Made in the USA...Just in time.

by Mary Bardell October 23, 2018

Made in the USA… Just in time.

The naysayers were loud and many, and said it could not be done.

Zander Nosler, Kitsbow Founder, had a vision for making apparel in a new way. The industry has long carried a dirty reputation of waste, poor quality and making customers wait a very long time for popular products to re-stock.  

For years, companies have had to take a gamble, order small quantities to make sure they all sold -- or ordered large quantities and pray that they did. The not-so-secret consequence is that most apparel companies scrap as much as 30% of their finished goods because they can’t guess in advance what specific products will actually sell. This waste was abhorrent for Zander.

And he didn’t much like the alternative of small batch manufacturing, which meant that every time customers loved the apparel, it would quickly sell out and the industry standard of 6-12 month lead times would mean customers would have to wait. And wait. And wait.

Years later, Zander’s vision for making apparel differently has become reality at Kitsbow. We currently make 50% of our products in the USA. Most are made in small quantities every day. The styles we make ourselves are continually re-stocking our inventory, as customers buy them. In the worst case scenario, a customer only waits 2-3 weeks for their order. Many customers never even see the item out of stock, because we’re constantly making more...

The difference is profound: without a large inventory, Kitsbow didn’t have to make a large bet on each product. We can change and improve products, without waiting months let alone a season or two. We can add and change colors (sneak peek: the popular Radiator and Delta shirts will soon come in new colors… in the same year!). And above all, we haven’t sent any product to the landfill.

We’re not the only apparel manufacturer that can claim that, but we’re one of the few.

A bit of history

Zander Nosler learned the fundamentals of “lean” manufacturing at Stanford University, including a lengthy internship in Japan. That appreciation of manufacturing strategy influenced Zander and his partner Randy Hulett years later, when they designed an automatic machine to reinvent coffee. As with many entrepreneurial visionaries, they were quietly confident that they could change an industry. And then they actually did.

The resulting Clover is now ubiquitous in higher-end Starbucks stores. After the acquisition by Starbucks, Zander continued learning. He saw first-hand the issues of operating a supply chain for 10,000+ retail outlets, and how that influenced the business every day. As an executive, he also saw how difficult it was for those stores to absorb the new Clover technology and method. Humbled but also excited for what was possible. What next?

Zander founded Kitsbow after years of riding in subpar, baggy, moto-inspired mountain bike gear. He hoped to change mountain bike gear to provide superior comfort, unparalleled quality materials and ultimately stylish gear that could be used for multiple pursuits on and off the bike. And that the gear would last a very long time, despite rugged use.

And after his experience in Japan and with Clover and Starbucks, he knew that to succeed long term, the company would also have to make apparel in a new way. Without the long lead times, limited and slow evolution of product, the large order quantities, and the inevitable compromises with sub par materials.

Above all, he wanted to eliminate waste. Engineers hate inefficiency. Mountain bikers love the environment and the outdoors. A visionary entrepreneur, trained as an engineer, Zander’s vision was to make clothes efficiently and with minimum waste and harm to the environment.  This continues to be a foundation of the business strategy at Kitsbow.

Why Petaluma?

Kitsbow is based in Petaluma, California. This is our home base, and the location of our first Made in the USA manufacturing facility. Zander and his family live here, as do most of the leadership of the Company. Our Sherpas (aka “customer service people”) are based here. Curious as to why we’re here?

The Northbay and Sonoma County, have long been home to many innovators and inventors in the cycling and outdoor world. It is home to many pro riders (Levi Leipheimer, Team BMC), huge brands (Athleta, Camelbak, Marmot) and many niche brands such as Soulcraft, Sycip Bikes, Gordon Cycles, Salsa, Breezer Bikes, Marin Cycles, Inglis Cycles, E-Thirteen and many more. All of these industry participants, and their families, live in and around Petaluma.

They join the other residents of the area that love the quality of life, awesome food and vegetables, wine and craft beer, near-perfect year around weather and incredible riding in Trione-Annadel, Skyline, Kings Ridge, and so many more....

This also means that there is a plethora of great talent, a supportive culture, and a large knowledge pool of experienced people available to innovate and redefine not only how mountain bike apparel is manufactured, but all kinds of apparel.

As Kitsbow continues to grow every year, we are increasing the quality in our gear. We are moving more and more products into our own lean manufacturing capability. Ultimately we hope to influence an industry that is on the precipice of change.

What’s Next?

After years of steady growth, Kitsbow is now growing rapidly to meet the demands of a tribe of users that value quality and long-lasting wear. This means that Kitsbow is expanding: adding more and more products made in the USA. And adding more members to our team.

Want to know which of our products are made in the USA? Visit our store and look for the products that proudly carry this icon.

Want to join a team that is innovating every day, and riding together at least once a week? We work hard, play hard, invest in learning, and we’re constantly looking for talent as we grow. Check out current positions here.

And keep checking back. Because of Zander’s vision, both categories will continue to grow.

Mary Bardell
Mary Bardell


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Journal

Shrink and Pink...Never...
Shrink and Pink...Never...

by Mary Bardell December 04, 2018

Read More

in Stillwater, OK
in Stillwater, OK

by Mary Bardell November 30, 2018

36 Hours in Kitsbow is a short film series where regular riders tell their stories of how they rode near their home, for the joy of the ride, without spending a ton of money (or time) doing it. In other words, the bike adventure any of us can enjoy.

Read More

"This Scene is Exploding" Jeff Kendall-Weed in the American Heartland
"This Scene is Exploding" Jeff Kendall-Weed in the American Heartland

by Mary Bardell November 21, 2018

Word on the street is that the mountain bike scene in Arkansas is something pretty incredible. JKW wanted to check out the trails, and really wanted to meet the people behind this movement and who live it daily.

Read More


Be the first to know about new products (and when we offer mark-downs in the Last Chance Zone)