An adventurous life is built upon hundreds, if not thousands, of experiences. Some small, some big. Some bad, some amazing. With each mistake, we learn and grow. With each achievement, we become more confident, more capable, more audacious. We evolve, developing from a bedrock foundation, better prepared to take on greater challenges.
Brands are no different. They are created, nurtured, and, if successful, they blossom. Like Kulkea. First founded in 2009, Kulkea continues to evolve. Entering the new decade, the manufacturer of high-end boot bags and ski bags is now expanding into new markets.
"Kulkea has always been about outdoor adventures like skiing, biking, hiking, and travel," said founder David Abramowitz. "It's why we named Kulkea after the Finnish word meaning 'to go' or 'to travel."
"It lets the world know we're Finnish-inspired, while at the same time reflecting what all of these activities are about, which is experience, excitement, and enjoyment," said Abramowitz. "You could say we're at a brand extension point now, rather than a rebranding, because we've been planning for this since Day One."
Good gear allows outdoor enthusiasts to push their boundaries, and push past them. Kulkea's goal is to help them go as far as the sum of their natural abilities permit.
"Being able to use Kulkea products across a variety of activities allows the option to use it rain or shine, across the globe, regardless of the temperature or adventure," said Emily Dixon, Kulkea's financial operations analyst. "The variety of products allows the customer to avoid limitations in where they are going, when they are going, or how they get there."
Fernando Robert, Kulkea's head designer, agreed.
"In today's digital world, it's difficult to find time and motivation sometimes to connect with the outdoors," said Robert. "Sometimes getting the right gear for your trip can be what motivates you. It can provide the spark to get you out the door and exploring the world. I try hard to make sure Kulkea's product is clever, exciting, and beautifully designed so you just can't wait to go use it."
Brands, like relationships and sharks, need to keep moving forward to flourish. Stagnation is the bane of a good brand. At Kulkea, a dedicated team makes sure that never happens, concentrating on the bedrock traits of exacting product development and commitment to quality construction.
"Each Kulkea product has a journey and long design process behind it," said Dixon. "Over time, I've seen how much time, thought, and effort goes into each product.
"Dave and Fernando strive to improve and perfect each design months and seasons in advance, down to the last stitch, buckle, and zipper pull," said Dixon. "They always make an effort to gather opinions and feedback throughout the design process and my goal is to introduce customers to this so they have insight into what happens before the product reaches the shelves."
This September, Kulkea will introduce the Käydä travel backpack, incorporating the Finnish word that means "to visit."
"This sleek, high quality carry-on sized bag is the culmination of our expansion from ski to providing skiers, mountain bikers, world travelers and weekenders the perfect way to travel by train, plane or automobile," said Abramowitz. "We've used all of our experience to provide adventurers one smart, sophisticated high quality bag that does it all."
The Käydä backpack is just the start. Also this fall, Kulkea will offer a sneak peek at its upcoming OTRmost cycling line (short for "outermost").
"We asked our followers what they wanted to see from Kulkea next, and the response was overwhelmingly to bring our expertise into mountain biking," said Abramowitz. "They trust the Kulkea brand, and hopping on a bike is what skiers love to do in the offseason."
The evolving Kulkea product line reflects the brand's ongoing investment in all things outdoors. To accomplish that goal, Kulkea continues to focus on four hallmarks of brands that thrive – sustainability, social responsibility, innovation, and quality.
"The Kulkea brand represents experience designed, high-quality adventure outdoor products made by people who care," said Abramowitz. "The brand will evolve into new markets and change with times, but the core of what Kulkea is and represents will remain the same."
Adventure starts with an appreciation of Mother Earth, and actively taking steps to preserve her. Kulkea embraces that approach.
"At Kulkea, we honor the outdoors. To continue experiencing the thrill of adventure, we must protect this space that we share," said Alyssa Tang-Bortnyk, Kulkea's brand executive. "We look at our product as an extension of Planet Earth, so it's befitting that we continue to build sustainable practices into our brand."
In the same vein, successful brands treat the people who bring their product to market with respect and dignity.
"It is absolutely critical to us as a human beings and parents that our products are manufactured in humane conditions and that there is no forced or child labor," said Abramowitz. "I'm personally proud that our factory is one of the most progressive in Vietnam. From its beginning has followed a regular Monday-to-Friday work week and payroll direct deposit, which unfortunately isn't all that common in Asia."
When customers talked about Kulkea products, one of the adjectives used most often is "innovation," said Dixon.
"Our products are built on the foundation of being innovative: fixing issues that other brands were not and providing customers with designs they didn't even know they needed," she said. "Throughout the rebranding process and expansion into other markets, Kulkea will remain tied to its roots of innovative products to make sure we are not only delivering what the customers want and need, but going above and beyond their expectation."
Kulkea aspires "to be more than a 'fast-fashion' label," said Dixon. 'We would rather be a brand that customers are loyal too and can rely on for durable, ethically-produced, reliable products."
According to Abramowitz, "any brand can offer up a fancy warranty that creates an appearance of quality, but to create a reliable product that doesn't fail when most needed requires a different mindset."
"We work hard at Kulkea to be that trusted brand," he said. "It's why we go the distance to create a premium quality product that doesn't fail. It's why we heavily reinforce all stress points. It's why we work with one of the best and most progressive factories in Vietnam. It's why we carefully choose all the parts and fabrics in each product based upon the expected users and circumstances. That's the Kulkea mindset."
Check out our roots story: Strong Beginnings Are the Foundation to Always Move Forward