“It’s like a yeti,” said Dustin English, co-owner of Voormi, when I asked him what voormi stands for. More so, “it’s a group of creatures that are able to endure the elements and use their natural environment to protect themselves,” he explained.
In this case, the element that Voormi utilizes is wool. Based in southwest Colorado, Voormi is technical textile company that specializes in wool designs and small-batch production.
Founded in Pagosa Springs, Dustin and his father Dan, launched the family-owned company in 2010. For the 2014-2015 season, they’ll be introducing a full product line and one of the first-ever waterproof breathable wool outerwear designs in the market.
“We want to build high-performance garments from natural resources such as wool, and build them to last for years,” Dustin said. “And, we want to push the boundaries of wool from sock and underwear outward and into new stages.”
In 2013, after the company spent three years in research and development, Voormi released its debut limited edition “high-e hoodie,” a mid-weight/mid-layer piece, along with base layers.
The inspiration for their designs, and for the company itself, spawned from Dustin’s time in the mountains. Raised in Boulder, Colorado, Dustin graduated from high school and moved to Anchorage for six years, where he attended college and started mountain guiding.
For the past four years, he’s been a seasonal Alaskan—guiding at a mountaineering school from April through July—juggling guiding gigs in the Antarctic, and ski patrolling in Pagosa Springs. All of these experiences have been incredible opportunities to test prototypes for the company.
One hundred percent produced in the U.S., Voormi is one of the only companies that sources its wool, Rocky Mountain Highcountry Merino, exclusively from the Rocky Mountain region.
Wool that’s grown in higher elevation regions, often above treeline, has natural unmatched attributes.
“The higher temperature swing—sometimes 20 to 30 degrees—introduces sulfur into the fiber, and the fiber is more waffle-like. That higher crimp makes the fiber a bit stronger and gives it more loft, so it can trap more air, which can be made into a warmer fiber,” Dustin said.
As part of product development, they’ve hired on a 40-year textile-design veteran, partnered with the America Sheep Industry Association to swap beta, and are committed to collecting merino from a vast area, spanning from Colorado and northern New Mexico to Montana and Wyoming.
“It’s very similar to a crop of anything. If you put all of your eggs in one basket and that crop gets a disease, it can really wipe out the integrity of that product,” Dustin said. “We choose the cream of the crop and pick from multiple growing regions.”
At the moment, the company operates out of an old log cabin, next to the highway at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. But, they’re upgrading into a new space—a 21st century office and showroom in Pagosa Springs, where they can have a row of sewing machines and produce rapid prototypes on-the-fly.
“We’re like a microbrew of apparel. We might be tinkering on a design and it might come out skunky, so we might kill it or blow it out from there,” Dustin said. “We want a facility from our office where we can work out our craft and products before we go into the main line.”