Back in 2011, two proud sons of the north started a small men’s outfitter in their hometown of Minneapolis. Brothers Eric and Andrew Dayton called their shop Askov Finlayson after the two small northern towns that share an interstate exit just outside the Superior National Forest. Their goal was to celebrate the north by equipping Minnesota’s hardy outdoor adventurers with the finest apparel and gear being made in the region. Their collection of sustainably made, heritage-quality products from Midwestern makers began drawing attention. In 2014, Esquire named Askov Finlayson one of the “Best Men’s Stores in America.” In 2015, GQ shortlisted it among “The 10 Best Menswear Stores in America.”
Due to popular demand, Askov Finlayson began expanding its collection with a private label collection of beanies, pants, and other apparel. When these private-label items proved to be the store’s bestsellers, Askov Finlayson went all in. After shutting down for several months, the brand re-emerged with a new identity as a designer and retailer of high-quality garments that celebrate northern culture by helping preserve its climate.
Just two years shy of a decade in business, Askov Finlayson has made an industry breakthrough: the first climate-positive parka. Sleek, well-fitting, and functional, the Winter Parka is packed with innovative features like a scuba hood, zipperless handwarmer pocket, recessed wind-blocking sleeve gaiters, and the cell/Wi-Fi signal-blocking Faraday pocket. But the real breakthrough is the revolutionary “featherless insulation technology.” Produced in collaboration with 3M, the Winter Parka boasts a 100% recyclable interior made from synthetic yarns that mimic the pillowy effect of real down, while providing twice the warmth, retaining loft even when wet, and being both allergen-free and machine washable. Along with the insulation, the parka’s shell and lining are also 100% recyclable.
In keeping with the company’s values, Askov Finlayson matches the manufacturing cost of the Winter Parka with an equal investment in climate solutions, while continuing to donate 110% of the company’s “climate cost” (calculated by incorporating everything from manufacturing through energy used in stores) to non-profit organizations on the vanguard of climate change solutions.
In addition to its sustainable pedigree and unimpeachable sturdiness against the cold, this revolutionary parka is amazingly affordable. Where comparable parkas from premium competitors sell for $1,000 or more, the Askov Finlayson Winter Parka is priced at just $495. What’s more, it’s guaranteed for the entire first winter, and warrantied for life. It’s almost like they’re daring us to not buy one.
We spoke with Askov Finlayson marketing vice president Devin O’Brien to get more background on this plucky homegrown brand that is setting a demanding pace for its corporate competitors.
The Manual: Tell us a little about the background of Askov Finlayson — how the company started, its vision, how far it’s come today.
Devin O’Brien: Askov Finlayson was originally founded to celebrate the North, with a specific focus on our cold winters. As our business grew, it became clear that climate change was a real threat to the winter traditions we love. We can’t imagine the North without the cold winters. Celebrating the North means protecting it, too. So we created a climate-positive company to do just that. We hold ourselves accountable for our carbon footprint and Give 110% to support leading-edge solutions to the climate crisis each year.
TM: Talk about the hashtag you use: #keepthenorthcold. What does that mean, and how has it helped shape the company?
DO: #keepthenorthcold is our mission, but it’s also become a movement for climate action among our customers and friends. Our mission to Keep The North Cold guides every decision we make as a business from product to marketing. We constantly ask ourselves, “Is this mission-aligned?” It’s the kind of thing that led us to make big shifts, like our Give 110% business model of climate accountability and small changes like plastic-free shipping to all our customers.
TM: What’s next on the horizon for Askov Finlayson?
DO: We are extremely proud of The Winter Parka which leads the apparel industry in sustainability and performance. Additionally, we are among the first outerwear brands to pursue a direct-to-consumer pricing model to deliver an expedition quality parka at a fraction of the price. Right now, we are focused on telling that story and communicating what it means to be a climate-positive business. If we can do those things successfully we hope to earn the opportunity to make more products that help our customers get outside and enjoy winter and have fun in the snow.