Over the past few years you’ve probably noticed the brand Stio on the slopes. Born in the Mountain West, the company has become known for its extensive colors and a serious focus on technical materials that are sustainable. Last Chair did a visit with Stio Senior Materials Manager Sandy Flint to learn more about its products, which are both revolutionizing outdoor clothing performance and utilizing technology which is more friendly to the environment we all love so much.
Sandy Flint - Stio's Senior Materials Manager
Stio was founded in 2011 by Mountain West native Stephen Sullivan, who had previously started the Cloudveil brand. Stio quickly became known for its focus on core technical apparel, fun colorways and direct-to-consumer sales. Today, the company has its own Stio Mountain Studios at major resorts across the west, including Utah on Park City’s historic Main Street.
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Flint grew up in the Northeast, skiing around New England and taking family trips out west. “It was the mountains I loved – being able to hike, raft and ski.” He went to college in Colorado, then moved to Utah, teaching skiing at Solitude. With a degree in engineering and a background in art, he found his way into a graduate program studying fiber science and apparel design at Cornell. The combination of those technical skills with his passion for art landed him at Stio.
What you quickly learn in talking to Flint is his passion for sustainability and knowledge of how to find that pathway. Most of all, you learn that he’s not alone, working at a company focused on the future. Today, preferred materials comprise 48% of Stio's collection and the brand has a goal to meet 75% by 2025.
“We have one planet we're living on, so we need to make sure that what we're doing is the best that we can do." - Sandy Flint, Stio Materials Manager
We also learn that sustainability is about more than just raw materials. It’s an accounting of everything the company does from travel to manufacturing to shipping to recycling. Everyone in the company is accountable!
A Stio designer scans a selection of materials (Photo by Peter Lobozzo)
In this episode of Last Chair, Flint dives deep into the science and history of membranes and other materials. One of the most notable transitions is the evolution from the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)-based Gore-Tex of the past to an environmentally-friendly ePE membrane that is per- and poly-fluorinated chemical (PFC) free.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find in this episode of Last Chair.
Sandy, before we get to talking technical materials, let’s look at the robust Stio color palette.
It's absolutely part of the brand. We have one of the largest color palettes I've ever worked with. Each season, we're near 60 different colors that we may be choosing from. It's a crayon box! We have so many colors to choose from, and then we really try to push that into our product and keep it bright and fun.
Did you have any vision of your career to come as a young boy?
I had a sort of alternative early education at a Waldorf school. As early as first grade, they had us knitting scarves. We were sewing little stuffed animals in second or third grade. So I always had this interest in the technical side of the gear that we were using, thinking about how it's put together, what material choices are, how it might be improved for function based on design. So it's always sort of been in the back of my head. Now I just get to live it, which is pretty cool.
Utah was one of the first choices for Stio to showcase its brand with the Stio Mountain Studio® Park City on historic Main Street
How have technical materials evolved over time?
Going back from when Gore originally came out with a multi-layer laminate, what we've been able to accomplish since then, just making it more waterproof, more breathable, using much more environmentally friendly materials along the way to take some of the more harmful chemicals out has been quite a journey. And then what we can do in recycling right now and reusing products is really awesome. It’s so fun to be in this industry right now.
What materials does Stio prefer to use?
Cotton is our largest natural fiber. We also use some wool on the synthetic side. There's a lot of nylon and a lot of polyester fibers as well. And we'll use those synthetics in more technical aspects or in a jacket where we don't want water to be absorbed. We look at our whole material offering and divide it into what we call preferred materials and non-preferred materials. A preferred material is anything that has been recycled from something else. On the natural side, we might say it's organically grown cotton where they're using less chemicals on the field to actually grow the cotton and, in turn, use less water. So it's a lower-impact material. What we've really been able to do in a couple of years here is adopt a lot more recycled materials. It's super easy to take something like a plastic water bottle, grind it down, melt it, turn it back into a very strong fiber that we can weave into a fabric and dye up almost any color. We've seen a lot of transition at Stio to preferred materials in the last three years.
Not only are Stio's materials selected with a focus on sustainability, but they are lighting up the slopes with a wide range of colors - around 60 different colors on the palette each year (Photo by Peter Lobozzo)
What’s your favorite Stio color?
Oh, great question. Mountain Shadow, which is navy. That's my number one. Number two would be Ranger Green.
Your favorite ski day?
