Celebrating 40 years of business in 2017, Stormtech (asi/89864) has developed a reputation for producing high-end outerwear and performance apparel. Its name recognition is so great that a few years ago, Russell Crowe set up a meeting with the Vancouver-based business when he was in town shooting Man of Steel. Crowe wanted to outfit his Australian rugby team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, in Stormtech gear to help bump up its image, says Blake Annable, Stormtech’s founder.
Blake Annable, founder of Stormtech (asi/89864) in Vancouver
Four decades ago, when Annable launched what was then known as Promark, selling imported shin guards and sports bags out of a classic Ford van, he had no inkling that the small sporting good business would eventually grow into a global brand, with the cachet to snag Academy Award-winning actors, CNN reporters and other notable figures as clients. “I had no idea where it was going when the business started,” Annable says. “We didn’t even imagine that we would be in the promotional product industry. I thought we’d stay in sporting goods, selling technical sportswear and accessories.”
In an effort to offer more sophistication and technicality within their product lineup, Annable and his design team developed the first Promark branded jacket they called “Storm-Tech.” This fleece liner jacket could be zipped into a waterproof breathable shell, and was based on a hot item in the ski industry at the time. “We wanted to produce it for companies looking for a more premium jacket,” says Annable. “The make and fit were incredibly complicated and we worked very hard to get it right.”
In the mid-1990s, Stormtech officially brought its growing menu of apparel offerings to the U.S. market, and, in 2006, opened a European showroom in London, England. Today, over 140 employees are based in the Vancouver head office, Markham office, U.S. sales offices and Europe, and the company offers more than 600 styles of outerwear and accessories across a wide range of categories, with a total SKU base of 22,000. Its products are distributed in more than 50 countries.
“I’ve always had the focus to have our products tested in extreme environments by athletes, adventurists and, of course, corporate end-users,” Annable says. “Showing that we put an enormous effort into design excellence and that we produce high-quality products that can be worn and tested on polar expeditions speaks volumes to the brand. There’s also a nostalgia for specialty brands and family-owned businesses, and we receive a lot of positive feedback around that.”
But through all the growth and diversification, the team hasn’t forgotten about what really matters: the human element. Stormtech supports many nonprofits and charitable events, most recently a Vancouver-based alternative school for at-risk youth that prepared 15 kids to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Another is The Walking School Bus, which raises funds for school infrastructure and education programs in Uganda; representatives from Stormtech visited the African nation this past summer and brought along soccer uniforms as gifts for the children.
The supplier hasn’t finalized all its plans for its 40th anniversary next year, but Annable says they’ll definitely be giving away something special to mark the occasion at 2017’s major industry tradeshows. “It’s an important milestone to reflect back on what we’ve accomplished and celebrate with those who have been a part of the journey,” he says.