Columbia Sportswear Company produces and distributes outerwear and sportswear. It was established in 1938 by Paul Lamfrom, father of the current chairperson Gert Boyle. From its headquarters in Oregon, Columbia manufactures several lines in categories such as footwear, headgear and skiwear.
Woody Blackford is the VP of Design and Innovation at Columbia. Woody contributes to the success of the Columbia brand via R&D management, design leadership and internally generated innovation. Woody also works on the development of numerous Columbia sub-sections, such as apparel, accessories and equipment.
4 questions with Woody...
1. What is the biggest upcoming trend you see in your industry?
There is renewed interest in the outdoors from a lifestyle perspective. This is a counter-reaction to being connected and on the Internet. It's really nice to disconnect, really nice to be a human outside. People are gaining more appreciation for it, and so they are thinking about products in a more versatile way.
What innovation rituals do you have?
You can't innovate from a desk. You have to be out a lot, listening to the way people wish Columbia was better and then coming up with solutions. You need to constantly be interacting with the field, and then you can figure out the why in the lab.
What role to trends play at Columbia?
We're always looking at the landscape of the market, we have to stay abreast of it. We're in clothing and if products don't align with what people want, it won't sell. For instance, there's now an interest in athleisure...this is a big trend and a big shift for the industry.
What sets Columbia apart from its competitors?
I think it's our authenticity. We're an old company, we've been around a long time. But we have a humble culture. Columbia isn't big on hyping things and going for the quick growth trajectory. We have a long-term, genuine approach to building an outdoor brand in a democratic way. It's for all people, not just for the elite user.