Wednesday, November 15, 2023

SKWALA - A Couple Early Mornings in the Shop

Anyone who's followed The Fiberglass Manifesto over the years knows, I like watching new brands emerge and when I started hearing about something new cooking in out west and who all was involved, I figured that Skwala was going to be a company to watch.  I haven't been wrong on that assessment and they seem to be just getting started.  Skwala purposely started with fine-tuned initial offerings and haven't weighed themselves down with "lifestyle" pieces.  They are focused on creating the most technically advanced fly fishing gear to perform in nearly every situation an angler would find themselves in.

Over the last year and a half or so, I've worn and fished in a few of the Skwala pieces, spent time on Beaver Island this past summer and stayed in the spare bedroom on this trip with their CMO, Rich Hohne, and been on phone calls, emails, and spent an early morning in the shop with their owner and CEO, Kevin Sloan.  It's been an immersive education on the why and how some of the very best gear and apparel is coming out of this small (but quickly growing) Bozeman shop.

On this trip, I spent two early mornings at the Skwala headquarters that's located just north of town.  Rich gave me a tour of the joint which started in a room dubbed the "Skwala Lounge", walking into an open room with cubicles and a large design table workspace, a small warehouse in the back, and then the freshly finished Skwala showroom, which is bright white lit with all their current (and future) offerings on racks and tables.  This space has already proven to be perfect for hosting locals for evening get-togethers too and I would expect to hear about more of that in the future.  It's a cool space with cool people working there.  Fun things are bound to happen.

The second morning in the shop was with Kevin Sloan.  We met early since he was headed to the Missouri River for some gear testing and fly fishing that day and I had a few appointments to make before heading to Missoula.  We sat in the Skwala Lounge for over an hour and he told me his story which started years ago with Orvis in product development, followed by being with Sitka during the huge growth years, and the idea for Skwala born in his head soon after. 

We talked fabrics, sourcing, the industry as a whole, how Skwala is doing it differently, and what the future looks like.  It was a lot and I really appreciate Kevin's time.  He has a vision for Skwala and it'll be interesting to watch this brand continue to grow in the coming years. 

As a side note, a lot of what we talked about was discussed on this recent Wet Fly Swing podcast.  Give it a listen.  It's worth it if you're interested in the origin story of Skwala.

One of the highlights of the time at Skwala was being walked through the current lineup and then going piece by piece with the five new additions for 2024.  There are a lot of good ideas and premium fabrics being incorporated into these pieces. 

I am especially excited about the new Backeddy collection.  I expect to see everyone in the new vest and jacket.  An early heads up that the final colorways are "Earth" and "Oak" as the dark blue pictured above didn't make the cut.

Here's the high points of what's coming...

BACKEDDY SOFTSHELL VEST - 4-way stretch, windproof, and great hand feel, and fit.
BACKEDDY SOFTSHELL JACKET - Same as above, breathable, and DWR coated. 
BACKEDDY WADER - Falls between the Carbon and RS waders and the side dump pockets are a very cool and useful idea.  I'm looking forward to getting into a pair of these. 
CARBON PANT - 3-layer and 4-way stretch waterproof pant with ingenious built-in waist belt.
RS OUTPOST JACKET - Think hard shell puffy jacket, waterproof, and pass through pockets to work with RS Waders.  The ultimate in warmth and staying dry.

Look for these additions to the Skwala line-up in early 2024 at your local dealer and online.

One of the things that I've really liked about Skwala is the time that they have taken in explaining their wader and apparel offerings in the 'How We Built This' series of videos that can be found on their YouTube channel.  This got Rich and I thinking that it would be fun to center a series of giveaways on The Fiberglass Manifesto on these videos.  Look for that announcement soon as we've mapped out six giveaways over the next year, starting with one this week.  It'll be fun getting some more of their gear into the hands of the T.F.M. readership too.

Special thanks to the team at Skwala for the time spent together at the office and the continued support of The Fiberglass Manifesto and its readership.  It is very much appreciated.

Jump over to the Skwala website and check everything out.  Follow along by subscribing to their email news and follow along on their social media on Facebook and Instagram.

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