Dave from Paddy Pallin recently got a chance to catch up with the founder of KUHL Kevin Boyle. We chatted about KUHL’s design ethos, skiing and the environment, amongst a heap of other topics. Read on to grab an insight into one of the outdoor industries real characters.

Hi Kevin can you tell us a little about yourself and KUHL?

If I was to describe myself I would say I am fun! If you were to ask people to describe me they would say  I am grateful,  humble, curious, playful and compassionate.

KUHL is a collaboration of artists, athletes, industrial designers and master pattern makers with a passion for the outdoor experience. It’s exciting to come into KUHL and be surrounded with so much talent and passion. Is also very humbling.

KUHL has a reputation for a rebellious philosophy the questions and challenges convention. While KUHL is known for being very disruptive in the marketplace.

We have a passion for great design. Great design helps people get the best out of them selves and their experiences. It combines your emotional desires with rational logic. It is the balance of performance and style. Just as being stylish without substance is frivolous. We like to say great technology is no excuse for poor design.

What was your journey how you found yourself a KUHL and your role?

I moved to Utah when I was 18 to be a skier. I lived in a snow cave for approximately six weeks. I learned a lot about myself and my equipment. I started KUHL with two friends at the age of 20, I find my role is constantly changing and I’m always having to reinvent myself.

Do you remember your first outdoor experience?

My parents will take us camping every summer and we would go on huge hikes, climb peaks and explore Maine.

Where is your favorite skiing & travelling spot?

I am fortunate enough to live in the mountains of Utah and have had a seasons pass at Snowbird for the last 30+ years.  I love to travel to new resorts to new mountain ranges, explore and see the world.

Tell us where your dream skiing location is?

I like different places for different reasons I love skiing in Europe. Freeride off piste on a sunny powder day, I love storm chasing and skiing deep powder in the cottonwood canyons of Utah, I love exploring ski areas off the beaten path and places I’ve never heard and I love hiking & backcountry skiing especially on a perfect corn snow.

How does KUHL continue  to resist the pull towards almost every other generic outdoor brand?

We don’t introduce new products because we want to make money.

We create new products because we think and see an opportunity to make something better.

KUHL seems to work pretty closely with some tops suppliers and makers can you talk about it a bit in those relationships in the creative process?

We are very fortunate to travel the world and we look for artisan mills and suppliers who also have a passion for their craft. We then work closely with our suppliers to create, develop and introduce exclusive fabrics that we’re just made for KUHL.

Who sets the design briefs and which customers guide your efforts?

KUHL is fortunate to be fiercely independent. We don’t have stockholders and accountants driving our decisions on what we produce and create and at what price points and who we sell to. This gives us the freedom to make great products that we are passionate about and do business with people we like and have shared values. I have heard so many people say to me ” You guys are so lucky you do what you want when you want with whoever you want”. That it’s sort of become a standing joke.

What is the process and how many Prototype to go through before product goes in the production?

KUHL has a very unique culture because we have our own in-house design team, pattern makers and sewing room where we can have an idea in the morning, create a pattern by lunchtime and see your first prototype by the end of the day. That being said I would state that we probably average about 12 to 15 prototypes before the product ever goes into production. If you want to make it great you have to have passion for every detail with a focus on fit. We like to say ” How many clothes do you own and how many clothes do you wear”?

There’s an obvious industry trend towards making lighter weight gear. How do you think this impacts durability and is it possible to satisfy both requirements?

Technology is changing faster and more rapidly every day. This creates new opportunities as well as new challenges.

At KUHL we like to talk about balance. The balance of emotions and logic. Style and performance comfort and function. We have been introduced to several technologies that are more functional and have higher performance yet that doesn’t mean you’d want to wear them. Another quote we like to say is “sustainability is good design. Responsibility is great design”. I share this quote as an example to a challenge we just faced in creating our Spyfire down jacket. We think about everything and every ingredient we use in our products from the materials to the packaging to who and how it is produced. Originally we looked at a recycled polyester ultra lightweight 20 Denier. But the jackets tore and the fabric ripped easily and tear strength was only .8 KG per square centimeter. We eventually choose a 20 Denier 24 filament yarn that have a tear strength of 1.88 kg/cm². While with the original fabric we tested we could’ve claimed to offer a recycled polyester. We choose to use the 20 Denier nylon from a Japanese mill and this fabric was both softer stronger and will last for years of hard use. This is to us a great example of the difference between good design and great design.