My parents taught me to ski at about age three, so I have 34 years of skiing. This is going to be a hard one. But for this season, my most memorable is skiing with my one-and-a-half-year-old. We've been able to get out on the magic carpet together and he'll only ski straight lines. Doesn't know how to stop yet, but every time he gets down to the bottom, he just says more ski, more ski.
If you like to stay warm and dry when you’re outdoors, and do it in a sustainable way, listen in to this Last Chair episode with Sandy Flint of Stio. It’s enlightening to learn what Stio does behind the scenes to build technical apparel with a foremost focus on sustainability.
How the Numbers Work
Sustainability is a big topic for all companies today. How does it work for Stio? Its plan began with the Stio Stewardship Council, a grassroots employee-led group that looks at all aspects of the business – raw materials, electricity, water use, employee travel, shipping and much, much more. “What is it at Stio where we can actually affect some change,” said Senior Materials Manager Sandy Flint. In looking at this research, Stio decided to partner with Climate Neutral, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate carbon emissions. Using its BEE (Brand Emissions Estimator) tool, Stio has been able to establish its carbon footprint and look for ways to reduce that footprint and offset anything they are not able to eliminate completely. The brand is also working to improve its percentage of preferred materials within the line meaning recycled, responsibly-sourced and organic fabrics. Preferred materials currently comprise 48% of Stio's collection and the brand has a goal to meet 75% by 2025. Stio also recently launched Stio Second Turn, the brand's circular commerce site that allows customers to trade in or buy gently used Stio products.
The Origins of Stio
Stio is a true mountain brand. A few seasons ago, founder Steve ‘Sulli’ Sullivan spoke to Last Chair about his philosophies and how his love for the outdoors is embodied in the Stio brand. Listen to his story here.
Tom Kelly: And today on Last Chair we're going to talk about sustainability -- sustainable products. And with me today from Stio, an official partner of Ski Utah, Sandy Flint. Sandy, thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
Sandy Flint: Thanks, Tom. Yeah, great to be here today.
Tom Kelly: Yeah, it's been an amazing winter. I know you're up in Jackson with Stio, but just kind of in general, before we get into talking about materials, this has been a real winter, hasn't it?
Sandy Flint: Oh, my gosh. It's so good to have it back. The last couple of years, I feel like we just haven't had this many powder days in a row. But we're ... the post office up here right now is buried under snow. And even at our house, there are banks. We're getting a little tired of shoveling it, but I'll shovel as long as we can ski it.
Tom Kelly |00:00:47| Yeah, you know, I think of that every morning when I go out and shovel. It's like my friends are saying, oh, my goodness, we got two inches last night. And I said, well, we got 20. And that's pretty much normal. Two inches, I don't shovel. So we are getting our workout with that. But it's been a great season here in Utah and we're recording this in the early to mid part of March. And I know we've got ski season, snowboard season that's going to take us well through April. So it's been a great year. Stio is a great partner for Ski Utah. And I've become much more familiar with the brand over the last few years. We now have a store here in my hometown of Park City. It's been great to go down there and be wowed by the colors and materials that you have. But if you could tell us a little bit about the background on Stio. How did it come into existence and what are some of its guiding principles?
Sandy Flint |00:01:37| Yeah. So Stio was founded in Jackson Hole by Stephen Sullivan in 2011, and before Stio, he had started a brand called Cloudveil, which was really focused on core technical apparel for the outdoor industry. And, by contrast, when he started Stio, he was really trying to think about the totality of mountain life. So everything that you need on a daily encounter when you live in a mountain town could be touring before work, it could be a hike up or a bike ride or something. But we wanted to have this versatile product that you could wear from a peak to the valley floor into a board meeting. Even So, that was sort of the general idea behind like the concept of steel was to be this really versatile product that had multi uses and then do the right thing is something that we've always said in too, that, you know, there's ... we have one planet that we're living on, so we need to make sure that what we're doing is the best that we can do, best quality so it lasts the longest time, best materials so that it's just really durable. And then when we have a choice to make between a more sustainable material and a less sustainable material, we always want to be making sure that we're making informed decisions for the lowest impact.
Tom Kelly |00:02:52| We're going to get back to sustainable materials. But I just want to reflect a little bit more on the growth of the company here in Utah. I remember 4 or 5 years ago, we started to see these really colorful jackets and pants and lift lines and kind of wonder, well, what is this brand? I really didn't know that much about it. And over the last few years, we're starting to see more and more. I have to say that this year, starting to see a lot of steel in the lift lines here in Utah. The company has an interesting sales process. While there are some concept stores around, a lot of what you do is direct sales. And talk to me a little bit about how the organization, how the company markets its products.
