Northern Playground's first Ziplongs® first saw the light of day one winter's eve in 2011. The goal of that night was not to start a company. The motivation came from wanting a Ziplongs® for our own personal use, so we had no other choice than to learn how to sew...
We all know the problem
Side by side on a ski lift in Norway in 2011, founders Jo and Magnus decided to do something about the problem. Many solutions were thrown around: buttons, velcro and many other suggestions too stupid to mention. Magnus thought a zipper on each leg would do the job. Jo was sceptical and argued that a cold and stiff zipper would feel uncomfortable against the skin.
Luckily Magnus was stubborn enough to go through with the idea. He learned to sew by watching YouTube tutorials, bought some zippers and cut a regular long-john in two. He then sewed the whole thing together in the kitchen with a sceptical Jo watching over his shoulder.
Jos skepticism quickly changed to blind enthusiasm. The world's first Ziplongs® didn't look good at all, but as soon as Jo got it on he understood how genius Magnus' idea was. The zippers weren't uncomfortable, and got the job done perfectly.
"That winter we only had that one Ziplongs®, and fought over it every weekend. On ski & sail trip in Lofoten we saw how jealous our friends were. That's when we decided that more people should have access to a pair of Ziplongs®."
The next steps were, in short, to find money, textiles and a manufacturer.
The state-funded organization "Innovation Norway" solved the first step, American textile-manufacturer Polartec the second and a somewhat random contact in Estonia the third.
Together with the manufacturer we developed the prototype to a more advanced level than the YouTube-tutorials would allow us. But convincing designers and the manufacturer to actually do the job was a challenge, not to speak of making sure the end product satisfied the standard we wanted. There was no-one to learn from, and the zippers made both comfort and fit a challenge.
The first season the Ziplongs® were actually not made of wool, but two different kinds of Polartec-textile. We named one the Ziplongs® Active (it expired after two seasons) and the other "the Ziplongs® Original". Today, the latter is named Ziplongs® Microfleece.
"It was a huge kick when the first shipment of Ziplongs® arrived in 2012, but we still didn't plan to conquer the world. Magnus put together a simple website, and without warning we made our first sale to a guy planning to cross the Greenland glacier. He was not the last."
Then wool came along...
With the 2014/2015 season came the first Ziplongs® made of 100% merino wool from the Italian manufacturer Pontetorto. Fabric made of 100% wool has many benefits, but the main challenge is that it lacks the strength of a wool blend.
In 2015/16 we introduced our first wool blend. We wanted to make a "bomb-proof" product that could handle lot of wear and tear. Looking back we realise that we went too far in our attempt to make it solid, as the fit and elasticity of the product took a hit in the process.
That winter we had one goal in mind, namely to improve our bestseller. We proceeded with thoroughness by ordering more than 10 different zippers, different kinds of wool fabric form several dsuppliers and designed new patterns. All in all this gave us a huge amount of variables to experiment with.
We then went to our developer and producer in Estonia and locked the door, determined not to leave before we had the solution. One Thursday evening we had a winner. A specific zipper, with a specific woolen blend sewn in a new pattern did the job. The details will have to remain a secret.
– Better fit around the waist, thighs and calves
– Less wavy zipper
– Softer fabric containing more wool
– Padded zippers
– Lighter zippers from YKK
A big bonus: Our newly acquired knowledge could easily be transferred to all our other products.
The Ziplongs® has won a number of prizes in the last years, and achieved top-scores in tests all over the world.
And perhaps just as important: We have copyrighted the Ziplongs® name so that no one can name their copycat product Ziplongs®!
What to do when the quality gives out?
In winter of 2016 our factory at the time received a new batch of wool. When the first products from that batch reached our customers, we quickly realised that something was wrong. Some of the new products had small tears and weaknesses in the fabric that would expand when handled.
Long story short:
After talking to a lot of disappointed customers and replacing just as many new products, we moved our production to a (much) bigger and more suitable factory i Lithuania called Utenos. In Utenos the wool is knitted and the products are sewn in the same location. This increases the manufacturers sense of ownership for the end product, and gives a whole new world of control over the process - from yarn to Ziplongs®.
If you are one of the customers that experienced this, we encourage you to contact us at email@example.com, and you will get a new product.
While most people in the clothing industry get to "borrow" patterns and styles from each other, we have had to keep inventing every detail ourselves. There is no one to copy. Even though we have developed a concept loved by many, we have to admin that we have had our "childhood illnesses".
Today, we feel confident that you will love the Ziplongs® and we would love to hear your feedback on the finished product. Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you later!