are working hard.
In one small upper Midwestern city, that’s exactly what’s coming off the designer’s sketchpad. Duluth Trading, a company that sells clothes for working men and women, designs their work wear to last.
This company, which was founded in the late 1980’s by two brothers who invented the Bucket Boss, grew through the years to encompass other tool holders and a basic line of branded work wear.
Suzanne Harms, the company’s marketing director, said that it was important early on for Duluth Trading to reach out to woodworkers through the woodworking magazines. “Our brand and products are built around guys who thrive on the craftsmanship and challenge of working with their hands. Carpenters, woodworkers, cabinet makers, builders, remodelers, hobbyists, the guy building a deck, tinkers and gadget and gear heads, car enthusiasts, bikers, hobby farmers. As our business has grown rapidly in the last 8 years, we’re appealing to a broader range of hands-on men and women. And our focus is more clearly on designing apparel and gear that supports what Duluth customers do – and help them do what they do better and safer.”
All of their clothing – from the signature fire hose cotton canvas items down to belts, suspenders and other accessories, are designed with input from working men and women and then evaluated by the trades panel. “We have a trades panel of eight guys here locally, and the same type of test panel type group for women’s clothes. Our panel members are very direct and very connected to what works and what doesn’t.”
Features such as extremely durable stitching, oversized pockets and even longer zipper pulls were worked into the design of the clothes to provide longevity and convenience. In fact, the company is now offering a guarantee on their trademarked Fire Hose work pants. “If you can wear them out, send them back to us. We’ll buy you the next pair and take care of shipping as well.”
The same type of quality applies to the tools and tool bags offered in the catalogs. While Duluth Trading doesn’t offer large power tools or many hand tools, their offerings cover some interesting personal tools designed to be carried in a pocket. Pocket knives, small precision tool kits and flashlights don’t do a great deal of work, but they make working much easier. “We have gotten some outstanding reviews from Popular Mechanics, woodworking magazines, HGTVPro, woodworking school directors, contractors/remodeling magazines – the list can go on for a while.”
While their products very tough and useful, the Duluth Trading ad copywriters have a great deal of fun when describing and designing their products. One of the funniest and longest-lived ads deals with their extra long tail work t-shirts. They are advertised to cover the dreaded ‘plumber’s butt,’ and are sold in a small plastic pail marked ‘Crack Spackle.’ “The fun atmosphere here leads to some often unexpected humor. The storytelling and ‘MacGuyver meets Paul Bunyan’ approach to product development makes it a great place to work.”
The work wear industry is a crowded one, but Duluth Trading is happiest when blazing their own trail. “We are who we are and we do not want to be the competition – we want to provide the best resource and experience for our customers.”