Former Marine advances into Alpine Fashion
A new member of our Loden Community recently asked me how a U.S. Marine ended up founding a Loden Fashion Brand. Jim’s question got me thinking more about this wild adventure and in the spirit of our Loden Community I’d like to share my story about how a guy with no fashion credentials, no industry training and no investors thought he could create a brand defined by outstanding customer service and dedicated to the naturally sustainable and classic Loden Style using the best traditional craftsmanship techniques. It all started in Egypt….
In 2011 I was head of an American Department of Defense Arabic language training program in Alexandria when my Austrian fiancee gave me my first Loden Jacket. That great jacket served me so well through the chilly Alexandrian winter I just fell in love with it. It shed the rain and kept me warm in a surprisingly wet and cold Mediterranean climate. Also, it was so much fun to wear: Egyptians loved it and it didn't scream "AMERICAN" which came in handy on many occasions. On business trips back to Washington I enjoyed the comments and conversations it started and I began to think that maybe, just maybe, my lovely jacket was a road to a bigger future.
My Loden Jacket in Salzburg (Summer 2012)
In 2013 during the violence and political chaos of the Egyptian July Revolution, I had to evacuate my language program to Morocco. My wife and I decided that with our growing family it was time to settle in the safe harbor of her native Austria. We made the move in 2015 and that’s when I decided to channel my love for that Loden jacket into a whole new adventure.
With the help of a third generation retired master weaver and family friend, Joe Frank, I explored the traditional Austrian clothing industry. We travelled through the Alps visiting Loden mills and producers run by Joe's old school colleagues, as well as attending industry events.
Learning the technical aspects of Loden production came naturally to me, it just felt right. The continual emphasis on sustainability, protecting the environment, using natural materials and producing functional, long lasting but stylish garments resonated deeply with my environmental sensibilities.
I knew I was on the right path but the terrain became dauntingly steep. I can’t count the hours I spent working but 2016 sales were so bad that any reasonable person would have quit this fool’s journey. Maybe it was my stubborn side which had served me well in the Marines or maybe it was the urging of some higher force but I resolved to push on, and we made solid progress in 2017. Now that 2018 is behind us I can confidently say we’re here to stay.
Here at Robert W. Stolz we believe that lovers of Alpine fashion don’t need Paris Fashion week gurus telling us how to dress. The Loden values of sustainability and craftsmanship speak for themselves. I will always be an outsider to fashion but I am proud to have become part of a Loden tradition and I am very excited to bring that tradition and that style to a larger audience. This mad expedition of mine has led me to an amazing community of Loden appreciators and encouraging feedback and support from industry insiders and customers. If you haven’t dipped into the community page I recommend you do so.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope you enjoyed learning the journey behind the brand, and I welcome you to take a look at some of our latest products now online, including a sneak peak at our first Spring Linen Collection coming soon.
We're always grateful to hear from you about products you'd like to see next Fall and of course, do share our story with your friends.
Best regards from all of us in Austria,
Robert W. Stolz
Robert wearing Austrian Jacket in Salzburg (2012)