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How a Father's Beloved Jacket Launched a Clothing Brand

After an entrepreneur lost his dad's favorite jacket, he decided to do something about it: open up a coat company.
How a Father's Beloved Jacket Launched a Clothing Brand
Image credit: Courtesy of Alex Orr
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When my father was in his late teens, working as a ski-lift operator in Switzerland, he met a man named Andreas Geissberger. Andreas had skied for the Swiss team and led climbs in the Alps and the Himalayas. He’d lived an amazing life. And he had this canvas climbing jacket that he’d worn everywhere.

Related: Why Travel Should Be a Top Priority for Every Entrepreneur

One day, my dad said, “I really like your jacket.” And Andreas, being the true mountain man that he was, just gave it to him. For the next 30 years, my father wore that jacket everywhere -- he skied in it, rode along the Colorado River on a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, sailed the south coast of Britain, climbed mountains. Whether in the city or the wilderness, he wore it.

My father eventually settled down and took a finance job. And since he didn’t have much use for the jacket anymore, it went to its next owners: my brother and me. I put it on and instantly fell in love with it. It was faded, molded to those who’d worn it and marked by history. Every scuff, mark and patch told a story. It was a blank canvas, and my father and Andreas had painted it with their lives. Now I could do the same.

Related: 5 Crucial Steps for Launching a Business This Year

And I did. Briefly. Then one night in 2013, I put the jacket down under a table in a crowded pub. When I came back at the end of the night, it was gone. It was just such a terrible moment, to lose something that special in the stupidest possible way. I was overwhelmed with loss and guilt. I went home, poured my father a gin and tonic, and said, “Dad, we have to talk.” I think the gin helped soften the blow.

I thought about that jacket my whole first year of university. At the end of the year I thought, This is the time. I felt like I owed something to my dad and to Andreas, and I wanted to give people the chance to share what we had with this special thing.

So I started my company, JAGO, and after 18 months of trial and error, I developed a jacket just like my father’s: timeless, indestructible and made of Ventile -- the heavyweight technical canvas, used to outfit Sir Edmund Hillary and generations of fighter pilots. I had my sister design a logo inspired by Andreas. And in our first year, we sold almost $100,000 worth of jackets, including two to Bear Grylls.

Related: 21 Ways to Get Inspired (Infographic)

Best of all, I gave one to my dad, and last summer I went to Switzerland and gave another to Andreas. It meant a lot to him. He said it was validation of the way he lived his life: that if you make these nice, small gestures to people, then nice, small gestures might come back to you, somewhere down the line.

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