I started seeing Stio around the greater west a handful of years ago. Ski pants and jackets started showing up in lift lines, appearing on skin tracks and popping up at après. And every time I saw the apparel pieces, I’d comment to anyone near me on the pretty colors or how technical the fabrics looked. But turns out, what’s underneath the stunning coats and mountain aura that emanates off the soft goods is something even better—a growing mission and vision to create clothes responsibly.
Stio was founded 10 years ago by Steve Sullivan in Jackson, Wyoming with the idea of connecting Stio’s products to the mountain soul and the nature surrounding it. The brand sees itself as caretakers of its resources—and specifically, it lives by a mantra of “Do the right thing.”
Now, I’m all about doing good while looking great, but what does that mean in practice?
To learn more, I talked with Sandy Flint, Stio’s materials manager. He holds a master’s degree in fiber science and apparel design from Cornell and came to Stio from Burton two years ago to oversee the sourcing of everything that makes up your gear—such as fabrics, trim, buttons and zippers.
“From day one, sustainability has been important,” said Flint. “But as we’ve grown, we’re much more interested in understanding and measuring our impact to make a real difference.”
With Sandy at the helm, Stio enacted a new program: If there was a more socially responsible way to do it, the company would implement it. This meant everything from switching fabrics and looking at human rights in Stio's factories to making sure the company is providing fair jobs and living wages and taking steps to work on its diversity, equity and inclusion policies. Stio even founded a Stewardship Council, led by Flint and Stio’s Brand Director Liz Barrett, which is leading the company’s efforts to make changes within the organization and reduce its environmental impact.
As part of this mission, Stio jumped all in to reduce its footprint in manufacturing and switched to using primarily "preferred materials," or those with a lower environmental or social impact such as recycled polyester, organic cotton and recycled nylon. Stio has also tackled all shipping packaging to make them easily recyclable.
However, converting everything at once is impossible. There are limited supply chains and some sustainable fabrics are too specialty—and too expensive—to justify. But Stio is making every effort possible. “We were at 3% of preferred materials when I started,” said Flint. “After one year of effort, we got to 30% and we hope to exceed 50% this year."
You don't just have to take Stio’s word for it. The company has partnered with The Higg Index—a group that audits apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers’ environmental and social responsibility impact. They work with BLUESIGN, which focuses on the chemistry that goes into the material in your clothing to make sure that the raw materials are sustainable and healthy for the consumer. They've also collaborated with Renewal Workshop, which takes warranty product from Stio, repairs it and sells it second hand at a discount. If the gear is beyond repair, they break it apart and recycle it. These third parties keep Stio honest and help Flint and his team see where they can improve.
In addition to the remarkable work Stio does to make sure their clothes are as sustainable as possible, the company has also partnering with national nonprofits to help them with advocacy. These nonprofits include: Protect Our Winters, which uses its platform to speak to climate change; The Conversation Alliance, which focuses on protecting North America’s public lands for habitat and recreation; and Camber Outdoors, which is helping Stio better understand and tackle diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “We want to help support these organizations get out the vote and educate ourselves and our consumers on sustainability and social issues,” said Flint.
Now that you know Stio is an amazing company with an incredible mission, what about their clothes? Well, we at Ski Utah can tell you that this gear is some of the best we’ve seen. It’s strong and technical, while still looking fly on the mountain—whether you’re ripping groomers at Snowbasin Resort or hiking Fantasy Ridge at Solitude Mountain Resort. And though Stio is based in Jackson, they do have a great shop in Park City.
“We are all about embracing and supporting mountain life and mountain town culture,” said Flint. “Stio has been a part of the community here in Jackson and making apparel that lets people go out and connect with nature, whether rafting or skiing or biking. When Park City opened up, it was a natural evolution—our sister city to the south from Jackson.”
To close out this article, we obviously have to recommend you some gear. Below are a few of Flint’s favorite sustainable items from Stio and two of mine. Now when you buy a jacket or a pair of pants or a trendy flannel from this company, know that you’re not only looking cool and immersing yourself in the mountain culture around you, but also helping save the earth—one baselayer at a time.
“These are made with organic cotton now—and they rock.”
“It’s a mountain twist on a classic flannel. Plus, you can wear it three seasons as a jacket because it’s insulated.”
Pearl snaps, pinecone buttons and classic Western detailing provides that high range identity to a piece that easily spans from work to rest to play. Plus, it'll be 100% organic cotton next season.
Men’s Alpiner Hooded Jacket
A technical alpine insulator fit for pushing the pace from early morning skins to spring thaw runs.
Sandy told me that this jacket is 100% recycled polyester, and the weight saved out of a landfill by switching to recycled material is equal to about 1.1 Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs. That's good enough for me!
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