How do you see the future for outdoor equipment company selling into Australia in the Global market? 

The world is getting smaller and of course there will be winners and losers. At KUHL we have no grand illusions of trying to take over the world or become the biggest outdoor brand in the industry. Our goal is to make great product, do business with people who we have shared values and culture and give back.

Which other brands and designers do you rate?

There’s a lot of talent and great brands and designers in the marketplace.

We watch at all the brands. When we decide to create new products we like to say no one needs to come to KUHL to buy a copy of XY or Z brand. What we are going to do is create great and be disruptive in that category.

Which designs are you most proud of? 

While we are most famous for our pant collection and have had many number 1 styles in the USA outdoor industry. In our offices when we have a design meetings I like to say ” We have yet to create the product that will define the KUHL brand”.

What is next for you guys?

I’m very excited about the future. We have created an amazing team of talented artists, designers and engineers and have a pipeline of innovation coming to the market.

What tips do you have for new Skiers, Travellers, Hikers & Climbers? 

Skiing:   Keep your head up and look to the bottom of the mountain. Just as in life this changes your perception of time AKA speed, and the further you look ahead the easier it is go where you want.

Travelling:  There are only two kinds of travellers, those the travel light and those that wish they did! Smile! The world is a mirror.

Hiking:  Water and Footwear. Make sure they fit. I like to wear 2 pair of very thin high tech socks, this creates more surfaces to share the friction and reduces chances of blisters.

Climbing:  Remember the goal is to come back alive not to reach the summit.

Top three pieces of equipment you always take with you? 

Depends on the sport. Water, sunscreen and a hat or visor.

Paddy Pallin and our customers are very environmentally aware can you tell us about what KUHL is doing to help the environment?  

At KUHL sustainability is not something that we just started. It is who we are. I will share with you that since 1993 when we changed our name to KUHL – the idea came to us when Polartec introduced recycled polyester fleece. We introduced KUHL springs water with the idea that if you brought the KUHL springs water bottles that were specifically designed to fit into a bicycle cage back to your outdoor store you would earn frequent flyer miles towards a KUHL fleece jacket that was to be made from the actual KUHL springs recycled plastic bottles fully closing the loop. Fortunately we quickly learned that water is heavy and gathering and having the shops shipping the actual plastic bottles back to be recycled into fleece jackets created a larger carbon footprint.

Every decision we make from every supplier we use we think about its impact on the environment.

KUHL headquarters and our warehouse: From bamboo doors and cabinets, LED lighting to energy efficient hand dryers in our restrooms. We choose to think of the environment in every decision we make. Our employees are served complementary Organic lunches cooked by our in house chef.

Cotton: We seek cotton from sustainable farming practices. Since 2012 we have used 100% organic cotton and all of our knits. Our cotton wovens are an organic cotton blend, with a goal to be 100% organic.

Down: We use 100% Responsible Down Standard (RDS) sourced down certified down products in all of our down jackets. Which is the industry standard for ethically sourced down.

Wool: We seek to use only merino wool it comes from sheep that have not been Mulesed.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR): 2 years ago we switched to DWR C6 fabric treatments to eliminate long chain PFAS from our fabrics. We are currently testing a new technology DWR called Green Shield that is even more environmentally friendly.

Packaging: All paper and hang tags is pre-and post consumer recycled. Acid free inks and Soy based inks used where ever possible.

We choose and do not use Any PVC or Furr angora, or genetically modified products in our supply chain.



Cheers Kevin, thank you for your time!


About The Author

Dave Casey

Dave has worked as an International Expedition Leader and in Outdoor Education for over 15 years. He has extensive travel and guiding experience in Australia, NZ, Asia, South/North America and Europe. In his spare time Dave is a keen bushwalker, mountain biker and climber while also dabbling in some mountaineering and sea kayaking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.