Sandy Flint |00:03:30| Yeah. So the company was founded as a direct-to-consumer brand, so we were all based off of our website and a catalog that we sent around. And all the marketing is done in house by our growing team of people at this point. But we love that we're in the Mountain West and we're all actual outdoor enthusiasts who get to wear the product and that makes the storytelling that much easier as being a direct-to-consumer brand. It also lets us be that much closer to our customers. So we're not worried about trying to train a retail store on how to tell the story of Stio. We're right there telling the customer what the story is. So, in addition to our online presence in the catalog, we've also started opening Mountain Studios. And as you mentioned, there's one down in Park City. We've just opened our ninth Mountain Studio in South Lake Tahoe. That's the end of next month. And later this year, we're hoping to open Bozeman as well. So we're seeing a lot of growth in our stores. And then as a company as well, we're just about 150 people right now. So still pretty lean and mean, but that number has doubled in the last, you know, probably year and a half here. So a lot of growth.
Tom Kelly |00:04:37| You know, you mentioned a little bit about this, but as a direct-to-consumer company, you do have that ability to get really direct feedback. How do you take that feedback and put it into action? You are small and lean, but probably means that you also have a greater ability to listen to that feedback. And when you get an email, you know, really put it to work.
Sandy Flint |00:04:58| Absolutely. Yeah. One of the biggest benefits of being direct to consumers -- our development lead time is much shorter, whereas traditional retailers maybe have two years of product development cycle. We're just about 14 months. So when we start to, you know, we're very closely watching our customer feedback through the website or through warranty claims or anything like that. And as we get that info, we're able to affect change in the next season, which is pretty unique in the outdoor industry.
Tom Kelly |00:05:24| Let's talk about something that I don't know, this might or might not be right in your bailiwick, but one of the things that has struck me from the first time I saw the brand out in the mountains are the colors. The colorways that you have! They're vibrant, they're different. They're unique. Has that become big ... was that intentional? That a big part of the brand or is that something that's just come to be?
Sandy Flint |00:05:47| It's absolutely part of the brand, Yeah. We have one of the largest color palettes I've ever worked with. Each season, we're near 60 different colors that we may be choosing from. And unlike a lot of other brands, black is not our number one color. And so we don't push a lot of color stories and then have just the black one. I would say it's still most of our most popular colors are the blues and greys. But as you're referencing, it's a cran box. We have so many colors to choose from, and then we really try to push that into our product and keep it bright and fun.
Tom Kelly |00:06:21| Who gets to come up with the names for some of these colors?
Sandy Flint |00:06:25| That's a great question. So we have one color designer here who helps sort of set the palette for each season and she'll have it could be a whole other podcast. She has great stories behind, like what the color stories are and how they all come together and work together. But the color naming is something that often happens as like a group committee in the office. We'll sit down over lunch and we'll play some word games and by association, we'll get a number of words and then we start to plug them together and you pick some that sound nice, and then you start looking at browns and you say, That's obviously the rodeo dust brown. And there's some really clear ones that just jump out to you. But we really try to use place to drive a lot of our color naming.
Tom Kelly |00:07:04| Yeah, I really love that. I really love that concept. We bought a car recently and was trying to figure out who came up with some of these names of the colors. But I love your colorways. One other kind of operational point that I just wanted to highlight. I utilize the online tool that you have where you can mix and match pants and jackets and see how the different colors line up. That is just a brilliant tool. It allowed me to bring my wife in, who's not a skier and say, does this match? You know, that's a great tool.
Sandy Flint |00:07:38| Yeah, it's a really cool tool and I'm going to forget the name of it right now. But on our website, yeah, absolutely, you can put your tops and bottoms together and we have so many different colors and jackets and pants to choose from that this lets you in one view, sort of put it together, build your kit.
Tom Kelly |00:07:52| Well, Sandy, let's talk about you a little bit. You found your way out here to the Mountain West and what was your pathway to get out to the Mountain West and also pick up the knowledge that you have on fabrics and textiles and other materials.
