Ortovox stands for innovation and safety in the mountains
A pioneer in safety equipment and a specialist in innovative merino wool apparel: Brand Ortovox has monopolised the outdoor market for over 35 years. What standards does the company set for itself and its products? A Portrait. Continue reading
Ortovox stands for innovation and safety in the mountains
It ail started with an avalanche beacon. In 1980 Gerald Kampel and Jürgen Wegner developed the twin frequency Ortovox F2 device, which for the first time could send two frequencies out simultaneously. This was the beginning of the Munich company's success story. ORTOVOX is derived from: ORTO (a derivative of "places") and VOX (Latin for "voice").
Other safety equipment such as a shovel, and one of the first deep snow backpacks with a safety compartment were to follow. As early as 1988 Ortovox climbed the outdoor market with its ski- touring clothes made of pure felted new wool. Since then, the clothing distribution has contributed to the company's continual growth. Merino wool fibre has been a part of Ortovox clothing since as early as 1995 with avalanche safety equipment remaining an important priority, as it has over the past 35 years.
Ortovox: From safety equipment to Merino
One question pops to mind when considering Ortovox history: How did they get from technical safety equipment to wool? Thomas Moe, product developer for Ortovox clothing explains: "Textile also has to do with safety. Our color selection especially aims at being visible on the mountain." For these Merino experts, wool is obviously the first choice of fabric. Wool is functional and creates an optimum body climate. Ortovox now offer a complete merino wool clothing system - from underwear, base layers to merino fleece jackets, softshells and even outer layer hardshells. In almost every Ortovox garment there is at least a small merino wool component - similar to the chilli spice in a soup: "Chilli soup won't just have chilli as an ingredient - just a little goes a long way to make the recipe work" says Thomas.
Especially when it comes to protection - a further safety aspect of clothing - it is often better to work additionally with synthetic materials. The motto in apparel is therefore: a combo of high-tech and natural fibres. This distinguishes Ortovox clothing from other Merino brands: Innovative wool synthetic fibre blends such as Nuyarn combined with vibrant colors and unusual designs, that Thomas Moe describes adaptly as "funky".
Even with warm insulation, the Bavarian company uses wool in its jackets and vests instead of down or synthetic alternatives, Ortovox uses the innovative Swisswool as a filling.
Wool: Not just for winter
An innovative wool fibre blend isn't just restricted to ski touring clothing in winter. Ortovox extended its range, for example in summer 2016 specifically for alpine climbers, high alpine touring and mountain trekking and hiking. Also a new line of backpacks that combine well with this line also hit the market - naturally at Bergzeit as well!
Mountain safety: equipment and trademark
The company sees its core values continuing in safety and would like to continue as pioneers in the industry. CEO Christian Schneidermeier puts it: "Ortovox protects, that is our mission, we want to offer the most sophisticated protection and comfort systems on the mountain. Innovation, functionality and wool play an important role and we will not forget our alpine origin".
Ortovox takes its role seriously and it shows by the fact that the manufacturer intends to offer its customers a complete service. This includes, in addition to equipment and the correct use of it, pa complete assurance of a safe and successful ski tour. "We want to be a trademark," explains marketing director Hendrik Reschke. Therefore, his team has invested much time and effort in launching all-round safety issues that the Ortovox Safety Academy provide in cooperation with online mountain schools and live courses in basic knowledge on the mountain. A free mountain touring map complements the full range of ski touring tips, avalanche report, inclinometer, offline maps and more.
Sustainably made ...
Aside from the safety of its customers on the mountain, Ortovox is also active in the social and environmental aspects of the manufacturing of its products. One important step was joining the Fair Wear Foundation in July 2015. An interview with Katrin Bauer, the coordinator for both Ortovox andDeuter for implementation of the Fair Wear guidelines, shows how important this issue is within the company and its employees. "Even though it's not always easy with all the complexity of relationships between supplier, little by little whatever issues come forth are slowly worked on. With Fair Wear one has an opportunity to influence the overall working conditions for suppliers," explains Karin. "With merino wool, there is no general standard. However, even here we can use our influence and strive to go deeper into our supply chain."
Where is Ortovox produced? Part of the textiles are produced in Europe such as fleece and softshell jackets. Much of the sewn products such as backpacks, hardshells and pants are made in Vietnam - according to Katrin Bauer "a top country for outdoor products with relatively high labor standards, stringent legislation and a large know-how in manufacturing of complex textile products.The completeness of manufacturing facilities that are found in Asia are simply not available in Europe" says the textile expert. "There are simply not enough heavy fabric sewers and similar professionals in Europe.”
Made in Europe
Swisswool is however a completely different story. The production chain, from the beginning of the wool's history to the finished garment is made in Europe. Ortovox's merino wool comes largely from Tasmanian farms in which tight contact is maintained. A high emphasis is placed on the ethical recruitment of farmers.
Sustainability at Ortovox isn't only about the origin of the materials and production. Merino as a trend: "It pleases us to be part of a trend, but trends aren't our priority, the products are. We will continue to strive on our core competence:... safety in the mountains," says CEO Mr Schneidermeier. "Sustainable business is not always easy and not always financially favourable, but I am convinced that it is the only way to remain successful in the long term. Not only in the outdoor industry."
True to its roots
Certainly the most important choice of direction in recent years was the decision to not only make products exclusively from 100 percent wool. "With the blend of wool and non-wool fibres we have been able to optimize not just the first layer of clothing, but also offer a matching second and third compatible layer, which has expanded our wool competence immensely” mentions Schneidermeier."In the future we are planning to further strengthen the safety aspects of hardware equipment. " Ortovox is staying true to its roots!