Artisan Quality.

by David Billstrom


With lean manufacturing and the discipline of making one product at a time, the most valuable part of the Kitsbow factory isn’t the $1.5 million in sewing machines and equipment we’ve installed in Old Fort, NC.

Our most precious assets are the skilled artisans that create our premium products for customers, one at a time.

The machines are in service to the humans, not the other way around.

One glance at our production floor during a tour (come see us in Old Fort to see the magic unfold) tells the story: roughly 6 machines for each craftsperson. This is not a truck fleet; we’re not looking to maximize the use of machines.

Instead, each Maker uses each machine in a discreet step in the process of creating a piece of art that is functionally perfect and lasts for years.

This is one of the reasons why every piece we make in Old Fort, NC is accompanied by a card initialed by each of the Makers, Cutters, and Operators that helped create that particular garment.

Maker's Card for every product

They’re proud of their work, and our customers want to know the people that made their gear.

The lean manufacturing method with one-piece flow requires that improvements in efficiency, durability, capacity, and design always comes from the craftsperson doing the actual work. It is never “top-down”. Our leadership team doesn’t come up with the great ideas, our Makers do.

Which means that our artisans, our workforce, our community in Old Fort is driving the change in our manufacturing during every shift, every day. They’re the experts, and they’re leading us.

They’re also challenging themselves by making different products on nearly every shift, adding new products every few weeks, and improving how we make products constantly.

This is not a traditional manufacturing stance, where economies of scale supposedly arise from doing the same thing, exactly the same way, over and over. Treating people like machines, intent on eventually replacing the humans with machines.

At Kitsbow, change is constant and continual on our production floor, driven by curiosity and quiet pride -- making this profession constantly evolving and stimulating the mind. We consider this a basic human need, even a right.

Reinforcing this practice, we employ trainers that work on the floor every day, side by side with our artisans, asking questions, helping and providing guidance on best practices.

We also have people dedicated to keeping the production area spotless, with gleaming wood floors restored from a previous era. Every work space is illuminated by multiple LED light fixtures. Air conditioning with electronic virus filtering keeps the environment cool, despite the hot Southern summer weather.

Food service in the Old Fort Ride House is subsidized for our team members, and free cold drinks and hot beverages. These people give us their best, and we're giving them our best.

It’s all Connected
We hope that you can see the connection between our local community and the way we create sustainable products with lean manufacturing. And that our products are connected to the individual customers, for their specific needs for functional and style apparel in the outdoors.

All of which is connected to the beautiful place where we live and work here in Old Fort, which we want to protect and preserve for the use of generations to come. Which is part of the beautiful planet which needs our stewardship and care.

All of which is only possible when there are good jobs with a living wage and good benefits.

It’s all connected. To you.


Join Our Cause

Get connected to our journey: Sign up for email here. Buy a product or two here

Visit us in North Carolina at the Old Fort Ride House for a factory tour and to see the magic for yourself. Ride our trails, hike the ridges, and fish in the streams of the Other Pisgah. Meet our community

Use the power of your purchasing to employ Americans crafting premium quality products that last for years, sustain the earth, and employ awesome people. 

And we’re always looking for more talent and artisans. Send your friends, family, and best promising candidates to join our team here.

Help us change an industry, build a community, and save the world.