Every month we will spotlight brands or products that we really like.
Vital Outdoors intends to launch a long list of industry-leading products and brands. We want to show these companies some respect by highlighting their brand and best products — and that’s what this SHOUT OUT is all about.
Original, Unique & Refreshingly different
Our focus is on the product and only the product, which opposes the logo-driven norm. At KÜHL®, we set out to demonstrate how original ideas lead to creating the best outdoor lifestyle clothing.
KÜHL® began as Alfwear in 1983 with the Alf hat, a Peruvian-inspired design that many ski bums equipped themselves with in the mid-80s. Updating it with polar fleece, John “Alf” Engwall designed the pattern for the hat that would become the choice for serious Rocky Mountain powder skiers. Engwall, Conrad Anker (the now legendary mountaineer), and brothers Jay and Kevin Boyle set out to introduce this effective design to the skiing and mountaineering world. The four co-founders consisted of three skiers and a rock climber, all of whom aspired to build a business and lifestyle around their respective beloved sport.
After a tragic car accident resulted in the death of Alf Engwall, the three remaining partners nurtured the Alfwear business for several years until they set out to pursue individual passions in 1989: Conrad Anker received sponsorship for his climbing endeavors; Jay Boyle moved to Phoenix, Arizona to attend graduate school; and Kevin Boyle, with his dream still intact to live in the mountains and work for himself, took over the company, began to pay off his former partners, and conceived the Jacquard Jacket, which would become the first Malden Mills Apex Award for Design Excellence winner. At the time the trio dispersed, Alfwear consisted of eight or nine plastic bags of the Alf hat.
Conrad Anker became a world-class rock climber and mountaineer, traveling the world, ascending the major summits, and famously finding the body of Mallory on Mount Everest. His accomplishments speak well of realizing lofty dreams.
Jay Boyle studied Tai Chi, earned his MBA in Arizona, and moved to Shanghai, China. He speaks Chinese and is involved in overseas production for KÜHL®. His company EXPAT-CFO does consultancy for companies seeking to do business in China.
Kevin Boyle set out to transform Alfwear into something more than a hat company. With a passion for skiing, living in the mountains, and art, Kevin designed garments made from performance fabrics fit for his outdoor lifestyle. He turned Alfwear into today's clothing company known as KÜHL®.
In 1990, KÜHL® introduced the Jacquard jacket, our signature Euro-styled Polartec® fleece top that featured the first – the original – innovative thumb-loop cuff system and lightweight underarm gussets for comfort and optimal climate control. This top gained cult status in the outdoor community and went on to win the Polartec® Apex Award. More awards and devotees would follow as KÜHL® continued to pioneer and produce. KÜHL® is independently owned and financed and its ideas are inspired by the founders’ intrepid lifestyle and those with whom they share it. KÜHL® currently designs and manufactures top-selling pants, shirts, outerwear and more and can be found in the best outdoor retailers nationwide.
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