Everyone in Jackson Hole knows the secret to dressing for playing outside in mountain weather is layers.
But when Karissa Akin shopped for her young daughter, Everleigh Akin, she couldn’t find the type of clothing needed for a Jackson lifestyle. The clothing wasn’t durable. The only base layers she could find were made of cheap material that deteriorated quickly and stained easily.
“Fast fashion has not only invaded our closets, but also our children’s closets,” Akin said. “We wanted to create something better.”
The “we” is Akin, her sister Kailey Gieck and their mother, Barb Tuthill. And the “something better” is Iksplor, a line of merino wool kids clothing.
Akin thought of the company in January. It will launch its first line, which consists of a neck warmer, hat and base layer shirts and pants, in early 2019.
The trio learned the textile business from scratch.
Akin, a photographer and videographer, moved to Jackson seven years ago and started Apres Visuals. Her sister, a graphic designer, moved out shortly after and started Apres Ink. Their parents also relocated to Jackson after they retired from running a veterinary hospital.
The mother-daughter team had been looking for an excuse to work together, and, despite their inexperience in textiles, they were confident they had an idea parents would embrace.
They explored different fabrics and settled on wool. Wool was the most sustainable, breathable and durable, Gieck said. They also read studies that touted the benefits of wool for children, including helping them settle for sleep and soothing skin problems like eczema.
They named the company Iksplor as a way to remind families to get outside together.
Akin and Geick grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they loved to recreate outside together. They want their company to promote getting kids playing outside, Gieck said.
The clothing line is meant to transition seamlessly from naptime to outdoor play and can be used by families everywhere.
“We wanted to create something that was not just for the mountain lifestyle,” Akin said. “We want parents to purchase essentials and not worry about 20 different layers. We wanted to create essential layers people can travel with.
“We wanted to create the one high-quality thing that [parents] know is going to last, and they will be able to pass on,” Akin said. “It just seemed everything was destined for the landfill.”
The company plans to sell its first pieces in early 2019. The pieces will come in six gender-neutral colors that can be mixed and matched and are designed to fit kids 6 months old to 6 years old.
They’ve worked with an experienced manufacturer and gone through three rounds of prototypes they tested on Everleigh.
They also went through Silicon Couloir’s coaching and received the first Bob Arndt Community Care Taker award in August during Pitch Day, an annual event at which startups present their business to judges, potential investors and a general audience.
Akin is aware of how quickly children grow, so they also designed the apparel with flat-locked stitches, which allow pants and sleeves to roll comfortably so parents can buy pieces that little ones can grow into.
While the company self-funded the first run, it likely will launch a crowdfunding campaign before Christmas. Prices haven’t yet been set, but the clothing will be higher end, the sisters said.
Merino wool is costly, and they plan to manufacture in the United States, which will be more expensive. But the high quality of the pieces means they will last.
They are already planning to expand the collection and are designing a wool swaddle. Customers will be able to buy the pieces at Iksplor.com.