Sandy Flint |00:08:06| Yeah. So like you referenced, I'm originally from the Northeast. As a kid, my parents taught me how to ski and we took a lot of family ski trips out to Montana. That was really what drove me. When I went to college, I decided to go to Colorado College. It was in the mountains I loved, loved being able to hike and raft and ski. And after graduation, I moved to Salt Lake. So I was living right in Cottonwood Heights, behind the firehouse between the two canyons. I had a winter job up at Solitude as a ski instructor, and that was just eye-opening to me, you know, more snow than I'd ever seen in my life when I was in Utah. But one thing led to another. My sister was moving up to Jackson and I was helping drive the moving truck and ran into an old friend who had an empty room. And I found myself in Jackson in like 2009. But I always wanted to get back into product. So my undergrad degree was in engineering and I had a lot of background in art and I found a graduate program at Cornell University. It was called Fiber Science and Apparel Design. And I thought, this is a perfect way to blend my, you know, sort of passion for art with a technical background. So I spent two years at Cornell. I was working on membranes that would go into technical fabrics. And that sort of led me into the outdoor industry.
Tom Kelly |00:09:29| Yeah, that's fascinating. If you go back to when you were growing up as a kid and you had some of these interests, did you think when you were younger about some of the technical aspects of the clothing that you wore outdoors?
Sandy Flint |00:09:43| You know, I did, I actually, I had a sort of alternative early education. It was a Waldorf school. And, you know, as early as first grade, they had us knitting scarves. We were sewing little stuffed animals and second, third grade, something like that. And so I always had this interest in the technical side of the gear that we were using, thinking about how it's put together, what material choices are, how it might be improved for function based on design. So it's always sort of been in the back of my head. Now I just get to live it, which is pretty cool. Working for a company like Stio where we're a team of about 15 people on product creation where someone's coming up with the ideas. We're talking materials, we're talking construction, we're talking about end use, and then actually getting to put it to test here in the mountains.
Tom Kelly |00:10:31| What is your specific role at Stio and how do you kind of what's a typical if there is a typical day, what's that like for you?
Sandy Flint |00:10:41| So my yeah, my role here is the senior materials manager and we have two materials managers and we take care of the relationships with all of our material partners. So if it's a fabric mill or a knitting mill, maybe it's YKK who's providing us with zippers. We manage the relationships there to try to develop new fabrics or source new fabrics that might be of interest for us in a new product category. But that's everything from getting the right colors to meeting quality specs to specking, you know, figuring out ways that we can make materials more sustainable.
Tom Kelly |00:11:15| In the second half of the podcast, we're going to dive pretty deep into some of the materials. But just as a general, maybe a little bit of history, if we go back in time ten, 15, 20 years, there's been a pretty big evolution of technical materials, hasn't there?
Sandy Flint |00:11:30| Yeah, there has been. You know, going back from when Gore originally came out with a multi-layer laminate, what we've been able to accomplish since then, just making it more waterproof, more breathable, much more environmentally friendly materials along the way to, you know, taking some of the more harmful chemicals out has been quite a journey. And then what we can do in recycling right now and reusing products is really awesome. So fun, fun to be in this industry right now.
Tom Kelly |00:11:57| We're going to dive into that in just a minute. We're going to take a short break here on Last Chair. And when we return, we'll be back with Sandy Flint. And we're going to talk about Stio's initiatives to be climate neutral and talk about some of the great materials in those colorful jackets and pants you're seeing around Utah this winter. We'll be right back on Last Chair.
Tom Kelly |00:13:16| And we're back on Last Chair with Sandy Flint, the senior materials manager for Stio and Sandy. We're going to dive into some of and I'm really anxious to hear some of the science behind the materials that you work with. But first, just kind of to set an overview. Stio, as we talked about in the opening, has really become a leader in the soft goods industry with what it's been doing with environmentally sensitive products and direction of the company. Talk a bit more about that if you could, and particularly the initiatives of Stio to be climate neutral.
Sandy Flint |00:13:51| Yeah. So, you know, anytime we're making product, we're contributing to, you know, additional carbon footprint. At Stilo, when we started to look at it internally, we started a group called the Stio Stewardship Council, and that was just a grassroots employee-led group that I got to be part of. But we're really looking at what, you know, what initiatives should we be going after? Is it just materials? Is it water? Is it climate change? You know what? What is it at Stio that we can actually affect some change. And so what we landed on was looking at our carbon footprint because we think that's a really good proxy. If you're using more electricity, you have a higher carbon footprint. If you're using more water, you have a higher carbon. You know, it all comes back to a carbon footprint. And so we partnered with a group called Climate Neutral, and they have this great tool called the BEE, and it's like a business environmental estimator. And what we were able to do there is ... A carbon footprint for a company like Stio is super complex and challenging to get every little detail of everything that we do and sum it up. And so using the BEE tool, we were able to more easily estimate what our carbon footprint was. And that's something that we started in 2020. This will be our third year and it's a great proxy for us to look at what inputs are going into our product. How would we run as a company? You know, we're even looking at how people commute to the office and what kind of impact we can have there. And then at the end of it, we sum it all up. We make a reduction plan for next year and we try to reduce anything we can't reduce. We're offsetting through high quality carbon offsets.
