01 Apr Alaska’s Best: Alpine Fit Designs For Everyone
By: Edy Guy
Jennifer lives in Alaska where everything is a bit more difficult. Demanding weather conditions and rampant outdoor enthusiasts make for the perfect place to put a stake in the ground. Jen created Alpine Fit, an Alaska local company in order to serve and outfit locals in the best gear to weather the toughest conditions.
Alpine Fit also designs for various body types. “Not everyone fits the shape of a single fit of most brands that just gets scaled across their size range,” Jen says, addressing the wildly limited market most of us are forced to buy our clothes in. “Wouldn’t it be great if people saw a style they liked and there was a fit option to suit differences in body shape so everyone could have a custom-like fit?”
This dream of size-inclusion is something that’s been hot on the minds of lots of retailers. Why shouldn’t our clothes fit us right and make us feel the best? In the long run, a better fit means less waste too. If something fits well, you want to wear it for as long as you can and you don’t need as many items of clothing. A clear win-win.
Alpine Fit also makes all of their garments with antimicrobial materials like wool that repel odors and don’t need to be washed as much. Again, this thinking is one of the most sustainable approaches, cutting back on water waste significantly.
“In Alaska, adventures are often remote in the wild and there’s limited space in people’s packs. [Alpine Fit] is specifically designed for people with busy lives that like to get outside multiple times a week for different activities and need go-to pieces for any activity!”
Jen’s seen a surge of support from the local community in Alaska. She says that anyone rolling up their sleeves and trying to make it work is appreciated in the community because of how difficult it is. This element fuels her work and makes it all feel worth it. She’s tied to every single person she employs or that purchases from her. Having a business in Alaska really means integrating into the community in a fundamental way.
With the startup nature of the company, Jen is still mostly in the thick of it. But when she gets the chance, she’s outside with her energetic family and dog, Willow. Her and her husband are avid kayak-trippers and plan intentional time alone to make sure that they’re not losing sight of everything that matters.
What’s most impressive is Jen’s ability to run a business and balance family life with so much energy. She says she owes it all to the work itself and how much purpose she finds in engaging with the community while bringing a new eye to design that’s so needed.
Speaking from experience, we couldn’t be more thrilled with what Jen’s created. Wearing her Alpine Forest Tidewater Long Sleeve has changed our standards for how an outerwear shirt should fit and function. Anything we can wear, feel good in, and wash less is a smashing success. Thank you, Jen!
Read on for a special Q&A with Jen herself:
What inspired you to start your own apparel line?
Ooh, good question. I had a few things drawing me into it. I owned a retail store previously, and I LOVED operating a business, participating in a community, developing a team and contributing to the livelihoods of others! Also, I saw an opportunity to bring something new to the outdoor realm – fit options for body proportions. Not everyone fits the shape of the single fit shape of most brands that just gets scaled across their size range. Wouldn’t it be great if people saw a style they liked and there was a fit option to suit differences in body shapes so everyone could have a custom-like fit? Also, outdoor oriented products that are constructed from permanently anti-odor materials (rather than anti-odor wash in type solutions that do not last the entire lifetime of the garment). In Alaska, adventures are often remote and in the wild limited space in your pack for multiple clothing items – I wanted to bring something new to the market that was specifically designed for an outdoor wilderness adventurers lifestyle, and people with busy lives that like to get outside multiple times a week for different activities and need go-to pieces at the ready to do anything!
What challenges do you face with being made in Alaska?
Being geographically located in Alaska is a challenge that contributes to why made in Alaska is a great idea and complex! What is complicated is that goods, raw materials, equipment, or anything that has to come from large apparel manufacturing hubs, needs to travel by land or sea to get here! We have fantastic options for getting freight up to Alaska, but it is not cheap, and in a way, needing to order larger individual shipments of fabric etc has helped us get serious, plan carefully, and do things “right” from the get-go. The benefit of being made in Alaska that is the flip side to this geographical location, is that there is an overwhelming amount of support for businesses rolling up their sleeves and making things here. It is a great place to get started with a business like this, it is so different that people notice it and either think it is really wild, or really cool – or hopefully both! At any rate, they are interested!
What’s your favorite / most challenging part of running your own business?
People! The people you meet, the people you employ, the people that help you build your dreams, the people who support the business and buy the things we make. The people are my favorite part and sometimes heart wrenchingly challenging. When you are an integral part of people’s lives, their successes and challenges are yours, their celebrations and heart aches are also yours. You accomplish great things together, you have to struggle through many things together. You have to make tough decisions sometimes, you have to manage around the monumental things that happen in people’s personal lives. It is so rewarding but not for the faint of heart.
What gets you out of the bed in the morning?
Workwise, I love absolutely everything I have to do and “get” to do every day. Working on new samples, saying hi to the team, setting up new equipment, making decisions on colors and fabrics, having nerve-wracking meetings, everything. Almost every day I feel like I could work endless amounts of hours on this, and go to bed feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve. Don’t get me wrong, some days are so tough, and really contrast with the great days. But I love working on this business, and have deep energy to get up and get at it.
What kinds of things do you do outside of work?
Life-wise, I have a great little family that have endless amounts of energy and passion for playing outdoors. With my kids we get out hiking, biking, skiing and camping. With my husband, we balance family time with planning kid-free adventures together like packrafting and kayaking trips, skiing and hikes. Our family dog Willow also has boundless energy – she is what we call “Alaska surprise” – basically lab, husky, shepherd, sled dog. She can run 75 miles when you bike 25 miles and still has gusto at the end of the day.
How do you maintain personal and social balance with owning your own business?
Personal and social balance are a challenge to maintain. We are still very much in startup phase at Alpine Fit. I work hard, long hours, rest hard, and get outdoors with my family and socially when I can. Fortunately, meeting up socially and getting out for a hike or ski are often combined – so it is easier to keep all of those things in check! But, it is tough. I often have to take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the journey!