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, fresh out of school, I was leading an international program in Alexandria, Egypt when my Austrian fiancee gave me my first Loden Jacket. It was perfect for the chilly Alexandrian winter and I wore it every day. It shed the rain and kept me warm in a surprisingly wet and cold Mediterranean climate. Also, it was so much fun to wear. On my international travels it was always an eye catcher. I enjoyed the comments and conversations it started so much I began to think that just maybe I should share the Loden jacket with a wider audience.
In 2013 during the violence and political chaos of the Egyptian Revolution, I evacuated my program to Morocco. Two years later, my wife and I decided it was time to settle in her native Austria. We moved in 2015 and 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 ever since so I can confidently say we’re here to stay.
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 introduced me to an amazing community of Loden enthusiasts 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. Every year we have new products and are especially proud to offer custom made clothing as well.
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
That's me wearing my first Austrian Jacket in Salzburg (2012)