Tom Kelly |00:15:33| Let's explore that a little bit more. And this is something that's been intriguing me. If you're doing a budget for an organization, you have revenue and you have expenses that offset that revenue in this world, you have things that you do that create carbon and you have things that you do to offset it. Can you give me some examples of the principle of offsets and what are some of the things that Stio has been doing in that area?
Sandy Flint |00:15:56| Yeah, you're right on. So when we start to do, we call it carbon accounting as well. So it's just like any other budget. We have scope one, two and three. Scope one is any energy that we're using for our offices, our retail stores, any vans that we're driving between them. Scope two would be emissions from any electricity that's purchased for those sites. And then scope three is always the biggest one. And this is our supply chain. So that's looking at raw materials, shipping, air travel, anything that's outside of Stio but that we're bringing into our product. And so when we started looking at, you know, our initial carbon footprint, which was a great benchmark, you'll see very small amounts. We're a small company, but looking just at our office and at the time it was two stores and so that's grown a little bit. But we don't drive around too much. We're pretty close and a lot of people biked to the office and then a huge amount of the impact is really in the materials and in the construction of our garments and in the shipping of our garments. And so one of our initial sort of reduction strategies was to first look at any product that we could make closer to the US. So we make a fair amount of product. Now our socks, for example, come from the US. Hats and beanies are coming from Canada. A lot of our knit products, t-shirts and fleeces, things like that. We're manufacturing in Central America now and by bringing that closer to the US, we're able to reduce the carbon footprint of all of those products.
Tom Kelly |00:17:24| Yeah, that's really fascinating. And I think going back in time with the manufacturing industry, whether that's in the ski and snowboard industry or really any industry, there was less attention paid to this. I'm wondering today the consumer market is different. The consumer market today, I imagine the consumers of your product are more savvy on this. It's something that they look for. And are you hearing that kind of feedback from your customers that this is something that really does mean something to them?
Sandy Flint |00:17:58| Absolutely. Yeah. We have again, being direct ... we have a lot of direct communication with all of these customers. And so we have a lot of feedback from customers who are looking for specifically products made in the US or for more recycled materials or for products without certain chemicals down to very, very specific asks. Sometimes customers might have some irritability to some very specific dye stuff and they'll ask, Is this in your blue jacket or in your green jacket or something like that. So yeah, I think customers are definitely much more educated in what's out there and how to make more informed decisions about the products that they're purchasing.
Tom Kelly |00:18:40| Let's dive into materials. And I'm sure that in the material world you are getting some raw materials. You're also utilizing materials like Gore-Tex and others. But give us a little bit of a primer on the materials that you use and how you've woven the sustainability message into them.
Sandy Flint |00:18:55| Sure. Yeah. So we predominantly use, you know, synthetic and natural fibers. Cotton is our largest natural fiber. We also use some wool on the synthetic side. There's a lot of nylon and a lot of polyester fibers as well. And we'll use those synthetics in more technical aspects or in a jacket where we don't want water to be absorbed into the face. And then as a whole, we looked at our whole material offering and we started dividing it into what we call preferred materials and then non preferred materials. So a preferred material is anything that has been recycled from something else. On the synthetic side, on the natural side, we might say it's an organically grown cotton where they're using less chemicals on the field to actually grow the cotton and in turn uses less water. So it's a lower-impact material. What we've really been able to do in a couple of years here is adopt a lot more of recycled materials and it's super easy to take something like a plastic water bottle, grind it down, melt it, turn it back into a very strong fiber that we can weave into a fabric and die up almost any color. So we've seen a lot, a lot of transition at Stio to preferred materials in the last maybe three years.
Tom Kelly |00:20:11| Are you using the plastic bottle as an example, or are you actually doing some of this type of work in your factories or are you sourcing this from third parties knowing that this is a way to recycle those particular products?
