I'll be honest: I built Alpine Parrot because I wanted outdoor apparel for myself. For years I was so frustrated - despite my love for adventure, I couldn't find comfortable clothes that properly protected my bigger body. Learning to sew was the first step on my journey; learning to make my own patterns and work in a factory gave me the confidence and understanding I needed to expect more from the apparel industry and create the clothes I've always wanted.
I left my job in the tech industry in February 2020. I was a software engineering manager on a product development team, using rapid prototyping to quickly intertwine customer feedback with feature development. That experience, combined with my background in robotics and mechanical engineering, made the creation of the Ponderosa Pants relatively easy. (Honestly, the hardest part has been sourcing materials and figuring out how to produce the pants at scale!)
And this whole time, I thought I was making a pants company. But then I started doing user feedback with a team of more than 30 fit testers. Y'all - I had no idea how people would respond to these pants that I made for myself!
A quick note about the fit testers: they're a self-selecting group of women and non-binary folks who wear women's sizes 14 and up. They live in the Bay Area, and the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest regions of the country. They are the inspiration for the Mountain and River fit styles, and they did *not* hold back on feedback. You can read more about some of their feedback here and here.
Early in my user research, I discovered the true purpose of Alpine Parrot. I was going on a hike with one fit tester, who wore an early prototype of the Ponderosa Pants. We were instant friends, and happily chatted along a trail in the Rancho San Antonio Preserve. Every few steps, I'd ask, "how are the pants?" She told me she had trouble saying anything negative beyond the things I already knew needed to be fixed for the next iteration.
After the hike, she sent me a text message: “It occurred to me that I completely forgot about the pants the entire hike. I think that says everything about those pants. Thinking back to my other hikes, I realize there’s always a point where I’m thinking ‘oh this chafing is going to be a mess to heal up later.’”
For many of the fit testers, it was a similar story. "Oh my goodness, they actually fit me!" "I get it! I understand why people buy hiking pants!" "This fabric is AMAZING!" For the first time, they saw and felt the possibilities - the opportunity to experience the world like the people they saw in magazines.
This isn't just a pants company. This is an opportunities for joy company. The pants are but a vehicle for joy, and that gives Alpine Parrot so much more meaning than I ever expected.
Of course, I would be remiss to point out that there were several fit testers who didn't get the Cinderella experience. The largest size didn't fit. The pants were too long or too short. The colors didn't fit in their wardrobe, or the style didn't appeal to them. I'm really sorry I couldn't make everyone happy with the first run. But I was able to give them the confidence that I'd create what they needed as soon as I could. Their trust means everything to me, even if proving my trustworthiness will take longer than I'd like.
The reality of rapid prototyping and product development is that it's impossible to make everyone happy on the first go. But at the core ethos of this process is recognizing the customer's humanity - we treat everyone with the respect we all deserve, and don't make promises we can't keep. Inseam variations are coming, but I can't tell you when. More sizes are coming - hopefully before the end of the year. I still think we can get to Sky Black. The Ponderosa Pants will only be the first style in what I expect to be a full line of clothing spanning multiple garment types, from pants to shorts to flannel shirts that don't gape in the chest.
We're changing the world, y'all. Your support means so much to me, and I'm so excited to build this company with you. 💖