Bill Amos is a passionate climber. But that wasn’t the only reason he decided to launch NW Alpine – an outdoor clothing company committed to manufacturing all of its products in the U.S.
Holding a degree in Sociology and a Masters in teaching, Bill enjoys the study of economics. In 2008, when the economy turned south, Bill was driven to research and understand what had happened, and to uncover a solution.
“I came to the conclusion that the only way that the economy could have a real recovery is by bringing manufacturing back to the States,” Bill said. “We’ve been suffering under the illusion that we could have an economy based on selling financial products, buying stuff from China, and exchanging household purchases—but to really create wealth and value you have to make things.
Bill concluded that he would need to start a manufacturing business in order to help improve the economy. He loved climbing, so he decided to start a climbing apparel business in Portland.
To get started, he reached out to various freelance designers and manufacturers to learn more about apparel and apparel design, as well as business in general and the manufacturing process, all of which he knew nothing about.
“I decided I would start by making 100 pairs of climbing pants, and if I couldn’t sell them, I’d just have climbing pants for the rest of my life,” Bill said.
At the time, established climbing brands were shifting toward lifestyle products. Unimpressed, Bill committed to creating streamlined, durable apparel that is 100 percent intended for climbing.
“I wanted clothes that were stripped down aesthetically that you could actually use for climbing, not just for walking your dog—for people who are actually climbing and not just want to look like they’re climbing,” Bill said.
After a website launch, a post on Cascade Climbers—a local forum for climbers—and a handful of good reviews on some popular blogs, NW Alpine sales started to take off. The company moved from Bill’s apartment—with a couple of bins filled with products—to a 3,000-square-foot warehouse.
The USA made outdoor clothing line is primarily designed for winter mountaineering and alpine ascents, but also includes a few summer favorites, like the tech tee and merino tech tee, and jackets that could be used for a variety of outdoor pursuits, including the ultralight Simplicity Jacket and the Insulated Belay Jacket.
Since the company’s launch in 2010, adventurers and athletes have worn NW Alpine on all seven continents, and for first ascents in Alaska and Pakistan.