Sandy Flint |00:20:26| Yeah, that's a great question. Most of it is coming from third-party sources, like UniFi is a partner of ours and they do the collecting of the bottles and chip them and then sell that chip to our factories who are actually extruding the yarns.
Tom Kelly |00:20:39| Yeah. Going back to the preferred materials list, can you give me a few examples of some of the preferred materials that you've pioneered at Stio?
Sandy Flint |00:20:48| Yeah. Just in the last year we had three large ones. One was our Environ program, so that's our flagship ski jacket, shell jacket, and we were able to take that and turn it into a polyester. And it sounds simple, but it was this mechanical stretch yarn. It was a very specific yarn. When you start thinking about, you know, converting something to recycled ... number one for us, is it going to be as strong and as durable? We don't want to lose any performance, so it might take a little extra time to make it as durable. And then number two, we have to, of course, consider the cost and then the properties. Yeah, making sure it still has all the same, you know, stretch or hand feel, which is how a fabric might feel. And so it takes maybe two or three rounds of ideation to, you know, from concept to a fabric that we think this is close. Then we make it up into a garment and then we get it out on the ski slopes for about a couple of months and see how it performs. Actually, when you're sharp ski edges and snow and water.
Tom Kelly |00:21:49| So are you actually building prototype garments and putting them to test out on the hill?
Sandy Flint |00:21:54| That's right. Yeah. We are in our sort of advanced development cycle for these, we will have, I don't know, at least I'd say about a season ahead of time. We'll have these products out on the slope. I may be out there, we may pass it off to someone in the marketing team, but we'll use Stio employees. And then if it passes that test, we'll pass it on to Stio ambassadors who can help give us some feedback before we actually bring that textile in line.
Tom Kelly |00:22:20| As we look ahead to the 23-24 season. Which is ... it's coming up. We're still got to get this one behind us. But I know that you already have your product lines for next season ready to go. I would assume that you do. Are there any particular materials that you can tease us with looking ahead to next year?
Sandy Flint |00:22:40| Um, yeah. I think the one that we're very excited about is a new ski collection we're calling the Figment Collection. So look out for this next fall. But it's a take on our Environ program a little bit more freeride oriented. So this is another one where we used a recycled polyester. We built it into a ripstop fabric though, as well as a plain weave. So it has a little bit more durability in some key areas on your garment. But this is sort of the next evolution, I think, of our environment program for the freeride skier out there.
Tom Kelly |00:23:12| Cool. You know, I want to talk a little bit about Gore-Tex and waterproof, breathable. Gore-Tex was a fabric that really helped to revolutionize outdoor wear. I know that it's something that 's been a brand that I've looked for 30 years and I still continue to look to what's the science of Gore-Tex. And I know you have some products that are similar and just give us a little 401 on those.
Sandy Flint |00:23:42| So Gore-Tex. The secret ingredient in Gore-Tex is their membrane. And what they were able to do from way back is they took a material called PTFE and they expanded it. So they stretched it and it makes it PTFE. And in stretching it, it opens up many, many like millions of tiny holes in this. It's a plastic sheet, really. And those plastic holes are small enough that a raindrop or a water droplet, the smallest water droplet when it's held together, cannot pass through. But when that water droplet evaporates, the water vapor is small enough to pass through the tiny holes. And so what Gore did was they took this material, we call it a microporous membrane, and they were able to glue it onto a fabric so that then the fabric had that property, that water couldn't pass through, but the sweat or vapor could pass through. So when you're wearing a Gore-Tex jacket, you don't get clammy inside. It doesn't get really know when you sweat, it's able to pass that moisture to the face of the fabric where it evaporates. So that's sort of the basics of a Gore construction. What Gore has done just recently that we're really excited about is they're actually, for the first time in their existence, re-engineering that membrane. And there's a small chemical called a PFC or fluorochemical that is existing in that membrane. And Gore re-engineered it to not have that chemical anymore. So they're now calling their new membrane ePE, which is an expanded PE plastic. And it's stronger, lighter, all the things we want, more breathable, you know, more durable and more environmentally friendly. So overall, they did a great sort of footprint on it and they're showing that it has a lower carbon footprint, better for the environment. And still meeting that Gore spec of super waterproof guaranteed to keep you dry.
Tom Kelly |00:25:39| And you'll have this in your line next season.
Sandy Flint |00:25:41| Yeah, for Stio, this will be launched in what we call our fall 23 season. So coming out next fall and our double charge jacket.
