By Rachael Lovette
If you haven’t heard about Cascade Armory, it’s time you should. Cascade Armory (CA for short) is an up and coming brand known for its classic, yet durable gear to keep you cozy from the elements. With the outdoor enthusiast in mind, they have emerged as an outdoor and athleisure wear heavyweight in the Pacific Northwest, flourishing in keeping consumers cool from the peaks to the streets.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Diana Short, one-half of the creative dynamo team behind the Cascade Armory brand. With their distinct approach to and idiosyncratic inspirations, they have established a brand worthy of recognition. Read on for my interview.
Let's start by giving me a snapshot of you and the company. How’d you get started? Where are you located?
We are located in Bend, OR, our amazing hometown. We love it here and really connect with this area for both its beauty and offering of super fun outdoor sports. Cascade Armory was spawned from a failed business endeavor that Alex was working on with a friend. The idea of it was a great one but it just never came to fruition. I look at it as - some things are meant to be and some are not. When it ended up not working out, Alex came to me with the idea of Cascade Armory, and I was immediately sold on it. I know we both really wanted to do our own thing and I was excited to work with him on it. Originally, we thought about having a lot of different products that people who love the outdoors would use. We started with clothing and never strayed. Bend is such a cool place and is really supportive of local business. I feel like it gave us the kick start we needed as a new company and here we are today!
What were your main goals in the beginning? What are they now?
We had ideas about having a lot of different products, like clothing, drinkware, backpacks, etc. We decided to start with flannels and hats, and got great responses from Bend, and friends and family. We’ve always been into fashion so it wasn’t hard for us to proceed in that direction. I think I speak for both of us when I say that the goal was always to make it successful and work full-time on this thing that we felt so passionate about. We as humans have a desire to create, and when you get that chance, you want to see your creation blossom into something amazing. Creating and owning something is a much different feeling than working for someone else. There’s a lot of dedication and blood, sweat, and tears involved in it. Becoming successful for us doesn’t necessarily correlate to income. For me, I still get excited when a random person across the country buys Cascade Armory. It’s such a cool feeling! We really strive to create something that people love – that is what is most important and what makes us want to keep going. Today, we continue pushing forward to expand the line but also become better and better at what we do. The process doesn’t happen overnight. We take it day by day and project by project.
I feel like you guys could do a fashion show that’s similar to FentyxPuma. Since I know you’ve done a show before, would you do it again? What if I helped?
I love it! I have been super inspired by Puma over the years and I just love the image that they have created for their brand. I’ve always been drawn to street style – that’s where my heart is. When we did Portland Fashion Week, it took us out of the outdoorsy environment of Bend and back to the city. We’ve spent a lot of time in Portland throughout our lives, which is like a second home to us as we both grew up not far from there. We love the people and fashion in that city, and it was so fun to see how CA adapted to the runway environment. I found it incredibly inspiring on both a personal level and fashion-wise. The experience definitely made an impact on which direction we’d like to take the brand. So many people like to use our clothing while doing outdoor sports. It’s a main goal of ours to make clothing that can be worn downtown or out riding your bike. I’d definitely like to do another fashion show and we could always use your help, Rachael. You’re awesome and CA is grateful for all the support you’ve shown us!
On a personal level, what motivates you? What are your own sources of inspiration?
Some people come into life more fortunate than others. Some get a lot of help along the way. For us, we’ve just always hustled – like so many others out there, I’m sure. We are absolutely certain that no one else is going to make this happen for us, so it’s really just what we have to do since everything we have is on the line! That, in itself, is motivating.
I am an artist, so visuals inspire me. I love paintings, anything colorful, tattoos, bold make up and hair, jewelry, interior design, etc. In a sense, I love decorating – whether it’s a canvas, a body, or a room. Inspiration from one can so easily transfer to another. We’ve had so much fun lately decorating our house and bringing in all of these colorful art pieces. It’s the same for me when someone is wearing something amazing – it catches my eye. That’s when I become inspired! I pay attention to what is going on around me and I pull from that. I get to put my own twist on it.
Alex is a diehard skier, mountain biker, and snowmobiler. I know for a fact he is deeply inspired by these sports and getting to do them in nature. These activities make us feel refreshed, alive, and in tune with life. Cascade Armory is definitely influenced by our love for nature and outdoor sports.
How has CA evolved in the last year?
CA has really been paying more attention to using the right kind of material, along with the best cuts. At first, we focused more on the look. Now, we are really hoping to incorporate the functionality of the clothing more. This is obviously super important for the versatility and longevity of the clothing.
You recently ended a long legal battle. What happened, what were the results?
Well, we have to be a little careful what we say here. But just to clarify, we recently settled in a way that is favorable to us, so we are really excited about that and pleased that the company in question was willing to go down that path with us. The fight was to keep our name, and that is exactly what we did. Both Alex and I hope that our story inspires other small businesses out there who might be going through something similar. We know how daunting it feels, especially when you’ve put everything you have into your business. I’ll never forget the day we got the Cease and Desist Letter, and how surreal it was coming from such a global brand. I’m really proud of us for hanging in there because, as you can imagine, the process was quite intimidating at times. We cannot say enough about our lawyers Leigh Gill and Somya Kaushik at Immix Law Group for their expertise and willingness to take us where many small businesses just can’t make it to. We literally could not have done this without them and we will be forever grateful for their support to the underdogs! What this means for us now, is that we can proceed with our business growth without constant worry of this outside threat.
Wow. That is so wonderful for you guys. I couldn’t be happier. I remember seeing a post on Instagram about it and letting out a gleeful sound of delight.
So what’s next for Cascade Armory?
Well, we don’t want to spoil anything, but CA has lots of ideas in the works for expanding the line and continuing to deliver stylish, yet functional casual wear to the people. We are still working on that perfect “sports straight to town” look. Stuff that people feel cool and comfortable in, no matter what they’re doing.
For every 100 brands, companies and individuals that fit the “never meet your heroes, because they're sure to disappoint you,” statement, there is a diamond in the rough that never ceases to amaze. They are people you meet by chance and all you want is the best for them, for me, that’s Alex and Diana of Cascade Armory.
Head over to Cascade Armory’s website to see what made me fall in love with the brand and make sure to give them a follow on Instagram.
Rachael Lovette is an accounts executive specializing in no-BS articles for creatives, an advocate for model safety and a pop culture buff. Check out her Instagram.