Friday, April 5, 2013

For a little over a century, Pendleton has been weaving blankets depicting meaningful stories, vibrant color and a piece of American history linked back to the Native American Indian.

Pendleton’s first customers in the early 1900’s were nearby Native American tribes working closely in collaboration on designs, colorations and insights on storytelling through symbols that linger in the product today. Staying true to their roots, Pendleton has managed to maintain all woolen production at their original mill in Washougal, WA.

The heritage of the mill reminds me of those I have come across in Italy and France in that the employees of the mills have often times worked there across generations as their grandparents and parents once did.

I love the symbolism of the blanket. It was once worn to stay warm and for protection from the elements. It was also an important part of the culture used in ceremonial events as the symbols depicted meaning and ritual to those using the blanket. In the early 1900’s, they were also a significant part of trading, used as currency as they were so highly valued.

I remember when I first became aware of Pendleton. I’ve been mixing high fashion with thrifted items for as long as I can remember. Of course, you never know what you will find when thrifting, anything from Dior to Pendleton. I came across a Pendleton wool jacket while thrifting when I was about 15, and my Mom said, you better buy that. It looks great on you and it’s Pendleton which means it’s a wool full of tradition.

I recently had the chance to go to the design offices in Portland, OR. Below you can see a few shots of what I can show you from the trip. Of course, in design we are always working about 18 months in advance of when product is in the store, so there are some things that have to remain a secret until later.

What struck me is that the team weaves sample fabrics in their design office. They choose yarns from the vast array of colors developed at the mill, and have them woven on the looms you will see in the photos below. After they find a pattern they like for color and scale, they will send the sample over to their mill in Washougal to make the production runs. Their are very few companies these days with looms in house.

I also got to see their concept rooms of future seasons for Men’s, Women’s and home.

Being that heritage is so important to Pendleton, they are constantly referencing themselves, looking back through their vast archives for inspiration. Some of the swatches you will see below on the concept boards are almost a century old!

Thanks to the Pendleton team!!

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One Response to Pendleton Wool, Behind the Scenes

  1. Laura

    Very cool to see this – Thank you ! I collect Pendleton blankets and would absolutely love to see a black & white Native American pattern with just a hint of Periwinkle blue…..