Tom Kelly |00:25:49| Sweet just to learn a little bit more, tell us what PFCs are and why they're a bad thing.
Sandy Flint |00:25:57| Yeah. So there are these wonderful little chemicals, right? They're used in almost everything from consumer products, food packaging, fire retardants in the outdoor nonstick pans is another example. What's great chemically about them is that they're extremely durable. It's also what's really bad about them environmentally is that they don't break down their half-life can be over half 1 million or 500,000 years or something, and when they don't break down, they start to bioaccumulate in the environment. So that could be in waterways, it could be in, you know, the small fish that gets eaten by the larger fish and suddenly there's a lot more of them. So in the outdoor industry, historically, PFCs have been used in DWR, which is a durable water repellent. So what goes on the outside of our technical apparel to make the water beat up are these tiny little PFC. You know, I like to describe them as small fingers that stand up on end, and that's what holds the water droplets off the surface of the fabric. And over the last, I would say, 3 to 4 years, we're starting to see better chemistries that actually remove those PFC fruit from the chemistry. And so they're going to other things like waxes or silicones or different chemicals that can make the jacket waterproof. So that's another. Initiative at that we've been working on for almost all of our line and Fall 23 coming out next fall, we will have PFC-free DWR in our garments.
Tom Kelly |00:27:34| You know, I'm kind of curious and this is not so much a technical question, but you are a leader in this at Stio and looking at ways to be more sustainable, to take your company into the future. Do you within your industry, with other companies, do you share ideas? Do you look at technologies and or at least share a mutual passion for trying to be more sustainable across the entire soft goods industry?
Sandy Flint |00:28:01| Absolutely. Yeah. We work very closely with the Outdoor Industry Industry Association, and they've been doing a wonderful job of bringing brands together to talk about these issues. They offer help, you know, sort of primers on topics they'll do conversations and breakouts where, you know, a group from SEO might be talking with a group from Burton or Patagonia, and then they're also helping kick off some. They're calling them like industry collabs where we could work together with other brands to we share a lot of the same mills where we get fabric and a lot of the same garment factories. And so they're helping facilitate brands working together to, you know, maybe bring solar energy to the factories or to help re-engineer nylon in a more sustainable way. So absolutely, we're working with some of our peer brands out there.
Tom Kelly |00:28:54| Cool. So I have a problem that I think a lot of people have out in the garage. I've got probably a dozen pairs of skis. They're just sitting there down here in the basement. I got bin after bin and closet after closet full of old gear. So when my Stio jacket well, my Stio jacket doesn't so much wear out, but all of a sudden you come out with a new color that I really want and I've got this old jacket. What can I do with that stuff?
Sandy Flint |00:29:20| Great question. So we've launched something at Stio called the Second Turn program, which it's a take-back program, and we like to then upcycle, if we can, and refresh garments that they can be resold. But the second term program, if you're interested, you'll go on to our website. There's a form to fill out. We'll send you a mailer, you send them back and our team will look at that product and decide what condition it's in, if it's something that we can reuse. If it is, we'll give you up to 25% of the original value of that garment in a gift card to purchase towards new Stio product. And in turn we'll take that used product and we send it down to this group in Colorado called TERSUS and they have super cool washing machine. It's not like a home wash laundry machine. They use liquid CO2 that super cleans the garments. If they need patches, they get patched. If it needs a new zipper, we'll do that and it hits our website for the second turn and we're able to then sell that product back to customers at a lower price point. So this program has been really killer for Stio. It's about a year and a half old. The original product, like we rehabbed, I think it was like 250 products and we sold them out in the first week that the program was launched. So since then, in the year and a half, we've turned about 2000 products that otherwise would have been sitting in your garage and sold them back to new customers.
Tom Kelly |00:30:46| What a great project. I'm seeing that with some other companies where you can return it. I think often of recycling. But the actual reuse, I love that. Before we get to our final section of fresh tracks, let's look into the crystal ball and look into the future. Is there anything that if you can look out 5 or 10 years in in materials that are more sustainable, is there anything that you see that we should be watching for over the next decade?
Sandy Flint |00:31:13| Something that I'm super excited about trying to think more about mono materials. So right now when you make a jacket, there may be like Gore-Tex is a great example. We'll have a nylon face. They have that membrane, there might be a polyester backer on it. We could put a metal zipper in it. You know, there's all these different materials that go into your garment and there's a reason behind that, you know, for durability concerns or an aesthetic or something like that. But it makes it very challenging to recycle that garment. So if we're unable to rehab it and sell it to another consumer, we have to throw it out and recycle it when it's really challenging to recycle. We can't do anything with it and it has to be just thrown out. So I'm excited about mono materials where we think about using, say, just polyester for the face, the membrane, the backer, polyester zippers, polyester, anywhere we can or nylon anywhere we can or cotton anywhere we can, because then you can take a garment and easily recycle that garment. The same way that we're recycling plastic water bottles. I've heard of a group up in Wisconsin that's starting to do this. So there's some like early trials where they have actual fabrics that used to be garments. And I think that's so cool that we can think about, you know, using a jacket as long as we can and then being able to recycle it and turn it back into a brand new jacket.
Tom Kelly |00:32:32| Cool. Sandy, You have a pretty cool job at Stio, don't you?
Sandy Flint |00:32:37| I really enjoy it. Yeah. I get to geek out about the things I'm pretty passionate about.
Tom Kelly |00:32:41| Cool. Well, it's been great to talk to you and we're going to close it out now with our Fresh Tracks section. A few little questions to wrap things up here. First of all, you spent a little bit of time in Utah. I know you ski down here, ride down here a little bit. Do you have a favorite Utah resort or a favorite run even in the state?
Sandy Flint |00:32:59| Yeah. From my time at Solitude -- Solitude is my favorite resort -- And Here Be Dragons, right off the top, is one of my favorite zones.
Tom Kelly |00:33:07| Sweet. Did you when you were down here, I know you worked at solitude, but did you get out and about a lot?
Sandy Flint |00:33:13| Yeah. You know, I was right out of college, and so we .. I said we lived right between the canyons. We had a system figured out where we could ski at solitude in the morning, go up and over, ski down to Snowbird for the afternoon. Being under 25, they had a special p|ass for us at that age and skied quite a bit. And Little Cottonwood, as well. I got a little bit up to Deer Valley and Park City Canyons, but never up to Ogden. Not yet, at least. Can't wait. Yeah, there's still time.
Tom Kelly |00:33:41| It's not that far from you. How about your most memorable ski day? I don't care where. It was your most memorable ski day.
Sandy Flint |00:33:50| So my parents taught me to ski at about age three, So I have 34 years of skiing in there. This is going to be a hard one. But for this season, my most memorable … I have a one and a half year old and we've been able to get out on the magic carpet together and he'll only straight lines. Doesn't know how to stop yet, but every time he gets down to the bottom, he just says -- he can only string two words together -- says more ski, more ski. So skiing up on top of Snow King with him has been fantastic this winter.
Tom Kelly |00:34:20| That's really gratifying. I have a two-year-old great-granddaughter and she's going to head out ... She doesn't know this yet, but she's going to head out there pretty soon. Here's a good one for you. What is your favorite Stio color?
Sandy Flint |00:34:35| Oh, great question. Uh. I mean, Mountain Shadow, which is a navy. That's my number one. Uh, number two would be Ranger Green.
Tom Kelly |00:34:47| Well, I have a Mountain Shadow jacket, so I'm with you on that one. Goes well with the gray pants. My wife approved of that one. How about a favorite river out in the west to run.
Sandy Flint |00:35:00| I love the Snake River up in Wyoming. Or I've been down the Grand Canyon a couple of times. And, you know, any stretch of the Colorado, be it, you know, in the headwaters or down in Moab. That's as good as it gets to me.
Tom Kelly |00:35:13| Where do you like to run the Snake? Out of Jackson?
Sandy Flint |00:35:17| We have a great stretch that I can run in the summer. We have daylight until 10:00 here. So if I'm out of the office by 5:30, I'm able to float from the Wilson Bridge, fish my way all the way down to South Park.
Tom Kelly |00:35:28| Pretty sweet, isn't it?
Sandy Flint |00:35:30| Oh, my gosh. Yeah.
Tom Kelly |00:35:32| Final question. Give me a sustainable material that you work with today that did not exist ten years ago.
Sandy Flint |00:35:41| Oh, the Gore-Tex ePE membrane. It didn't exist last year.
Tom Kelly |00:35:46| Awesome. That's perfect. Sandy Flint, thank you so much for joining us on Last Chair. It's been fun to talk about this. It's a really important topic and love the colors that steal and love what you're doing for the environment.
Sandy Flint |00:35:57| Thanks, Tom. Yeah, great chatting with you today.